Collaborating in the workplace is a challenge no matter where team members are located. Whether team members are separated by an ocean or just a cubicle wall, people will still find it difficult to exchange information and get work done. There are several solutions that work groups can employ to make collaboration easier, many of which are based on the latest technology that is available to everyone. Some solutions are simply a matter of a team learning how to work together and get the most out of each meeting, and all solutions involve improving communication.
Encourage Social Interaction
One of the biggest obstacles to successful collaboration in the workplace is that many teams are made up of people who do not work with each other on a regular basis. It is difficult to encourage collaboration between people who know very little about each other. The company should create ways for employees to interact with each other. A company picnic, a movie night at the local theater, or a company sports event will help get people from accounting together with the engineers in the IT department. When the time comes for those groups to work together, collaboration and communication will be easier and smoother.
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Use Video Conferencing
Video conferencing is a great business tool because it is effective and inexpensive. Employees in the same building are able to use video conferencing without increasing operational costs. One of the obstacles to collaboration is the inability for employees to find time to get together and discuss issues. With video conferencing, employees can meet without ever having to leave their desks. It will make the entire process easier on everyone and allows more direct communication while working together. Employees who are on the road can use video conferencing to be part of a collaborative team, and that will significantly increase employee interaction.
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Don't Limit Collaboration
Many people feel that there is a time and place for collaboration and that it should only be allowed within those parameters. When you limit collaboration to a single meeting time and a single meeting place, you are stifling the possibility of good ideas that can come up at any time as well as productive communication among employees. The company can facilitate collaboration by setting up open meeting areas around the office that can be used whenever people in a group formulate an idea and need to discuss it. A company should also provide sharing tools in order for information to be spread throughout an entire group when impromptu collaboration sessions occur, and so information can be reviewed easily and quickly.
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Always Set Focused Goals
A huge obstacle to good collaboration is when a group does not have a set goal in mind. When a group gets together to collaborate, it must communicate a clear focus to everyone involved in order to be effective and efficient. The collaboration should not be considered complete until the goal is reached. It is acceptable for a group to collaborate on more than one issue, but it must tackle those issues one at a time to be productive.
Make Collaborative Information Readily Available
It can be difficult to collaborate when the information needed in order to contribute is not easily accessible. Technology can come to the rescue by offering a variety of ways to make collaborative information available whenever employees need it. An interactive whiteboard can capture the ideas written on it and put that information into a file that any group member can read later. The company can use a cloud computing service as a place where groups can put documents and other files that they are using to keep all of the information in one place. Most cloud services have mobile apps that group members can use to collaborate when they are out of the office. Use technology to keep group information gathered in one place and available to all of the group members who need it.
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