Collaboration happens all the time, even when you’re not formally planning it. Here’s how to make virtual collaboration effective and fun.
Published on February 21, 2023 • Updated on February 21, 2023 • About 13 min. read
The best, most successful businesses have employees with great collaborative chemistry who can work effectively in teams.
You might think that nailing virtual collaboration would be more challenging: Which tools should you use? How will you get buy-in from your team? Can you even collaborate effectively through a screen? Spoiler alert: you can!
The truth is, you’re probably already collaborating online - you just haven’t stopped to name those interactions. In this article, we'll explain what virtual collaboration is (and its benefits) and share some examples and best practices to try with your team.
Discover 50 ice breakers questions and games that will make your meetings engaging.
Virtual collaboration is any form of idea sharing that happens online. It comes to life in a few different ways, like:
Promoting teamwork is a good thing in itself, but how is virtual collaboration beneficial for your business? Here are seven good reasons to collaborate virtually:
With virtual collaboration, team members can reach out to anyone despite their location. This could help your brainstorming sessions because the place where you live shapes the way you think. So, connecting with people that come from different cultures might help ideas flow. You also get to connect easily with peers that might have faced similar challenges in a different market - or a global network of potential clients.
Virtual collaboration removes the scheduling barrier. You don’t have to be online at the same time as your team to collaborate on your projects. You can connect asynchronously and overcome timezone or schedule clashes by using apps like Loom, Miro, Slack, or Google Docs.
Meetings are a fantastic way to connect with your team, get alignment, and define responsibilities. But sometimes, squeezing yet another meeting into your schedule means delaying other important tasks. Virtual collaboration software can help you catch up. For example, with video conferencing software, you can skip that virtual meeting and watch the replay (at 1.2x speed!) when you actually have time.
Virtual collaboration tools shorten communication times as you can simply message someone through the corporate chat and get an instant response – if they’re available at that time. With these chat apps, you can also ask to jump on a quick call without needing to see them in person, schedule a meeting, or wait hours for them to answer your email. Virtual collaboration tools for brainstorming also make communication more immediate as you can add ideas to shared whiteboards or documents right when you get them.
If you’re working in a remote or hybrid company it’s possible that you don’t ever get to speak to people from other departments. But your work is probably impacted by or impacting theirs in some way. With virtual collaboration, you can interact with anyone in your company with a single chat message or pre-recorded video.
Virtual collaboration tools can record your meetings, save your files, and download an archive of your chat conversations. This means that if you ever start elaborating on an idea and forget to write it down, you can easily find it on a recording or by looking at the file’s version history.
If you use a platform with strong interactive features you can turn boring meetings into more collaborative ones. With a video engagement platform like Livestorm, you have access to digital whiteboards, screen sharing, and virtual breakout rooms. You can also organize interactions using features like the Q&A tab or the “raise a hand” feature. That way, you can host engaging virtual meetings that promote collaboration without having multiple people speaking at the same time.
Discover 50 ice breakers questions and games that will make your meetings engaging.
You know what virtual collaboration is and why it’s good for your business, so how do you start? And how do you create spaces for virtual collaboration without dramatically changing your processes?
Here’s a list of nine examples of virtual collaboration to get you inspired:
Virtual meetings are the easiest way to collaborate with others online. You just need to get on a video call and start idea-sharing. To boost collaboration, meetings should have a structured agenda to avoid misusing people’s time and having empty interactions.
Pro tip: You can use Livestrom to host high-quality, easy-to-access, and engaging meetings. Record them and share the replay with all invited attendees automatically after the call.
If you have a webinar or presentation coming up, collaborate with others from your team by inviting them to do a dry run of your session. Ask them to join a meeting at a scheduled time and go through each one of your slides. Play audio or video files and double check your mic and camera are working properly.
If you’re hosting the session on Livestorm, you can share a presentation either by screen sharing or adding a Visme, Google Slides, Keynote, or PowerPoint presentation.
You don’t need to be in software development to make the most of Agile best practices like retrospectives (a.k.a “lessons learned” sessions). During these sessions, project managers get their team together to evaluate a project, listing what went well, what they learned, and what they could’ve done better. You can host yours using a virtual meeting platform or ask your team to fill in a feedback form via Typeform or Google Forms.
Host a live training session and invite team members to participate using your virtual meeting platform's features. If you’re using Livestorm, you can foster collaboration with:
You can even use Livestorm to automate customer training sessions and improve your productivity - like Nick DeSimone from Workable. Nick uses Livestorm to host customer training, track engagement, and scale the customer onboarding process.
Interact with your team by editing a shared document live or asynchronously. You can do this on Google Drive or OneDrive, and on other kinds of apps that produce text files like Notion, AirTable, or ClickUp. You might find it useful to collaborate with peers on a shared file when drafting a one-pager for the leadership team to read or designing a standard operating procedure (SOP).
If you’ve ever asked a co-worker for help, you might as well have had an informal brainstorming session. Usually, brainstorming meetings involve two or more people coming up with ideas to solve a problem.
You can host a brainstorming event on Livestorm and invite people to participate. Moderate the discussion by inviting people on stage, running polls, or sharing an interactive virtual whiteboard from Mural.
Create a shared board with a backlog of tasks and assign them to team members. If you’re visualizing a Kanban board, you’ll see three to four additional lists for work in progress, completed tasks, and blocked items. Depending on the project management app, you can see your work in a calendar, a list, or a Gantt diagram view. We like ClickUp, Jira, Asana, and Trello.
Pro tip: If you work with external stakeholders, get a project manager to handle and assign all client fulfillment tasks so you can ensure all pending tasks are completed by a deadline.
Working remotely isn’t a synonym for working alone. So, create opportunities for your team to connect virtually. For example, you can promote online teamwork s by inviting people to virtual coworking sessions. Get 5-7 people in a virtual meeting room and share a Pomodoro timer on your screen. Everyone will work individually for 30 minutes, chat for five, and get back to work again after the timer goes off – repeat three to four times.
Building a strong culture at work will help your team members to collaborate. Try team-building exercises that help everyone to get to know each other, trust each other, and communicate more effectively.
Team building doesn’t always have to mean doing escape rooms, either. It can be as simple as taking five minutes at the beginning of every meeting to celebrate individual wins or laugh about something funny someone’s kid or pet did that week. You can even share memes about virtual meetings in the team chat to lighten things up on a Friday.
Even if your direct reports live on the other side of the world, you should be easy to approach. Set up a weekly office hour for colleagues to drop in and chat – or host a quarterly Q&A session on new processes, tools, or goals. The idea is to give people a chance to be heard and solve blockers that are preventing them from collaborating well.
Pro tip: With Livestorm, you can set up recurring meetings from the meeting platform or your Google Calendar. Do this to save time individually booking office hours.
Having too many people interacting on the same document or meeting can get messy really fast. Add a structure to virtual collaboration by following these best practices for online meetings and other virtual interactions:
Make it clear for everyone in the company what’s expected from them when they communicate with each other. Do you expect your team to answer messages within an hour or a day? Do you set “focus” periods on Slack? Do you prefer to use email or a shared drive to send important files? What’s your take on feedback? How can people approach the leadership team? What’s the proper virtual meeting etiquette?
Create a document answering all of the questions, include it in the onboarding bible, and make it accessible to everyone.
Every time you invite people to an in-person or virtual meeting, you need to be clear about what you need from them. Otherwise, communication issues will harm productivity and morale. For example, if you’re planning a new e-book, but you haven’t given your team any pointers on the theme or audience, your team will get dispirited as the meeting drags on with no success.
If you’re working for a remote, hybrid, or multinational organization, you need high-performing online meeting software that can facilitate face-to-face communication. Livestorm is one of the best apps for online meetings because you can host any kind of event (from 1:1s to large webinars) right in your browser, with a suite of engagement features to help you get more from each interaction.
If you’re connecting virtually, you need to pay for tools that will simplify collaboration. These tools can help you automate processes and personalize interactions simultaneously.
We recommend investing in a:
It’s good practice to record all important meetings and training so the people who couldn’t attend can rewatch it later. This practice simplifies collaboration for teams with multiple time zones.
Planning your workload on a visual project management tool lets everyone have a clear to-list and avoid leaving tasks unattended. Project management tools usually have a comment section where you can leave notes for your co-workers and inform them in case you need to move a deadline or clarification.
Pro tip: Avoid using these tools to micromanage your team. Instead, create workflows and trust that they’ll perform on time or communicate if can’t meet the deadline. If someone has trouble meeting their goals, have a private conversation about what’s causing it and how to help.
When you work with remote teams, it’s hard to know exactly when someone is online or if it’s out of their working hours. It’s good practice to schedule messages to go out at a time you’re certain they’ll be online. You can also create recurring tasks and use apps like Zapier to automate task alerts or notifications. That way, urgent approvals can be triggered and closed even when you’re offline.
Working in different locations and time zones is a huge benefit of remote work but can lead to communication issues – if you’re not prepared. Make sure part of your collaboration is done asynchronously (i.e. not live). For example, share feedback via a Loom video or use a shared document to brainstorm ideas at different times.
Pro tip: Circle back to the first item on this list and be very clear about what the business expectation is in terms of communication.
Avoid wasting people’s time by only involving team members in projects or tasks that are relevant to them. If you do need to host larger sessions, don’t sacrifice collaboration time. Divide people into breakout rooms to hold discussions in smaller, more focused, and less intimidating groups.
If you’re using a collaborative whiteboard or document to interact and edit a file, pick the participants by hand. This avoids having too many people working on the doc at the same time and getting redundant ideas.
Make sure you onboard your employees properly and train them on your collaboration tools so everyone can participate. Remember, it can take people a while to get familiar with different platforms, and some may have different learning styles. Sometimes it’s worth asking people directly whether they feel comfortable with a tool - or if they could use some extra help.
You can’t force team bonding, but you can create spaces for your team to chat about non-work-related topics. This can be as simple as asking everyone to join meetings with a virtual background of their dream work space or by taking 5-10 mins for virtual meeting icebreakers.
According to Gallup, having a best friend at work increases overall job satisfaction. So, if you foster fun interactions, it’s likely that your team will become friends with each other and be more happy and collaborative.
Workplaces change all the time. But, whether you brainstorm using flip pads and markers or on a virtual whiteboard, one thing remains the same: collaboration makes your team stronger and your organization more successful.
If you want to access global employee talent pools or partnerships, investing in virtual collaboration is no longer a choice but an obligation.
Get your team to collaborate effectively by investing in a video engagement tool. Livestorm supports all these kinds of video communication from one platform:
Collaborate online to improve productivity levels, communication, team building, and overall employee satisfaction.
The four types of collaboration are:
Virtual collaboration is important because it can:
The best virtual collaboration tools are:
Virtual collaboration skills include: