Many of us had to re-learn the art of collaboration during the pandemic. True, teams adapted fast and found creative ways to stay organized, connected and engaged without in-person interactions. But with remote and hybrid work arrangements here to stay, you may need additional skills to take your team player credentials to the next level.
Here are five ways to become a consummate collaborator, whatever your work environment:
1. Communicate clearly
One of today’s most sought-after job skills, good business communication is the bedrock of effective collaboration. Misunderstandings and ambiguous instructions can easily knock a project off track, which is why great team players aim to be precise, timely and tone-mindful in all their communications.
Anyone can improve this skill, and it’s worth remembering that the loudest or most talkative people in the room aren’t always the best communicators. On the other hand, introverts and people with high emotional intelligence often excel, using skills like empathy and active listening to pick up nuances that others might miss.
2. Choose the right digital tool for the right task
Videoconferencing is now standard practice for remote workers, but overscheduling these meetings can cause so-called Zoom fatigue. And an overflowing email inbox can be just as bad for productivity as a packed meeting schedule.
The answer? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Assess tasks case-by-case and choose the right collaborative tool for each. Your options are many and varied, from file-sharing solutions and cloud platforms to screen-sharing and project management software. Trial-and-error may be the best approach to finding the right collaborative tools for your needs.
3. Go beyond your comfort zone
Taking on projects that fall outside your area of specialization can make you a better collaborator because you must learn from the expertise of others. For example, suppose you’re a digital designer and have an opportunity to help implement a new project management system. As you work together with colleagues in other departments, such as media services, IT and training, you will likely pick up new ideas and knowledge.
Is there a lack of opportunities to take on stretch projects at work? Industry associations and conferences are excellent resources for building hard and soft collaboration skills. For instance, volunteering on a committee can be an excellent way to gain more experience working with diverse teams.
4. Find or become a mentor
Ask coworkers for their advice when you recognize that they have expertise in areas you may lack. Likewise, use your know-how to help others, even when there doesn’t seem to be a direct benefit to you. All of this builds your ability to collaborate.
Some organizations offer formal mentorship programs. Even if yours doesn’t, you could ask a colleague to be your mentor, or you could learn how to be a mentor yourself.
5. Participate in team-building activities
Playing virtual games as a team might seem silly to some, but time spent working with a group toward the same goal helps boost collaboration abilities. It also helps build a culture of belonging, which leads to happier and more productive teams.
If your company doesn’t hold team-building activities, you might suggest doing so on an in-person or virtual basis to your supervisor as a way to promote teamwork. Don’t be too ambitious. Start with small, achievable ideas like a Friday morning virtual coffee break that brings together office-based and remote workers.
More ways to build collaborative skills
Don’t stop with just these five tips. There are many more ways to boost your workplace collaboration skills. For example:
- When you collaborate on interdepartmental projects, be especially attuned to new perspectives and knowledge bases.
- Focus on fostering an inclusive mindset by embracing diversity and respecting differing viewpoints.
- Recognize when someone else has a stronger idea than your own and support it, and give credit where credit is due.
Strong collaboration skills are especially crucial in today’s hybrid and remote workplaces. Research from Robert Half found that 64% of professionals already work fully remote or hybrid schedules. Developing both your in-person and digital collaboration skills is a surefire way to increase your value to your company.