Many tech companies and startups already had some hybrid work policies in place before COVID hit, but since the pandemic, hybrid work is now largely mainstream in offices across the world. This past year alone, the number of people choosing to work remotely went up 24%. The number that chose to work hybrid went up 16%. And the number of workers choosing to go into the office full-time went down by 24%

And because so many people have worked remotely or in a hybrid model for over two years now, new remote and hybrid collaboration norms and processes have been solidified. Some norms have become second nature by now, like muting yourself when you’re not speaking. Other bigger changes took more getting used to, like figuring out meeting schedules for increasingly distributed and asynchronous teams. 

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Teams all over the world have learned to collaborate from anywhere — whether it’s 10 people sitting together in a conference room, three calling from their couches and seven in the office, or all 10 calling in from home. 

We’ll get into some important remote and hybrid collaboration strategies and the hybrid collaboration tools that power them.

But first:

What is team collaboration?

Team collaboration, or teamwork, is when two or more people work together to achieve a common goal. True team collaboration means acting from a place of mutual respect, communicating openly and regularly, and sharing responsibilities and goals. 

Some types of collaborative teamwork, like brainstorms, problem-solving, and group discussions, involve every team member working on the same level, sharing ideas, and coming up with potential plans. Other types of collaborative teamwork, like major projects where various teammates work together to get the project done, involve leaders delegating and assigning tasks and everyone in the group getting their deliverables done so the project can move along unimpeded.

Hybrid collaboration tools

Today, in order for teammates to be able to work together, they need excellent hybrid collaboration tools. Sure, anyone with an internet connection and a laptop can log into a Zoom meeting, but running hybrid meetings isn’t always easy — lagging connection, glitchy video, feedback-ridden audio, and overall disconnection that make collaborating at a distance a lot more challenging. All of these issues pull focus from the task at hand, and they leave teammates feeling distracted and unproductive.

Providing hybrid team tools that go to the next level helps teammates collaborate as easily as they would in the same room — because the best hybrid meeting solutions fade into the background and facilitate seamless conversations. Only ⅓ of companies have invested in improving their hybrid collaboration tools since the onset of the pandemic, even though our reliance on them has skyrocketed.

The Meeting Owl 3, the Whiteboard Owl, and the system’s many accessories can help every meeting go smoothly, even if there are six people in an office conference room and another 10 calling in online. Owl Labs technology is all built expressly for facilitating hybrid collaboration, and every product helps your whole team feel seen and heard in every meeting.

And since 1 in 2 workers (49%) feel that managers think in-office employees work harder and are more trustworthy than their remote counterparts, it’s up to forward-thinking companies and leaders to dispel this belief. Providing tech that just works better shows employees that your company values the input, ideas, and skills of your remote workers just as much as those who are office-based. 

Benefits of team collaboration

When all teams collaborate well, running a business gets easier, and overall performance improves. A collaborative team made up of colleagues that know they can rely on one another is bound to experience an increase in both productivity and work-life balance. With good teamwork and communicative collaboration, teams experience an equal and fair distribution of work, which gives everyone the ability to make the most of their unique skill set.

And collaborative, communicative teams can better handle uncertainty and quick changes — When collaborating effectively, it's easier to pivot based on a change in the company, a change in a customer's needs, or a last-minute strategy overhaul to get through the end of the year. Whether the course correction happens to a small team or to the entire company, collaboration gets teams through it. It builds resilience during uncertain times and helps keep balance no matter the external circumstances.

You may also find that team collaboration leads to more innovative thinking from your team. As you brainstorm together, collaboration is likely to draw out creative ideas with innovative and productive solutions to the workplace. This process opens up multiple methods of achieving the same goal with the least amount of effort.

Your business as a whole is also likely to experience an acceleration in product development thanks to your collaborative culture. Effective teamwork and communication will automatically speed up the entire process, making it easier for your company to produce new groundbreaking work. 

Team collaboration strategies for hybrid teams

Whether your company is fully remote or operates on a hybrid model where each employee can choose where to work on any given day, there are still many ways to encourage and improve collaboration within your team — and with other teams.

1. Provide clear expectations, and anchor your team with mutual respect and care for one another.

In order to have great collaboration, it’s important that every teammate has very clear expectations for what they need to get done on a regular basis, as well as what needs to be done within a specific project. And your team must also be anchored in mutual respect and care: the best teams who excel at collaboration know that one of them is ill, a teammate can help take over the most urgent tasks on their list in the interim. They also value ideas that come from every team member, no matter their level of seniority.

2. Respect your teammates’ boundaries and communication preferences.

It’s important to respect the boundaries and work-life balance of your teammates and not make them feel surveilled (especially if you’re a manager). Don’t book last-minute meetings — instead, try setting optional weekly social meetings where the team can catch up. It’s common courtesy to try to give 24 hours' notice for a meeting whenever possible.

If you’re waiting on a deliverable and are blocked by someone else’s delay, only use one channel of communication unless it’s truly urgent.

3. Establish team-wide working guidelines, and provide the best tools to facilitate communication.

Speaking of common communication courtesies, it’s helpful to create a hybrid collaboration guide for your team. Create these guidelines together, so everyone’s on board.

Answer the following questions with your team, and come to a consensus about what feels like the right choice for your team:

  1. What’s a reasonable time frame to expect a response on an instant messaging platform like Slack or Teams?
  2. How far in advance should we typically book meetings?
  3. What method of communication should we use when there’s a problem that needs to be fixed right away?
  4. What should we use email for? 
  5. Are calendars private? If not, which platform should we use? 
  6. What should we use instant messaging for? 
  7. What kinds of meetings should be done on video conferencing platforms?
  8. Should all meetings be on video, or can some be cameras off?

And as far as tech goes, ensuring your team has access to lots of avenues for communication is helpful. Not everyone likes chatting over instant messengers, and some people find email stiflingly formal. Give them options! We recommend Slack for instant messaging, Gmail or Outlook for email, Google Calendar for collaborative meeting scheduling, Zoom or Google Meet for calls, and a Meeting Owl 3 as your video call camera, microphone, and speaker all in one. 

4. Make the most out of video calls.

Email is a critical tool, and so is instant messaging, but there's something special about seeing a friendly face over a video chat — especially if you’re full-time remote. You get to see facial expressions and body language that are missed over the phone and especially missing from text-based communication. It can also limit any misinterpretation or miscommunication that can happen when you're not looking directly at the person speaking.

Make sure your employees are set up with the video conferencing tools they need to collaborate effectively. You can (and should!) use these hybrid collaboration tools for work purposes and for socializing, and you should encourage your team to do the same. Book all the work meetings you need, but be sure to also schedule social meetings with your peers one on one and as a team to foster closer friendships and connections. Having a team that just clicks makes collaboration at work way easier. 

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5. Increase encouragement and recognition.

Remote workers work hard — in fact, 62% of workers report being more productive from home — but because they're doing all of their work alone at home, they may feel that their hard work is going unnoticed by their managers or senior leaders.

It's important to increase how often you recognize their efforts and encourage them to keep it up. This can look like many things — whether you take the time to write a positive note about a coworker in a wider team channel, or you give them a special call-out in a team-wide meeting, or just give praise in a 1:1 meeting, regular recognition and praise builds a culture that recognizes hard work and builds each other up.

So, whether members of your team are consistently performing a task well, exceeding their deadlines, going above and beyond to help others, or maintaining a positive attitude, a little regular recognition can go a long way.


6. Make time for team building and fun.

It's important to squeeze in a little fun, too. Though we’re largely past the days of regular Zoom happy hours, it’s still important to schedule fun, exciting social meetings for remote and hybrid teams. Having fun is an essential part of connecting with one another so that you can effectively communicate and collaborate during work hours.

It's especially important for remote employees who can feel like they're missing out on milestones like birthdays, celebrating hitting a major company goal, or simply the socializing that comes from seeing someone in an office setting. 

This can be done by scheduling occasional team-wide happy hours, trivia nights, or just a call where you discuss things that are happening in your lives outside of work. You can also go with something small, like enjoying your morning coffee or afternoon snack on a video call, which can do wonders in building relationships and morale across remote teams. (Check out these team-building ideas for inspiration.)

Keep your teams connected, no matter where they are

We’re now in a world of remote and hybrid work, and it’s looking like this is the way of the future. So ensuring your team can collaborate effectively in a hybrid setting comes down to making time for communication, encouraging connection, setting expectations, and providing great hybrid collaboration tools.

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