1. Make collaboration as easy as possible
In today’s workplaces, very little work is completed by team of one. To paraphrase Avetik, no knowledge worker is a city—and for effective teamwork to happen, there are usually a ton of moving pieces that need to be coordinated in tandem. In order to do this, teams need to be able to communicate effectively.

Whether that communication is taking place asynchronously (a conversation that doesn’t take place in real time, like emailing or messaging) or in real time (via video chatting or in an in-person meeting), productive teams tend to be masters of coordinating projects and exchanging information when they need to.

Creating an environment where effective communication takes place is by building it into your culture. Creating a culture of communication means allowing teammates to communicate freely with others in the company—regardless of structure, status, or hierarchy. Think of it as the digital version of leaving your office door open.

So, give your team multiple ways to communicate!

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to communication, and trying to force employees to adhere to specific guidelines when it comes to having conversations can hold them back from being as productive as possible.

Here are some of the ways you can encourage communication and collaboration amongst your team.

Video chat for meetings or face-to-face conversations, whether teams are remotely distributed or for situations where a conversation is necessary, but it’s easier or faster than walking two floors (or even two cubicles) down

Instant messaging for asynchronous messages and communication, for when conversations don’t need to take place in real time but critical information still needs to be exchanged

Phone calls—which can now be made through the internet and routed to a web app, smartphone, and of course, an old-fashioned office phone system

2. Get your apps under control—and make sure they’re the right ones

Almost every productivity-killer on our list comes from not having the right tools in place. Poor teamwork, unnecessary meetings, burnout, and more can all be solved (or at least, start to reduce) by implementing the right tools.

Before you do anything else, take a look at what apps you’re using. Do a quick inventory and note the name of each tool and what you’re using it for.

You might have a customer service software, a project management system, a way to share files and documents as a team, an instant messaging platform… the list can go on and on.

Now take note of which ones are actually necessary. Do you really need a separate project management system—or is maintaining the tool adding more work and stress to your team? Is the instant messaging platform often forgotten about, so messages go ignored until it’s too late? Make sure to get your team involved in this auditing process.

Look for opportunities to adjust and refine your processes so that you can eliminate or consolidate the tools you’re using, or so you can build a tech stack that actually supports (rather than overwhelms) your team.

If you’re looking at your list of apps thinking you can’t possibly get rid of any and still remain productive, you might want to consider adopting an app that serves more than one purpose.

There are a lot of apps example.

Let’s say your team is already using a platform for video meetings and another for messaging among your team. When trying to hold a quick meeting with a handful of team members, you need to switch between the two platforms—sharing documents and notes on one and connecting through video on the other.

It can get messy pretty quickly.

Apps usually have everything in one place so your team wastes less time trying to remember passwords, scrambling for documents, and sending out meeting links. You can share and collaborate on files right within the app, share your screen, and even create and manage tasks:

This is just one example of how a multi-purpose tool can reduce friction and help your team become more productive. However, when you start to look for opportunities to use fewer apps, your work starts to flow a little more seamlessly.

3. Make sure every meeting has a clear purpose and end goal

Meetings have gotten a bad reputation lately. While holding some meetings is still important, getting together for the sake of getting together cuts into employees’ work time and prevents them from getting their job done.

But how do you know which meetings are important and which can be skipped?

First, think about what you actually need to accomplish. What specific outcomes do you hope to get from the meeting you’re thinking about hosting? Can you make a list of the goals you want to achieve?

If you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, you’re probably not ready to gather the team for a meeting. Instead, you might need to do some more research or just talk one-to-one with some team members to gather the right information.

If you are able to clearly identify what you need, think about who you really need to speak with, and if a meeting is really the best way to gather that information. Could that meeting really just be an email?

If you’ve decided that yes, you do in fact need to have the meeting, don’t show up without first putting in a little bit of prep work.

Here are our best tips for hosting an efficient meeting:

Create an agenda. An agenda can keep everything on track and organized and ensure you cover all the important topics.

Choose the right meeting format. Does everyone need to be in the same room, or will a video call do? Do you even need video, or could you just have a phone call? Find the most efficient meeting format to get the information you need.

Be selective about invitations. Make a list of required and optional attendees. Who do you absolutely need to have at the meeting? Who can skip if they’re too busy?

4. Get your team engaged with their work

When employees enjoy what they’re doing each day, they’re more productive. In fact, team productivity is profoundly impacted by the engagement levels of the employees who make up the team—and usually, the productivity floor and ceiling are determined by your least engaged teammates.

Creating an army of engaged employees starts with one tactic that’s simple on the surface but often overlooked: make them feel heard.

Employee engagement is also impacted by recognition at the team and individual level—and yet many businesses overlook this component of building an engaged workforce. Providing recognition doesn’t even need to cost anything (like a raise or bonus). In fact, just receiving public acknowledgement from a manager or executive was the most memorable recognition.

Using your instant messaging platform, set up a channel just for kudos and congratulations. Let this be a place where managers, supervisors, or even direct reports can acknowledge the hard work of their team members.

But employees who are engaged with their work also need to feel connected to the work they’re doing each day. While a pat on the back can go a long way, if employees don’t understand why they’re doing something, they might quickly lose momentum.

Productive teams are able to move quickly because they can rally around shared goals that are visible, focused, and communicated well. Imagine if every individual could clearly see how their efforts impact the goals of the team and the broader business.

Keep employees focused by setting goals using the SMART framework: make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound:

Employees need to be given a bit of freedom and creativity to explore their own professional interests if they’re going to stay engaged with their work. When they’re given opportunities to attend courses, learn new skills, or refine the skills they already have, they can feel more engaged with their work.

Look for a balance between what your company needs and what your employees want to learn. While it doesn’t make sense to support a team member while they prepare for a new career entirely, maybe there is some overlap between what an employee wants to learn and what new skills or knowledge your team needs to be more productive.

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