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It is no secret how common it has become for a company’s employees to be scattered worldwide. Even relatively small companies are open to more than a local workforce. Thanks to rapid technological advances, the distance between people is virtually disappearing. Many teams have members who communicate only electronically.


Dispersed teams keep in touch through emails, instant messages (IMs), and other online tools. However, these tools have a common shortcoming. They fail to convey the nuances of face-to-face communication, such as facial expressions, tone of voice and posture, personal knowledge, and real-time feedback. Without these, there is no cohesion, essential for employees to do their jobs effectively.


By viewing social collaboration software as more than a simple communication tool, you can give employees the opportunity for self-expression and spontaneous contribution. It’s like playing video games on the Internet, where you can have playmates from all over the world. Teamwork makes the whole game enjoyable, with the result itself being the icing on the cake.


By following these four tips, scattered teams will be happier and more productive.


1. Don’t buy the collaboration, just the solutions that make it possible


Sounds simple, but it’s essential. You need a solution that fits the business environment. What is the company like? Is it a sales company? Project-based? Strictly rule-based? Each tool has its own strengths and weaknesses and is designed for different teams, so the company’s mission is essential to the choice. Only believe software that claims to suit some types of companies.


2. Does social software create a virtual workplace?


One of the most important functions of social software is to enable work-related discussions and work documentation. The editors work to make the tool as simple and manageable as possible without compromising looks and design. The aim is to make employees feel like they are in an eventful and exciting meeting where actual results are produced. Clarity is essential when the team is communicating mainly online. Everyone must know who to contact with which questions. This process is a way of showing new workers around the office.


3. How will team members communicate in (and outside) the workplace?


In a balanced system, consumption and production are equal. While this is the golden rule of economics, it also applies to social collaboration. Everyone will feel they are getting more from the group than they are giving. When it comes to online communication, here are the choices we need to make about communication and information:


Structured and ad hoc – what should the structure be?

Push and pull – do we need to seek information, or will it come to us on its own?

Stored and redundant – what can we still use, and what is no longer needed?

Private and public – who should know what?


4. Is trust and respect really there?


“What’s in it for me?” All employees ask themselves this question, and social software will not be effective if they don’t get the correct answer. Everyone involved, from the operations worker to the CEO, must believe in the system and that it will make work easier. If the programmers do their job well, using social software will be easy and fun and will not make employees feel like they are doing extra work. This is extremely important when employees can’t meet each other daily.


As online communication software becomes more prevalent and more integrated into the daily workflow, it will become easier for dispersed teams to build and maintain relationships. The real challenge is deploying a platform that increases productivity and collaboration. The likelihood of success can be increased by employing people who recognize the actual value of such tools and are willing to actively use them.

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