Guidelines for Remote Collaboration#

In this chapter, guidelines are a set of recommendations or protocols that can create a common ground for everyone to communicate and exchange information within a distributed team for effective and successful collaboration. The main motivation is to set clear expectations around communication tools, etiquette for online meetings, tasks, timelines and schedules in advance for the remote and distributed collaborative working arrangement in a team or community.

Mode of communication and collaboration#

This should provide details regarding:

  • The tools/software to be used for joining/attending the online calls.

  • Recommendations for the types of equipment that can provide participants with the experience as expected by the organisers.

  • Measures that will be kept in place to keep interactions and data exchange secure.

  • How participants can gain access to these resources and tool.

  • Ways to improve visibility and accessibility to these tools.

For a list of collaborative tools check out Tools for Collaboration.

Different ways for informal interactions#

Informal interactions are instrumental for ensuring full engagement of your participants, therefore provide ways for:

  • Encouraging casual team conversations between meetings by setting some pre-planned social discussions/interaction plans.

  • Helping people from different time zones to catch up and build a sense of belonging (for example, by shared notes or summary emails).

Check out an example of informal coffee chats in Informal Coffee Chats.

Sharing data, resources and documentation#

Put together some recommendations and guidelines for sharing data (research data, personal information), resources (tools and equipment) and documentation (policies, manuals).

These recommendations should include:

  • The preferred platform for sharing research data (published and unpublished).

    • Decide on the most appropriate way to share data, documents, analysis scripts, such as by providing shared drives and repositories on Google, GitHub or other similar platforms.

  • How to protect sensitive information such as data and password.

  • Manuals and training for setting up an account and maintaining access.

  • Locations of different documents from the organisation that are easy to find.

  • Helpdesk or support for setup and troubleshooting.

We have provided related recommendations in Tools for Collaboration and Organising Remote Meetings.

Planning meetings, scheduling, and agenda#

Establish key tasks and milestones at the beginning of the project to determine how meetings will be planned, scheduled and organised.

  • Decide on the frequency of your meetings and set a protocol.

  • Once a protocol has been established, circulate and review it within the team to ensure a common understanding of tasks and goals.

  • Schedule meetings that are effective across time zones, have a regular time slot and send out calendar invites to avoid confusions.

  • Invite everyone’s input in collecting agenda points.

  • If a team is big, split into sub-project groups to create a stronger network.

  • Rotating schedule for chairs and note-takers from the team.

We have provided related recommendations in Tools for Collaboration and Organising Remote Meetings.

Etiquette for online meetings and communications#

Your participants must know how they are expected to participate in a meeting. This includes details on how they can contribute to an ongoing discussion (raise hand physically, or use a feature in your call hosting software), how they can share thoughts if they don’t feel comfortable talking or how they can help create an overall welcoming environment.

  • Establish a format of communication within the whole group and subgroups.

    • Communicate clearly which tool will be used, for example, Zoom for the call, Google Docs for documentation, Trello for action points.

  • Create a pre-defined agenda with an allocated chair and note-taker to prevent informality and loss of focus.

  • Pre-communicate guidelines for creating a safe space for inclusive interactions online, including:

    • Muting microphone when not talking.

    • Keeping video camera on when in a closed meeting.

    • Give the option to switch off the video if the call is being recorded.

    • Share tips on how to ‘raise hand’ to participate in a discussion, on chat, physically, or using an emoji.

    • Send out a guideline for speakers, chairs, note takers and people with different responsibilities.

  • Communicate clearly how to join and leave a meeting.

    • Is there a particular rule for joining late or leaving early?

  • Aim to maintain flexibility and reduce formality

    • This is particularly useful for people who are working from home and will have their family members and pets around.

We have provided related recommendations for organisers in Organising Remote Meetings and participants in Participating in Remote Events.

Follow up emails and communications for creating accountability#

Following up with the participants after the meeting is a good way to both share the key messages from the meeting, action points that have been created for different people and to ask for feedback when needed.

  • Make sure that everyone knows what their role and responsibilities are.

  • Follow up with teams and individuals regularly.

    • This should be done to celebrate success rather than micromanaging.

A few more tips for keeping the team engaged#

  • Set the leadership teams responsibilities clearly (host, note-taker, gatekeeper and technical support).

  • Choose modes of engagement that are suitable for both introverts or extroverts.

  • Create opportunities for skill-building and training beyond work.

  • Schedule informal meetings like virtual coffees and online games.

We have provided more recommendations in Managing Distributed Teams.

Further reading#

Chapter Tags: This chapter is curated for the Turing Data Study Group (turing-dsg).