6 Lessons From the Pandemic: Collaboration in Remote Teams

6 Mar, 2023 | Read in 5 minutes

Remote collaboration during a crisis can be challenging, but your team can thrive with these 6 lessons from the pandemic. Read now for practical tips.


Collaboration in a crisis is important for dealing with difficult situations, as it helps individuals and organisations work together towards objectives. The COVID-19 crisis underscores effective collaboration in achieving long-term success. 

Organisations must pool experts to tackle intricate and rapidly changing problems. And it isn’t just for a remote work situation.

Remote work provides a group with diverse experiences from many perspectives. It allows them to see risks and opportunities from multiple angles. Collaborating as a group leads to innovative and flexible solutions that can adapt to the situation.

COVID-19 causes anxiety to many people. A study shows that stress often causes people to avoid risks during crises and revert to familiar actions and solutions that have worked in the past. 

The pandemic's effects also make individuals want to prioritise their needs, as they feel they are running out of resources. It leads to a crash in cross-collaboration.

Importance of Collaboration in Crisis

Harvard Business Review (HBR) shows that collaboration increases performance, including service and healthcare. HBR studied collaboration and financial performance, focusing on crisis management, and found different industry collaboration patterns. For instance, this one pattern was observed in a law firm.

The data above shows the collaboration patterns of law firm partners before, during, and after a crisis. Of 400 partners, 10% are among the most collaborative workers. They can develop the business during the crisis. 20% declined during the crisis but was able to recover within a year after it. The rest, 70%, are dramatically reduced in collaboration with others.

During a crisis, organisations can develop their business strategy. They can use a multi-faceted approach by expanding their network in all industries or getting involved in projects. Collaborating on different projects leverages opportunities to grow and succeed.

Meanwhile, those who focus on themselves have a different approach. They build barriers around and push away their partners. Finally, the grant funds run out, and the founders are left with no flow of funds.

Collaboration in crisis has a major impact on organisations and individuals. Many organisations recognise the importance of collaboration. But what if their employees are remote workers? How to collaborate without being physically present?

6 Lessons Learned in Remote Team Collaboration

As we know, remote teams face many challenges during the pandemic. It can be difficult for them to collaborate effectively without face-to-face interaction. Many organisations also realise that when remote collaboration stops, so does their business.

The pandemic taught many valuable lessons about collaborating in crises. Here are six takeaways from remote collaboration:

1. Encourage opinions from employees

At McKinsey, there's a value called "obligation to dissent". The individuals are encouraged to offer new ideas and not just follow assumptions. Every team member is seen as valuable and expected to contribute to discussions.

Unfortunately, it takes much courage to disagree, and some people hesitate to express their ideas because they fear explaining them in detail. This is especially true in remote work, where it can be difficult to describe differences of opinion on platforms like Zoom. However, every employee needs to contribute their ideas, as they can be crucial for the progress of the business.

2. Understand how to make decisions

Involving the team in decision-making is important to get different perspectives that benefit the final result. However, in remote environments, making decisions poses many challenges. Teams have different time zones, asynchronous conversations, and leading some options are overlooked. So what's the best way to make decisions for remote workers?

  • Decide how to meet as a group.

  • Remember to check the results in detail even if the decision has been made.

  • Document decisions so that they can become insights for future discussions.

Keep in mind that not all decisions are right to be together. Some decisions will be one-sided. Dr W. Patrick Dolan from the Consortium for Educational Change describes decision-making based on the scale of collaboration.

3. Reinforce business goals

From Covid19, we realise that many people prefer to focus on themselves. Companies must constantly remind their employees of their business goals. Repeating these goals can help employees understand them better and contribute to achieving them. It can also boost their confidence that their work is meaningful and helps the company reach its goals.

Leaders must reduce employees' uncertainty by boosting their self-confidence. So even if the goal doesn't change, the company must repeat it to employees. In remote collaboration, leaders must ensure employees know where the company is headed.

4. Connect with the frontlines

In remote collaboration, the most collaborative roles are the front lines. Leaders must communicate directly with the role to get unfiltered information, such as honest feedback and their perspective. It can also identify areas with the most risk in the business.

Connecting to a frontline role is critical for remote environments. Leaders can schedule monthly one-on-one check-ins to understand their mindset.

5. Choose the appropriate way of working

Remote workers are more likely to experience stress and burnout. Tiny Pulse shows that almost 80% of remote workers experience stress and fatigue. When employees are stressed, they tend to retreat to their comfort zone. It's essential to understand what type of behaviour works best for employees.

For example, when stress increases, do employees prefer to talk to someone or work alone? It's important to ask employees how they work best when focused and what they do when stressed. Once employees become aware of their work style, they can change their tendencies and collaborate more effectively.

6. Focus on strengths

In critical situations, changing the direction of an organisation is nearly impossible. Instead, the focus should be on increasing collaboration. During the pandemic, many companies changed their specialities and followed trends that led to success. Now that the pandemic is over, many companies continue remote work, but not everyone excels in this environment.

It's essential to identify the strengths of employees. Do they prefer to collaborate remotely or face-to-face? Are they independent workers, or do they enjoy group discussions?

Leaders must understand that collaboration doesn't need to be one-size-fits-all. Companies should leverage diversity and strengths to improve work across teams. You can improve remote work using the VirtualSpace collaboration tool to focus on your team's strengths. 


The pandemic presents challenges and valuable lessons about collaboration for remote teams. They must prioritise their communications, business goals and strengths. 

By focusing on results and strengths, remote teams can weather the tough times that may come back.


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