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This guest post was written by Jessica Thiefels. Learn more at the end of this post.

Synergy sounds like an abstract buzzword, but what this term refers to, at its core, is simple:

“Synergy represents a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Speaking about teamwork, synergy is achieved when the outcomes of team effort are better than they would have been if team members had worked separately,” explains Elena Carstoiu, collaboration expert and COO of Hubgets.

In other words, synergy is the effective collaboration of a team united by one common goal.

This attribute is crucial for the success and productivity of a business, whether it’s a new startup or established corporation. In fact, Entrepreneur reported that in a study of more than 1,100 companies, those that promoted collaboration among employees were 5 times as likely to be high performing.

The question is: how can synergy be created and sustained when team members don’t have the benefit of face-to-face interaction? This is a challenge for companies with remote employees, who need to be extra creative and resourceful where synergy is concerned.

Facilitating camaraderie, dialogue and a shared effort between employees can seem arduous without the advantage of proximity. Use the action-steps below to maintain the connection and cohesion needed for complete workplace synergy.

Set and Check Team Expectations Routinely

Only 50 percent of American workers have a definite understanding of their manager’s expectations and 13 percent are disengaged, according to research from Gallup. It’s especially easy for this to happen with remote employees because a remote workforce tends to operate more flexibly than a structured office environment.

The Engaged Workplace – Gallup Research

This is where continuous, intentional check-ins come into play. These ensure that employees understand their value and duties in comparison to others on the team; when employees know what other team members are doing, and how their job plays a role in the team’s overall success, synergy can take hold. Only then can employees collaborate and engage with one another productively.

Use weekly meetings to provide feedback, check in on projects, and connect necessary team members. These meetings ensure that everyone is on the same page so they can work together most effectively.

Create Opportunities for Teamwork

Collaboration is necessary for creating a synergized team. As Carstoiu suggests, “Great outcomes, and therefore team synergy, can only be achieved when people unite their forces in an exemplary demonstration of collaboration.”

Regular team meetings are important for getting employees to collaborate, but teamwork needs to be continually encouraged and supported by team leaders and managers. That’s why the next step for is for you to provide opportunities for teamwork to happen and there are many ways to do that.

For example, make a point to create small project teams often, which requires employees to work together. You can also invest in a chat or project management tool that makes it easy for employees to collaborate and develop synergy.

Even more important is making resources easily available to everyone so teams can collaborate without waiting for assets, for example. A tool as basic (and free) as Google Drive works well to remotely store all necessary documents, images, forms, etc. in a place that everyone can access.

Always Use Video Conferencing

Sending emails can feel tedious or impersonal, which can inhibit synergy. Face-to-face contact with video conference software, however, can better connect employees, both in-house and remote. Not only does talking face-to-face avoid miscommunication and allow for a more personal meeting, but face-to-face requests are 34 times more successful than those over email. Accepting requests and addressing the needs of co-workers is critical to the synergy of your remote team.

That’s why video should be required for all team meetings, quarterly updates, brainstorm sessions and other functions that involve the entire group. If you don’t already have a preferred video conference platform, the first step is choosing one.

As you do, assess how the different features can optimize the workflow of your employees. For instance, Loom’s platform enables your team members to interact in real-time, both through video and other integrations like chatbots or message threads.

 

Schedule Social Time

Team collaboration on-the-job starts with a sense of community that’s often developed outside of working hours. If remote employees can’t gather in-person regularly, there are a few options for developing this connection and camaraderie. For example, some all-remote companies, like Buffer, plan an epic annual trip for their employees.

That can be costly, so if you can’t afford a large, group trip, fuel team spirit and build social connections with video lunch dates, where employees each lunch “together.” This is a chance to talk about their personal life, share about hobbies, etc. in a typical co-worker format.

The Buffer Team at their 9th Retreat

You can also take another page from Buffer, who provides a “virtual water-cooler,” in the form of a personal online chat area. On this platform, employees can share anything from news articles and book suggestions to humorous memes and selfies.

Providing remote employees with this ability to casually “hangout,” regardless of how it’s facilitated, gives them a chance to be themselves around each other. This solidifies their working relationships while building the connections needed to make synergy possible.

Drive Synergy Between Remote Employees

Synergy is central to any successful business, improving productivity, efficiency and camaraderie. When you provide resources for teamwork, stay connected with video calls, and allow for non-work social time, you can make this a reality for your growing business.

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer and business owner. She’s worked directly with many developers, both remote and in-house, to execute projects big and small. She’s also been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and has written for Manta, Virgin, Salesforce and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.