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4 Collaboration Styles for Every Team Situation

You’re an engineer, and you have an issue you need an answer to before moving forward. The main way your remote team normally solves problems is asynchronous messaging, so you write out a detailed Slack message and wait for a response from your tech lead. Hours pass. You finally get a response, and it requires more clarification and context. You and your tech lead end up DMing back and forth for several more hours, only to end up scheduling a follow-up meeting instead of solving the problem. You’ve now lost a full day of work because of your company’s inefficient protocol.

Engineering collaboration isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation—especially if you’re on a remote or hybrid team. You can’t walk over to someone’s desk when online communication hits a roadblock. Instead, you need flexible virtual collaboration options.

Help your team work together by adopting different collaboration styles for different situations. 

Understanding these collaboration work styles leads to stronger digital collaboration, better teamwork, and overall improvements to your business work environment.

Asynchronous messaging: Best for quick updates

Slack isn’t the best choice for solving complex problems, but it’s still a useful collaboration tool. Sometimes, engineers have a quick update or question, like requesting a code review or updating others on a bug investigation. These messages don’t require a meeting, but they still need to be communicated.

Asynchronous messaging apps like Slack are ideal in these kinds of collaboration situations. Engineers can fire off messages right away without clogging up anyone’s inbox, and others can respond when they’re ready in their time zone. These apps also let engineers provide context around their messages with attachments, like screenshots or file links.

Separate your messaging app into distinct channels so your team always knows where to look to find updates quickly. These might be channels like:

  • Internal tools: Where team members can share knowledge about the internal software used at the company.
  • Daily updates: Where your entire team can look for progress updates from each other. Slack integrates with project management software like GitHub or Jira, so these updates can be sent out automatically.
  • Code review: A centralized place your team can go to review code from their peers.

Be detailed in your async updates so your team members know exactly how to answer your questions. Provide links to previous Slack threads, work-in-progress pull requests, deadlines, and links to internal knowledge base pages to make your communication as clear as possible.

Slack is a popular asynchronous messaging option, but there are other options.

  • Microsoft Teams is a good choice if your team is actively using Microsoft Office products because of how well they integrate.
  • Twist allows you to fully customize how and when you receive your message notifications, making it a good choice for team members who prioritize deep work.
  • Yac is an async messaging app that focuses on sharing voice recordings rather than messages, which can be good if your team learns better audibly than from writing.

While asynchronous messaging apps can be useful tools for engineers, they aren’t the right type of collaboration style for brainstorming and solving complex problems.

Video apps for sync collaboration: Best for solving complex problems

Scheduled meetings have their time and place—but they’re not ideal for engineering brainstorming. When team members have impromptu ideas and questions, they need a remote space to gather on the fly and figure out problems side-by-side.

Video apps like Remotion are designed for remote collaboration and empower distributed and hybrid teams to solve problems together—helping them feel connected and make progress on their projects.

Our video app lets team members hop into calls at a moment’s notice without interfering with others’ productivity. Key features include:

  • Hop-in, hop-out coworking rooms are perfect for working side by side on a project with your teammates, or actively collaborating and solving tough problems together. They're lightweight, audio-first, and built to work seamlessly for both quick calls and long collaboration sessions.
  • Multi-user screensharing makes collaboration much easier, when you can seamlessly view one another's screens at the same time like you were sitting together.
  • The easy-to-minimize Dock and Status shows you when others are available, in the middle of deep work, or in a Zoom or Meet call. You can also see when other engineers are collaborating and send an offer to help if they need you.

Most of the time, it's hard to predict during scheduled meetings what problems will arise during coding or other project work. This team collaboration style empowers your team to meet face to face and solve difficult problems as they come up.

Scheduled video calls: Best for group decision-making

When you need to make choices about how to move forward on a project as a group, a scheduled video meeting is the way to go. You know everyone will be available at the scheduled time, and you can set a clear agenda to reach a decision by the end of the meeting.

Say you’ve redesigned your product based on user feedback and now need to discuss these design changes with your engineers. A scheduled video call will be the best way to get everyone together to discuss implementing the design adjustments.

Scheduled video conferencing is also the best choice for one of the most important parts of being a tech lead—1:1 virtual meetings. With a set time on the calendar for 1:1s, engineers can regularly receive feedback and share technical and/or personal problems they’re facing. This collaboration style helps you and your engineers improve and build a close relationship.

Zoom is a common choice for scheduled video calls—especially with external stakeholders who are likely already familiar, but you can use Remotion for these calls as well, with easily shareable links for guests to join via their browser. Microsoft Teams integrates well with other Microsoft Office programs (much like the chat feature), and some businesses still use Skype as well.

Partnerships with other companies and client relationships often call for external collaboration strategies. Scheduled video calls are usually the best collaboration solution in this situation since it’s the industry standard for communicating externally.

Collaborative coding: Best for quick debugging

The best coding often happens in pairs or groups. Encourage your engineers to code together—regardless of where they live—by setting up processes for remote pair programming.

Collaborative coding is a process that allows you to naturally catch bugs and mistakes as they happen, which is much more efficient than finishing code and going back to find bugs later. Pair programming used to happen with two people physically on the computer, but obviously, that’s not possible in a remote team environment.

There are three types of collaborative coding. With pair programming, one engineer codes while the other checks their code and makes the decisions to navigate the project. It used to only happen in person with two engineers working on the same computer, but remote teams commonly do this with collaborative coding apps. Mob programming is similar, but with more than one person checking code and navigating. Code sharing is more similar to individual coding in that one person navigates and codes and then sends it to another coder to review, debug, and improve (if necessary).

Today, remote teams can use collaborative coding apps to program in pairs (as well as mob programming or code sharing). Consider using Teletype, a workspace-sharing tool for developers. It was created by GitHub and has advanced encryption features that make it a very secure option for effective collaboration. 

If your company uses Macs, Tuple is a good option. This MacOS-exclusive tool is reported to have an easy-to-use interface and little to no lag.

If your team uses remote pair programming, be sure to work on a reliable version control system. The cloud collaboration tool should track all changes to software code and ensure that your team is working on the most current version. It helps engineers avoid losing their work and wasting their time, even as they’re coding together.

Using Remotion is the ultimate collaboration style to improve productivity

Connecting with teammates in real time—having more quick, collaborative conversations—improves productivity. Creating space for actually problem solving together makes for better team output, with the added benefit of stronger connections and relationships on your team. Each of these collaboration styles is useful for a different situation, but what can take your business to the next level is giving your team the ability to collaborate in real time, and solve tough problems together.

Remotion’s software is an easy way to try real-time remote collaboration. Try our platform today for free to solve complex problems more organically.

The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.

Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.

Here are the biggest reasons we think virtual coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:

1. It fosters casual conversations.

Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in a traditional office.

2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.

It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Virtual coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.

3. It's easy to say yes to.

Purely social events are important, but if your remote team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your distributed team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.

4. It improves remote collaboration.

Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops and stronger remote collaboration. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages. Coworking also builds peer accountability.

5. It's scalable.

Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.

6. It creates shared momentum.

Virtual coworking helps remote workers for the same reason you might get a membership at a traditional coworking space: the feeling of togetherness is motivating!

Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.

It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.

Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.

Best practices for virtual coworking.

Keep group sizes small.

Limit your work sessions to 4-6 people to minimize distraction and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.

Signal boost coworking.

Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.

Make it routine.

Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.

Set expectations ahead of time.

When you're first introducing coworking to your remote team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of work sessions to get everyone on the same page. For example:

Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share virtual space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at a physical office.

Listen to music together.

Play music while you work in a virtual room to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your virtual coworking session.

Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.

Most of the above is doable with any video chat app or virtual office, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Remotion is the perfect virtual coworking platform—easily set up virtual rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.

While Remotion's virtual workspace is free to use with your remote team, if you're curious about joining a virtual coworking community built on our platform—check out Swift Remote Studio for iOS, Mac, and Swift developers.

Want to try coworking in Remotion? Get free access today .

We'd love to hear how coworking goes for you, or what practices you've found helpful on your team — let us know @remotionco on Twitter.

Want to try coworking in Remotion? Get free access today.