Even if you have been operating in a remote workspace for a long time, you may still find it very difficult to collaborate effectively with your team. We understand that it’s never easy to change your workspace so quickly, so we developed this quick guide of some online whiteboard tips to help you improve your collaboration.
If you are interested in learning more about online whiteboards check out our comprehensive guide, and take a look at our guest-written post on the Ideascale blog to learn more about some exercises to try in your next virtual whiteboarding session.
Online Whiteboard Tips
Whiteboard apps are a versatile addition to the workspace, and with more people beginning to adopt them, it’s important to know some tips to get the best out of your collaboration. Here are our 6 essential online whiteboard tips.
Deeply Embed Communication Channels
Integrating communication tools is important in order to keep communication free and open while collaborating. Collaboration relies heavily on your team’s ability to communicate quickly and positively, which is why these tools are so important. Communication channels/tools come in lots of different forms and could be represented by video conferencing tools like Zoom, or messaging tools like Slack.
Communication is inherent to in-person collaboration, so actively stimulating it when online may seem clunky and awkward, but it is necessary in order for your collaboration to work efficiently.
Because of whiteboard apps’ ability to make contributions permanent and remotely accessible, it can be tempting to ignore the real-time applications of these tools and make contributions asynchronously. These tools are best operated in real-time with your team engaging together, which is a reason it’s so important to use these communication tools alongside one another. Using online whiteboards is crucial for people working remotely, and embedding communication channels alongside them propel your ability to communicate and collaborate freely.
Set Clear Expectations & Goals
Just like having frequent communication, setting clear goals and expectations is something that can get lost when transitioning collaboration online. Setting shared goals and expectations for people to follow not only helps them understand the task at hand but also helps align your team’s thoughts and contributions. When people have a shared north star to guide them, they are able to work together with much greater efficiency.
Luckily, online whiteboards usually have the flexibility to accommodate for this as well. Not only communicating these goals but documenting them helps people refer back to them whenever they need and realign their thought processes. On online whiteboards you have the flexibility to add and manipulate different elements, like a section for goals, granting your team the ability to refresh their understanding as much as they need. Whether these elements are built into the canvas or you add them to the side, documenting your goals and expectations helps people collaborate smoothly and efficiently and is one of our top online whiteboard tips.
Online whiteboards and other collaboration tools will always have a learning curve to them, regardless of how complex or simple they claim to be. While you cannot eliminate this learning curve altogether, you can work hard to help get your team over the hump as quickly as possible.
One of the big problems of online collaboration is a misunderstanding of how to properly engage with the tools at hand. This can cost time and results if people can’t effectively contribute ideas due to their stunted understanding of how to operate the programs.
In order to circumvent this difficulty, it’s important to integrate the collaboration software early and often, making your team use it for any and all tasks so they can get a full grasp of the functionality. If you expose your team to the many diverse exercises and features that online whiteboards have to offer, they will become experts in no time, effectively minimizing the learning curve. If this is difficult, or not catching on, consider giving them a training course in the tools. Most online whiteboards have their own tutorials to help you grasp the capabilities and help guide you through the entire program, which is a big help for those struggling to grasp it.
Either way, giving your team an accurate and firm grasp on the tool will benefit everyone massively in their ability to work efficiently and produce results.
Create an Open, Collaborative Space
One of the biggest barriers to effectively collaborating online is the competition between participants and some personalities may go unrestricted. This is not to say that intense contribution is bad, but it can sometimes inhibit the ability of others to effectively contribute and speak up. This is a big downside of collaboration and it hinders the entire team’s ability to work together.
While this problem can partially be solved by creating goals and expectations, there are also features specific to online whiteboards that enable teams to create boundaries when it comes to excessive contributions. Features like “anonymous mode” allows people to work together to make contributions without the pressure of being talked over, or neglected in their contributions. What anonymous mode does is show only the contributions you make to the canvas, while hiding the other users. You can create your own unique contributions all over the board and then reveal those made by others so you can all then analyze what fits best into your goals.
Through features like anonymous mode, your team can operate more efficiently on online whiteboards and you can avoid the struggles created by having a competitive collaboration dynamic.
Feeling lost or misguided can be a common struggle for people collaborating online, and it’s often due to the struggles of working without a shared visual structure. This is something that online whiteboards excel at and give you many different options to remedy.
Online whiteboards provide a ton of different frameworks for you to implement during your collaboration sessions, and they are all well-established and helpful boards for you to collaborate on. Whether these be simple organizing tools or complex market analyses, the ability to quickly select and use a structured template helps align and dictate your team’s collaboration.
Not only can you utilize a variety of different pre-made templates, but you can also create your own. This is incredibly helpful if you need to orient your team to a very specific set of goals and need your structure to match the specificity of your goals. The ability to create unique structures is extremely versatile and means any team will be able to find a direct use to incorporate online whiteboards.
Through either creating your own template or utilizing an established pre-made one, your team will work much more efficiently if they are able to visualize and actualize their thoughts on a structured interface.
Encourage Collaboration Outside of Work
Using online whiteboards and collaborating remotely is very different from the traditional methods of collaboration we’re used to. One of the reasons for this is when operating online, collaboration sessions are the only opportunity to work together with your team. Usually, in a traditional workspace, you are able to interact and bond with your coworkers during a variety of different activities/occasions, and remote workspaces have removed this reality.
In order to establish team trust and chemistry, it’s important then that your team interacts with each other outside of these isolated collaboration instances. Using virtual whiteboards to incorporate collaboration in fun activities outside of work makes your team more interconnected and capable of operating well together during work hours.
Using online whiteboards is critical to teams that are continuing to operate in remote workspaces, and if you have been struggling to adapt to the new circumstances, hopefully, this guide gives you some online whiteboard tips to make your collaboration a bit easier and more efficient. Here are the 6 tips for you to improve your collaboration:
- Embed Communication → Using ulterior communication tools helps people never miss a beat while collaborating, and is vital to success in a remote workspace.
- Set Clear Goals → Visually documenting your goals and expectations helps people orient their thought processes and work well in tandem.
- Solidify Tool Understanding → People will be much more efficient during collaboration if they don’t have to worry about fiddling with the tool, so get them exposed early and often.
- Create Open Collaboration → Creating a space where people can contribute and communicate without judgment is vital to their willingness to collaborate.
- Integrate Structure → Shared visual elements are critical to collaboration, and online whiteboards allow you to create or use unique structural elements to aid in collaboration.
- Have Fun With It → In order to operate well at work, people need to blow off steam with each other elsewhere. Incorporate non-work collaboration activities to improve people’s performance during work hours.