Without a doubt, work from home has been the biggest change to the professional world in recent history. Such an unprecedented shift in work environments was hailed by some but met with skepticism by others. Most sectors were not prepared to make a full transition online, and because of this, there wasn’t any backup infrastructure surrounding how people would work together and collaborate online. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the changes that arose from a shift to remote work, and some strategies to help you incorporate online whiteboards into your new workspace. If you want to learn more about online whiteboards you can read our guide here, and if you’re more interested in visual collaboration in general, check out our comprehensive walkthrough.

People working together to develop innovative ideas, just like they do when at work from home.

How work from home changed collaboration

Work from home not only changes how people are able to collaborate, but it also affects people’s overall ability to communicate with one another and work synchronously. This disrupts the normal flow of a workplace and can make it difficult for teams to achieve their goals on time and with proper quality assurance.

Collaboration, for the most part, has always been done on a traditional whiteboard. Whiteboards have long been the pinnacle of collaboration, and they arguably still are. Using them grants an instantaneous visualization, brainstorming, and communication process, all on a shared board. 

All of these elements disappeared from collaboration when people transitioned to working from home. As teams begin to transition to other remote collaboration tools, they are picking up the positives of traditional whiteboarding while expanding their collaborative potential.

Besides the changes to collaboration and communication, work from home has revealed that much of the work we thought was only possible in person is possible not just from home, but from anywhere. This expands the work environment to a global scale, allowing teams to access opinions, experts, and networks that were never fully considered before. 

While teams now have the option to expand their boundaries across borders, they also need to incorporate new collaboration tools in order to make that a successful transition. Below we will talk about some simple exercises that help integrate online whiteboards into the workspace.

4 ways to integrate online whiteboards

Organization/planning templates

Organization and planning templates are the perfect places to start with online whiteboards because most of these exercises are already being informally done in the workplace. These include using Kanban templates, retrospective analyses, and making monthly calendars.

These templates are really easy to use and actually very effective at organizing the workspace and creating a simple collaborative space for people to share.

Weekly Kanban and Retrospective template for organizing future and previous tasks while doing work from home.

While the calendar is very self-explanatory, kanban and retrospectives are task-oriented organizers, allowing teams to organize their future/past projects based on the tangible tasks associated with their completion. Kanban templates organize tasks by their progress towards completion, and retrospectives analyze previous projects by what went well and what went poorly.

These exercises are important for teams because they are very straightforward and are able to easily engage entire teams on a simple canvas. They provide great practice for team members learning how to use online whiteboards and have important perks for the team’s efficiency and alignment.

Agile Solution Building

The best part of collaboration is you get to brainstorm ideas with your entire team and have everyone contribute to the same set overall thought process. Agile solution building is the perfect template for teams that are looking to brainstorm and create new, innovative ideas together. 

It takes a structured perspective to brainstorming (some prefer to call it brainwriting), allowing everyone to participate directly on each other’s ideas, providing a unique perspective to brainstorming, and finishing with a team-based result. Along with your team, you all think of an idea related to a certain solution or project and based on these ideas you move diagonally down the board making contributions to everyone’s column until you have all contributed to each other’s thoughts.

This method of brainwriting helps use the structure inherent to online whiteboards while also engaging everyone in the entire team, something that can be missing during online collaboration.

Assumption Mapping

When conducting collaboration online, especially when you are transitioning to using a new tool or interface it is really important to make sure your team is aligned and working from the same set of assumptions. That is exactly what the assumption mapping template does.

When using the assumption mapping template, you and your team will gather the assumptions you are working off based on a specific project or idea and gather them in the bank. You will then begin to map them out on the grid, determining the certainty and risk they all land at. By doing this you gain an accurate understanding of the different assumptions individuals are working from, and also are able to categorize them and better understand the risks they come with.

This alignment is extremely important for teams transitioning to a new environment and can be the catalyst for their future success. Especially when that new environment is an online workspace, being able to quickly align your team is a massive advantage.

Assumption Mapping board, used for diagramming team assumptions.

Solutions Matrix

The solutions matrix template is very helpful to teams that want to better align their expectations and ability to relate to their customer through their product. Teams will create “how might we” statements across the top based on who they are targeting, and down the side based on how they can target them. The intersections of these categories will provide areas that you can brainstorm specific solutions for certain groups of people based on the solutions you plan to provide.

This template works great online because it creates an entire matrix of possible ideas for people to implement into their business plan and helps people brainstorm ideas together, aligning their thought processes and contributions. Along with aligning your team, you are able to brainstorm unique and direct solutions for multiple different groups of consumers. Being able to target customer groups directly is critical in order to develop accurate solutions, and online whiteboards give you the ability to do that from anywhere.

Solutions Matrix board, used to find unique and diverse solutions.

Conclusion

Transitioning to work from home made collaboration much more difficult between teams, and with online whiteboards, you can not only get back on base with collaboration but take it to the next level. Here is a brief overview of our 4 exercises to incorporate online whiteboards into your work from home environment.

  1. Organization/Planning Templates: Kanban, Retrospective, and calendars all help organize the workplace and help easy team alignment.
  2. Agile Solution Building: This brainwriting template engages the entire team in an intersectional team brainstorming exercise.
  3. Assumption Mapping: Diagramming assumptions and aligning your team makes an effective transition for online teams.
  4. Solutions Matrix: Use this template to create multiple direct approaches to solutions that target different customer groups.

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