Sr. Content Marketing Manager
Did your team make the switch to remote or hybrid work this year? You aren’t alone: there was an 87% increase in remote work because of the pandemic, found Upwork.
We might have celebrated the jump to remote-first working at first (sweatpants 24/7!), but when it’s time to collaborate with your remote team, it’s a different story.
Remote or hybrid collaboration can feel like herding cats. 67% of managers say they’re worried about how their team will get anything done in a remote environment, so collaboration tools are a must to stay productive.
The right tech stack makes a world of difference. That’s why so many teams switched to Google Workspace, which essentially digitizes their entire business.
That’s great, but Google Docs collaboration only works if you have a process in place for collaborating — oh, and a few Google Docs tricks don’t hurt, either.
Curious how to do Google Docs team collaboration right? Let’s dig into why Google Docs is the right tool for remote work, what you can use it for and our 7 fave Google Docs collaboration hacks for remote and hybrid teams.
Why Google Docs for team collaboration?
If you have a Google Workspace subscription, Google Docs comes as part of your suite of tools. Google Docs is a word processor that’s similar to solutions like Microsoft Word, but with some key improvements that make it a much more dynamic and user-friendly tool.
So, why should your team collaborate in Google Docs? We’re big fans of its remote-friendly features, like:
- Offline sync: As long as you have access to the Doc and a wifi connection, you can collaborate with other team members in real-time. But if you’re traveling and don’t have wifi, Google Docs also allows for offline sync. Simply work on the Doc without wifi; Google will sync the changes when you’re connected to wifi again. Easy peasy!
- Ease of use: We don’t like to throw shade, but … Word docs come with layers upon layers of complexity (if you’ve ever tried Word’s automated styles for formatting, you know what we’re talking about). Unlike Word, Google Docs is easy to learn. It’s also device-agnostic and doesn’t require you to download (or update) software.
- Real-time changes: Nobody wants to send multiple versions of a Word doc as an email attachment — and then end up sending the wrong “final” version to print. You can do real-time collaboration in Google Docs and track your version history without multiple files or documents. Finally, some sanity.
- Permissioning: Don’t let the intern wreck your reports. Google Docs allows you to control which team members can see, comment on, and edit your documents.
Cloud availability and backups: You don’t have to worry about employees sequestering documents on their machines where the team can’t access them. Google Docs works out of the cloud, which makes it easy for your team to access the information they need, no matter where they are or what device they’re using.
What does Google Docs collaboration look like?
No matter your industry, department or niche, chances are good that your team can collaborate in Google Docs.
Here are just a few common use cases for using Google Docs as a remote team:
- For agencies: Does your agency create content for clients? Google Docs allows you to track all of your blog outlines, drafts and edits in one place. Provide just one link to your SEO folks, copywriters and editors for a smoother workflow.
- For consulting: Consulting companies use Google Docs to keep tabs on their different clients’ needs. Take notes during each client meeting and share them with your entire team so they can provide better service and stay on top of developing projects.
- For real estate: Real estate agents have to manage hundreds of documents and a huge client roster. Google Docs can help real estate pros share contract drafts or addendums with their clients and control access and how they distribute information.
- For corporate development: Don’t worry about which Word doc is the right file. Google Docs will allow your sales folks to tag-team proposals (in one place) until they’re absolutely perfect.
- For technology: Working on a committee? Quickly gather feedback or brainstorm your next big idea within the convenience of Google Docs.
7 Google Docs hacks that will make your life easier
The long and short of it is that Google Docs is a must-have for remote collaboration.
But how you use this tool matters a lot, too. Try these 7 hacks to help your team master Google Doc collaboration, no matter where they’re working from.
Before you do anything in Google Workspace, you have to learn how to share and collaborate with Google Docs. Otherwise, nobody will be able to access the Doc, which is the whole purpose of collaboration, right?
Google Docs gives you three permission options:
- Editor: Editing permissions give other people full reign to change the content in the Doc. This is ideal for writing a proposal as a team.
- Commenter: Do you need feedback on a new blog? Instead of letting reviewers red-line it to death, you can give your coworkers comment-only access. This means they can give feedback without changing the base content.
- Viewer: Other people can only look at the Doc with view-only permissions. They can’t change any content or leave a comment, either. This is ideal for sharing documents where you just want to dispense information (say, to your sales team) but don’t need feedback. Training manuals or sales battle cards would apply here.
You’ll want to give people different levels of access depending on your organization, the content and the purpose of the Doc.
Don’t forget, you’ll also need to invite other people to the Doc so you can collaborate. Here’s how you can add collaborators on Google Docs:
- Grant access via email: Go to the big blue Share button in the top right corner of your Google Doc. Type in your coworker’s email address, choose their access level (viewer, commenter or editor), add a message if you want, and then click Send.
- Share a link: Need to share info with someone outside your organization? Instead of dropping in their email, you can set blanket permissions in the Doc. Go to Share > Get Link > Change and select your permissions. Just keep in mind that setting it to “Anyone with the link can edit” gives access to anyone with the link, like literally anyone online that happens to have the url — so use this option carefully!
2. Real-time collaboration in Google Docs
The best thing about Google Docs collaborative editing is that it happens in real time. So if your sales team needs to frantically put an RFP together at 10 pm, Google Docs has you covered.
Up to 100 people can be in a single Google Doc at once. You can see who’s in the Doc by looking for their icon in the top right-hand corner. If it’s someone in your organization, you’ll see their name and profile pic. But if it’s someone outside your org, Google displays them as a cute animal, keeping them anonymous:
(This one happens to be Anonymous Dingo)
If you need to find where a person is editing in a Doc, you don’t have to scan the entire document to find them. Just click on their icon and Google will take you to where their cursor is in the document.
And if it’s too much work inviting 10+ people to work in a Doc at once, you can also schedule a Google Meet, share your screen, and collaborate that way. That’s ideal if you want to have one dedicated writer while discussing the Doc’s content as a team.
3. Version history
Did your intern accidentally butcher your financial reports?
Don’t panic! The cool thing about Google Docs is that you can revert to a previous version of the Doc with a few clicks.
Google saves every change you make in a Doc. Just click on your version history to see who made which changes and when.
Click on “Last edited” to view the version history, or go to File > Version history.
Google will give you a record of all the people who have edited the document, as well as the time and which changes they made. Neat, right?
For a full list of the changes everyone made, click on the arrow drop-down to revisit each version:
If you want to revert to a previous version, just click “Restore this version” and Google will recover your old work, just like magic.
4. Comments and tagging
If you don’t want your co-workers messing with your proposal but still need their feedback, you can ask them to leave comments.
To leave a comment, they just need to highlight the text in question, tap “Add comment” and share their feedback. You can reply to their comment to start a full-on text chain or mark it as “Done” by clicking the checkmark on the comment:
But how do you know if someone mentioned you in a comment? Well, Google Docs also lets you tag people in comments.
Just type “@” and enter their name or email address. Google Docs will shoot that person an email to let them know you tagged them.
You can even assign a comment to a coworker, which lets them know that they have an action item to complete in the Doc:
5. Suggesting mode
Sometimes you want to write as a team, and other times, you don’t want to let your co-workers touch your Doc with a ten-foot pole.
If you want other people’s feedback but don’t want them to have total control over the Doc, you can turn on Suggesting mode.
(For those of you who use Microsoft Word, this is similar to the Track Changes feature)
Suggesting mode allows people to make changes to your text, but it will show up crossed out and in a different color:
As the owner of the Doc, you have the power to either accept or reject their edits. If you reject them, the suggestions disappear. If you accept them, they change the content.
By the way, if you want to quickly accept (or reject) all of the suggestions in a Doc, go to Tools > Review Suggested Edits.
This makes it much easier to manage all of your edits in one place, instead of scrolling and clicking on checkmarks forever.
6. Document outline
Is your team jumping all over a Doc? There’s no need to waste your time scrolling; just set up a Document Outline for easier navigation.
A Document Outline displays on the left hand side of a Doc, which allows your team to jump to specific areas of the content.
Just go to View > Show document outline.
To use the outline, you’ll first need to format text with Google Docs formatting, though:
This just means formatting headers within Google Docs so they show up in the outline:
7. Google Docs bookmarks
Does your boss need to review the conclusion of a proposal before you send it out? Don’t ask them to scroll down to the end of the Doc; just send them a bookmark!
Google Docs allows you to highlight a section for review, create a custom URL for that section and send it to your teammates. It’s much faster and more convenient than tagging them in a comment, especially if they only need to work within one section of the Doc.
To insert a bookmark, highlight your text and select Insert > Bookmark:
Copy the link and send it to your teammates for easier review.
Tap your team’s potential with Google Docs collaboration
If you’re already a Google organization, it just makes sense to use Google Docs for collaboration, especially on a remote team.
Google Docs collaboration allows your team to digitize how you work without the huge learning curve. If you work in documents frequently, ditch software-based Word docs and switch to the Google cloud to restore your sanity. No matter your business or niche, you can use Google Docs to streamline remote collaboration for the long haul.
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