One of the most fantastic things about the internet is that it’s completely and utterly opened up the working world. From the introduction of e-mail, which allowed for communication to take place regularly and instantly regardless of where you were located, through to the likes of Skype, that provides (amongst other aspects) effective video conferencing facilities, and beyond, the internet has essentially removed a lot of the restrictions many faced when wanting to work on a global level.
As such, the possibility of remote working is one that’s increased greatly in recent times. Organisations are realising they don’t now need to have a workforce in one physical location, and people all over the world are relishing just this.
Being able to work wherever you want, without any long commute, or distractions in the office? Yes, please.
But with there often a requirement to do more than reply by e-mail or engage on a Skype chat, there have been a whole host of tools setup to help remote teams collaborate together – and these are five of my favourite.
A personal user of Trello, I was only introduced to it recently (after years of using Basecamp), but it’s unbelievable. It’s completely changed my approach to project management.
Essentially a project management tool that allows you to create to do lists, build tasks within it and assign responsibilities (amongst much more functionality), Basecamp offers a similar solution, but in a much less user-friendly way – for me, if Trello is Windows 8, Basecamp is Windows 98.
One of the biggest challenges – and frustrations – remote workers are faced with is communication. When you’re not sat next to someone in an office, you can’t just give them a nudge to respond to an e-mail or ask them to send through a meeting invite – you have to physically wait for it to be sent when they get the opportunity to do so.
And if this is happening via e-mail, it could take an unnecessarily long time.
Now replicate this on different channels. Comments on Dropbox. Messages on Github. Responses on Google Hangouts. There’s a whole host of channels on which we can communicate regularly, and maintaining an active presence on them can be difficult.
With Slack, you effectively navigate around this problem by bringing all of your communication into one location.
Having an extensive list of resources it integrates with, Slack is used by companies such as Airbnb, BuzzFeed and Expedia to do everything from communicate daily on projects through to managing support requests. Its capabilities are seemingly endless and its functionality such that it begins to make you realise you don’t need to be managing dozens of profiles or presences, but just one.
A lot of people shy away from using Facebook as a professional tool, as it’s generally believed it’s only benefit is for personal communication or business-to-audience communication. Whilst there’s no doubt this is where it is most used, it has the fantastic ability to connect whole organisations.
In today’s world, more and more people are striving for the perfect work / life integration; a life where they’re not tied by working 9 to 5 and can only enjoy personal time on a weekend. As such, it means collaboration and communication needs to take place at all times.
With everyone needing a break from work, however, Facebook is often the go to resource – and with over 1.3 billion Facebook users, it’s increasingly likely that your colleagues will already be on the network.
Removing the need for training or the requirement for an introductory period to improve product familiarity, your colleagues are already using Facebook, and you just need to determine how you can benefit from it internally.
As one example, I know of a global CRM provider who uses it to manage projects. They have private groups setup and within each group discussions are created on certain aspects, with files and documents all able to be shared easily. This not only allows for quick and easy communication, but it ensures people can stay up-to-date when they haven’t necessarily got their work hat on.
4. Google Docs
Without Google Docs, my life would be difficult, and I’m certain I’m not the only one.
The main reason behind this is I work on a lot of documents that require collaboration from a multitude of people, and it’s just not practical to expect one person to make their changes, e-mail it to another person for them to make theirs, then e-mail it on again and so on.
What’s more, I work on a Mac and many of my colleagues are working on Windows machines, which means there can be a huge amount of problems caused by conflicting software (you can export from Mac’s Pages to .docx format, but you’ll often lose a lot of formatting, for instance).
With Google Docs, you don’t have to worry about any of the above – everyone can collaborate on one document at once, without having to worry about conflicts between machines either.
I personally haven’t used Sqwiggle, but I’ve heard a huge number of good things about it, and I know the guys over at Buffer use it daily (and with Buffer being a completely remote team, they’ll have tried and tested it thoroughly!).
In essence, Swiggle is continuous, video conferencing software. Rather than simply having it running when you need to present to others, it runs to a certain degree at all times. Taking a screenshot every couple of seconds of you, everyone using it in your group can see everyone else and not only can you speak to a specific person (or persons) by clicking on them, but just by using it you get a sense of community, something that you simply don’t get working remotely, alone.
Genuinely loving the idea of it, it bridges that gap that so many remote workers face – they want the flexibility to work where they wish, but they don’t want to miss the face-to-face interaction with colleagues you get working in an office.
As an organisation today, no matter whether you’re targeting a local audience or a global one, there’s not often a need to have all of your employees working from the same office, as long as you can deliver the goods to your audience every single time – and there a considerable number of tools out there to make this a genuine possibility with remote working.