We’ve seen remote working pop up often in the news lately – like this article in Inc. magazine (based on a post on the HBR Blog Network) – and it’s led us to take a closer look at this work arrangement and what it means for small businesses.
For starters, workers value the lack of commute and increased flexibility, as Greg Bell, founder of software development firm Advansys, can attest. His four core team members are spread out across the city of Sydney, Australia.
“They appreciate having the extra time to spend with their families or to do whatever they enjoy,” Bell says. “It’s a major improvement in quality of life.”
(Bell pictured at left).
Meanwhile, employers can benefit from reduced overhead and an expanded recruiting pool: if you’re based in Cleveland, Ohio, you can still hire people in London, Mumbai, or Sao Paulo. And you won’t necessarily lose good employees if they move to another city.
Sounds like a win-win. But can you keep your team connected despite the distance? Our business users say yes, you can – and it’s easier than you think to stay in touch. Try these four tips to bring remote teams closer:
- Take advantage of instant messaging. It’s a convenient way to stay connected, regardless of where you are in the world. You can keep up with employees while still allowing them the time and freedom to get their work done. Speaking of freedom, your team can access Skype from several platforms (tablets, mobile, desktops, laptops), making it even easier to check in, ask a question, start a discussion or share an article. Tip: set your Skype status to “Do Not Disturb” if you need to take a call or want to get work done without receiving chat alerts.
- Go a step further and establish ongoing group chats. These chats can bring together a number of people for a discussion around a particular project (“Website Redesign”) or group (“Social Media Team”). They’re easy to organize and review, they remove the pressure to respond immediately, and it can be simpler to handle written text when different languages are involved. Several companies tell us they’ve kept chats like this open for years. Tip: follow the lead of Greg Bell of Advansys, and use hashtags to make it easy to find conversations later (#idea, #followup, etc.).
- Don’t forget to share – your screen. Screen sharing lets you walk through something on your computer with a colleague, almost as if you’re in the same room. You can review visual documents like websites or PowerPoint presentations, or troubleshoot technical issues, among other things. Tip: you can also send files to your counterparts, making it easy to collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.
- Switch on the camera. Our business users tell us they count on video calls – either 1-to-1 or with a group – to help them save time and travel costs without losing that vital personal connection. They’re able to hold regular meetings, look at product prototypes, make new business presentations or even interview potential hires. Tip: Some business owners, like Marieke van der Poel of Proef Trend Consultants, open a video call with remote partners and leave the call open for many hours so they can work alongside each other and brainstorm in the moment. (van der Poel pictured at left).
Do you have tips for keeping remote teams connected? Share in the comments, or join the conversation in our LinkedIn group. And stay tuned: we’ll be taking a look at virtual brainstorming sessions soon, here on the blog.