Most of us by now are resigned to the notion that our working lives are subject to a prolonged period of disruption. For many owners and managers who use a hands-on style to maintain focus, morale and productivity, setting up and motivating remote teams has been an almost unfathomable challenge. Here’s three steps that we’ve taken to help us communicate and collaborate, stay happy and in good mental health and remain productive, connected and motivated.
1. Use cloud-based collaboration tools for effective communication
If you haven't already done so, moving all of your business critical applications to the cloud is more important than ever.
For your teams to work together cohesively they are going to need collaboration tools extending far past email and telephone. Being able to work on a document together, set up video calls and send messages across groups are the basic functions you’ll need your tools to support. Here are a few ideas:
- If you are running a Microsoft suite of products, Office 365 Teams is a generally reliable cloud based collaboration tool (although not cheap if you need 100s of licenses). There is also a free version if you want to test it for a short period.
- If you aren’t using Microsoft tools, Google’s G Suite has a good range of products too. Like Teams, you can collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, slide decks and diagrams, assign tasks, ask questions of specific people and access documents from anywhere.
- Slack works on both mobile and desktop devices, and allows you to send direct messages (DMs) and files to a single person or a group, and gives you the ability to organise conversations into different channels. You are also able to drop and share files with your colleagues directly within Slack, plus it supports video calling for up to 15 people at a time. Also check out Ryver and Flock as alternatives offering similar features. You can invite external users and restrict the conversations they can participate in, so it’s a great way of keeping your customers involved, too.
- Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet are excellent video tools for conferencing with multiple team members. . Both will work independently of Microsoft tools or Google, although Hangouts Meet is unsurprisingly integrated with G Suite
- There are literally hundreds of Project Management tools out there with varying levels of complexity. Basecamp (very easy to set up and use) Asana (more complex/comprehensive), Monday and Trello are all widely used and reliable.
2. Create Virtual Rooms for good mental health and fast feedback
Anything that adds friction to interactions between team members can reduce productivity. For instance, when a team member is unsure about something, a quick chat with a colleague is a very efficient way to remove misunderstanding. This short feedback cycle is essential to efficient productivity.
To try and mimic the feedback cycle you have in an office, try using video conferencing to set up virtual team rooms: create a video conference that replicates the office a team would normally sit in; all members of a team constantly have a window open into the video call. When you’re “at your desk” you join the conference; when you’re “in a meeting” you leave it. You can see your teammates when they are at their computers, you can hear when they are talking about something and, importantly, you can easily add to the conversation or ask a question. Stay muted when you’re not in a conversation so everyone can stay focused, but you can drop back in anytime to get answers quickly when you need them.
Zoom and Google Meet are both good tools for this, but most other video conferencing platforms would work equally well. Check out GoToMeeting, Skype for business and SamePage.
You can also configure Slack to help you stay moving and healthy.
3. Keep a sense of community to help boost productivity
If you have worked hard over many years to build a sense of community in your organisation you’ll want to ensure you don't lose all that good work. A large and growing body of research on positive organizational psychology demonstrates that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.
To this end, here are a few things you can do.
- Have a virtual tea break. There are times of day when people naturally gravitate towards the kitchen, so why not have a virtual tea break? Pick a good time for your organisation and encourage everyone to grab a drink, take a break and come to the virtual kitchen for a chat. As in office life, not everyone will join every time but it does give people a chance to take a step back from work, decompress and chat with friends and colleagues.
- Hold a short company wide meeting once a week. Set up a 15 minute call and invite everyone (via your video conference tool of choice). Ask department heads or team leaders to report for 3 or 4 minutes each on anything new in their world. This will make people feel valued, listened to and still part of the team.
- Create social chat channels. Encourage your team to set up chat channels (using Slack, Teams or your technology of choice) that aren’t work related. For example, some team members may have shared interests like cycling or running. This will provide a digital space in place where you can chat to your mate about what you did at the weekend.
If you haven't already moved your business critical applications to the cloud, it’s now more important than ever. If you need help with this (or any of the above) please do get in touch.
Ro Welch - Head of Client Engagement, Black Pepper Software
M: 07961 250 336