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Tips and Tools for getting the most from Virtual teams

by Pamela Hamilton

People say they prefer to meet face to face, work in an office and meet as a team.  But what about when you can’t, or don’t want to?  If you’re a global team, or your company doesn’t have a central office, or if you want to live somewhere distant and don’t want to commute, virtual working can be the only choice.

There are so many ways to make virtual working super creative and productive.  It’s about balancing what you give to the job and what you get back in return.

 

What to Give to make your Virtual Teamwork

  • Transparency – full disclosure about where you actually are, are working on, how you feel, etc – Tool:  Hours Tracker (an easy smartphone-based app that clocks you in and out of jobs, and exports to your other team members in seconds when they need to know how your time is spent)
  • Speedy answers – being able to answer small questions quickly and discuss things fast really helps keep to deadlines and maximise time – tool:  WhatsApp (even though there are many ways to text or IM, WhatsApp is increasingly the tool of choice for all our client and global team members, using text, phone and video call, group chats, sharing photos, doing shared prep work, discussion forums and even sending each other voice messages at odd times of the day and night!)
  • Commitment – being where you say you’ll be, being on time, doing what you committed to without being reminded – tool Basecamp (Share your to-do lists, latest files and never ever send big files via email again.  Invite clients to the project too and choose what they see.  Give your team access to only the projects they are working on.  Use on your smartphone too.  When your laptop dies or is stolen, everything is on Basecamp, everything is available.  We use it for everything)
  • Communication – to have quality comms, we always meet Face to Face (by video or in person) whenever possible.  It’s a company culture that we always “see” each other rather than just phoning, especially as we don’t sit in the same office.  This means being camera ready at all times!  Tool Google Hangouts (quicker, easier and more accessible than Skype,).
  • Systems – each person in the team looks to simplify and reduce complexity in all choices – tool Basecamp as above, and Dropbox to share resources, documents, design or examples.

 

What you Get from Virtual teams that makes it worthwhile:

  • Time – the time (and expense) taken to travel to and from meetings is deleted.  Save 2 hours per 1-hour meeting.  Not just that, video conferences usually taken 30 mins – face to face take 1 hour. Tools – Google Hangouts/Skype/Skype for Business/Lync/Zoom/WhatsApp (whatever is the client preference)
  • Trust – it can only work if you trust each other 100%.  Virtual teams have maximum trust, otherwise, you wouldn’t be there.  Tool – Hours Tracker, for your own accountability and for your team.
  • Choice – the choice to spend your time where it’s needed, when you want to spend it, and where you want to be in the world.  Tools – all of the above
  • A Life – live where you want, work how much you want to work.  Tools – all of the above
  • Learning – working in agile ways means constantly improving, challenging and learning new things, it’s the nature of how we work.  New tools – we are always looking for new ones!

Paraffin is a creative agency who provide insight, innovation and capability projects to global clients.  We work as a virtual team from UK, USA, Singapore, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa.