Working remotely is getting better and smoother every day with the improvement in collaboration tools that are available. We continually try to push the boundaries of working remotely at my company QuickSchools. We have over 25 employees working remotely all over the US, with only 3 that work in our “central office” in Sunnyvale, CA.
Here are two simple tips that we’ve discovered that make working remotely much smoother.
Use Google Hangout video chat
Many of us use gmail and have gmail always open in our browser. The ability to reach someone in an instant by clicking on the video call button is so powerful. Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I don’t want to be on video chat when I’m in my pyjamas!” Well, sure, that won’t be the best thing, but then I think keeping a decent appearance shouldn’t be necessary only when going into the office. Working remotely shouldn’t be an excuse to be a slob, methinks.
It’s just that human beings give off so many non-language cues that it’s imperative you use video to communicate at least some of the time. It’s too easy to get frustrated waiting for a chat response for example. But with video, you can see when someone is just paused to think, or when someone didn’t get what you said.
The beauty of Google Hangout is that screen sharing is built-in. That’s powerful.
It’s funny, we like Google Hangout so much that even when we have two or more people in the same meeting room in a multi-location meeting, those two or more people each have their own Google Hangout session running. All but one will mute their microphones and speakers to prevent audio crosstalk, but wow it works well.
Work off a “Discussion” Google Doc
We create a Google Doc that serves as a discussion doc every time we meet. New updates are put on the top, not at the bottom so that new updates are always visible when someone opens the doc. Also, don’t keep creating a new Google Doc every so often. Keep using the same Google Doc, even if it gets long. Don’t worry, Google can handle it. This makes it easy to scroll down to see older entries, and also allows you to use Ctrl-F to find old information.
Date every meeting. In fact, you can even put entries in advance of meeting. Suppose you are meeting in two days, and there’s something you want to bring up. Make an entry for that future date (on the top of course):
|Wednesday, June 12, 2013
[Aris] Do we want to include the latest blog entries on our home page?
What you’ll find is that people will see that entry before the meeting date, without you having to explicitly email them, because they too are going in to put entries in advance. This means they’ll have a chance to start thinking about those topics. Even more awesome, they’ll start putting in their thoughts in the doc even before the meeting date! Issues get resolved without spending even a minute meeting on it.
Those are the two most important discoveries we’ve made. Please let me know how well these techniques work for you if you try them.