Four solutions to improve the workflow of remote employees. Successfully support the culture through these technological innovations.
Those of you who may know me may know that I am a staunch advocate of the remote workforce.
Simply put, we have the technology in place to support global teams.
As a freelancer, I have been particularly involved in remote work across teams that are not just on the same time zone as me, but who are everywhere.
I’ve worked with people from India to Europe to Seattle, Washington (and I’m in New York). I’ve had employers and clients who I never met in person and I’ve worked for them for more than six years.
In short, if you perform, it doesn’t matter if you’re working in an office with your peers or if you’re alone in a room and 100 percent focused on your work.
This post isn’t going to be an argument as to why the remote culture is here to stay. That shift is already underway. This post is going to show you how to successfully support the culture through the technological innovations that allow for you to thrive within a remote work environment.
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While most people can and have still used email, we’ve seen the emergence of other platforms for chat, such as Slack, which some claim to be the email killer.
Put simply, Slack is a great way to keep entire companies in sync across multiple teams. Different “rooms” cater to different job roles. For example, you may have a room for your marketing staff, a room for your customer service, and a room for the general announcements. Many Slack iterations have a watercooler room for people to put their hair down and have fun with Giphy images and all that fun stuff.
Email isn’t really going to die. I’d argue that the company communications that are more significant still have a place in email, think “casual chatter” versus “critical communications” where the latter is served better within your company inbox, but Slack saves a lot of unnecessary back and forth across both email and may even be an adequate replacement for meetings (because, after all, who needs meetings)?
In the days of yore, when you were working at a company that had a single office, you also had a fileserver that was typically on a single workstation where you could access all company documents and images. What if that server went down? You’d have to wait for it to get back up to get the files you needed.
What if that server crashed? You better hope they’d be able to restore that from a tape drive backup somewhere. What if your colleague was working on the doc you needed to edit? Too bad, you need to wait for him to save it so that you can then make the changes you need.
Worse, you had to typically be physically in the same building as the server in the name of “security.” And if you didn’t have to be physically in the same building, there were challenges like data loss and latency because most office infrastructures didn’t have the same speeds a co-location facility (or data center) had that would serve web pages. Office Internet, quite bluntly, was slower than the hosting facilities that would serve websites to you at super fast gigabit speeds (like, well, any page you’re accessing on the Internet).
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Thanks to the cloud, sharing files doesn’t need to be isolated to a single location where the point of failure could significantly break your business. This makes for a stronger argument for remote cultures. Thanks to these types of innovations, we’re seeing improvements across the board, it was very obvious that these limitations made it nearly impossible and very impractical to cater to remote working a little over ten years ago. Yet today, it is common. With tools like Dropbox and Google Drive, you can collaborate with team members across continents and there would be no data loss or issues with simultaneously editing documents. It’s the ultimate way to work together.
One of the other major issues that concern remote workforces is the delegation of tasks. How does one give assignments to people?
I’d argue that having everything on file and on record electronically is far more powerful than being assigned the tasks verbally. Think about accountability and forgetfulness, for example. “I don’t remember you telling me I needed to do this” might be a phrase you’ve heard before.
With a project management tool, you can’t claim forgetfulness. Popular tools such as Trello, Asana, and Basecamp let managers assign tasks to their teams, and it’s all documented (in email, within the tool, you name it). Everything can be documented and assigned with due dates. Progress can be charted and completed files can be uploaded. Notes can be added.
And all of it gets emailed to you (or pushed to a Slack channel if you configure it that way) so you can keep everything seamless across your team. Accountability is easier than ever before because you know exactly what it is that you have to do and can reference the tasks on your task management platform.
The aforementioned three categories are probably something even non-remote companies all know about. Right now, the above tools are commonplace in organizations that are both on site and are remote. But did you know that you can also collaborate on software development tasks remotely?
Across software organizations, tools exist that facilitate software management in new ways never seen before. A tool called DebugMe helps all website owners give visual feedback to their software developers, making it easier than ever to communicate to software developers what may be wrong with a site design or whatnot.
A demo of the tool can be seen at DebugMe, which shows how easy it is to “draw” on a website to give feedback and to write notes. Pin a section of the site and set tasks for your developers.
Instead of having a document where you have to write notes for your software designer, you can now do it directly in the DebugMe tool and then use its project management features to have your developer make the changes without the back and forth of “what did you mean? What button needs to be changed?”
“Oh, the yellow one on the right.”
“But there are two yellow ones.”
“The one that says ‘Save for Later.’”
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You get the idea.
When you do all that within a single interface that mimics your software environment, you’ve got a competitive advantage no one else has. This saves time, money, and frustration. Seems easy, right? That’s the objective.
Of course, we could talk a lot more on tools for remote work. Every category can touch upon remote working somehow. With faster Internet and tools that allow people to work well together, you can certainly argue that remotely working teams are able to build a fantastic culture together.