Working remotely is something that PENSO has been doing since our inception seven years ago. We have teams and people in Melbourne, Dubai, San Francisco, New Zealand, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Tokyo, and partners and clients in more than 30 countries. Over that time, we’ve figured out a number of excellent ways to ensure that collaboration and communication works just as well when your colleagues are located in another city, state, country or continent. Even if you are operating within a terrible enterprise environment, take some of these tips and tools, and hack together a mini “digital transformation”.
“Be in the next room”
We approach every partner, client, and team member with the thought of “being in the next room”. This means you should think and act as esteemed management consultant Kenichi Ohmae calls, “the equidistant manager”. In practice this means you should never dwell on conversations around “what’s the weather like there“, or “how are things over there” or “what time is it there?”. The word “there” implies distance and remoteness. You are all together, you are “in the next room”. There’s no head office. There’s no “branch office”. There’s never “where are you calling from?”. Actively remove distance, time and space from your thinking and conversation. If you don’t you’ll feel – and make others feel – isolated.
“All our files are at work, I can’t access them at home”
There’s no shortage of cloud storage providers offering solutions for businesses. The likes of Dropbox, Box and Egnyte offer secure file storage, version control and constant backups. This means that your data is safe and secure, no matter where you’re working from. Selective syncing means you only need to sync the files you need to your local device to save on storage space.
What’s more, if you still want to retain an on-premise file server, it’s possible to set up an automatic sync with it from your cloud storage for extra peace of mind.
“I need to set up some quick tasks for staff to complete”
Trello has you sorted – set up cards and lists for different processes, assign some staff and mark as complete when done. It’s easy to see in real-time what’s being done and what’s left to do. It also integrates with a number of other apps so you can easily link to projects and files in other programs.
“I need to keep an eye on what projects are happening in the business”
Complete project management apps such as Asana, JIRA, Monday.com and Wrike all offer a huge range of ways to keep on top of your projects. There can be a bit to take in initially, but once you’re all set up it’s easy to assign tasks to your staff, manage projects and check timelines. They also integrate with a number of other tools such as CRMs, email marketing software and commerce platforms.
“I need to be able to chat to my colleagues”
Slack makes it easy to chat to team members throughout the day and also has a huge number of integrations with other apps to set up automating tasks or connecting projects. There are no shortage of competitors in this space however, with options like Twist, Fleep or Google Hangouts offering similar services.
For those within the Microsoft environment, Teams offers chat, video conferences, file collaboration and calling all within one package. This is great for users who are already deep in the MS ecosystem. At the very least – use WhatsApp to set up work or team chats; it has a Desktop app so you don’t have to be referring to your phone all day. Or you could buy a remote robot, as we have at PENSO!
“I need to chat to my team”
Apart from WhatsApp (as suggested above), set up a video meeting with Zoom or Whereby at the start of each day where each member of the team dials in with a quick update on what they’re doing for the day. You’ll get a good overview of where everyones placed with their work and you can get through a lot more over a call than through written communication. As well as this, it’s good to be able to see the people you’re working with, purely for the social aspects. Stick a recurring calendar event in Google Calendar and you’ll be reminded each day.
“I don’t know what everyone in my business is doing each day”
If you need a visual view of what each of your staff members is doing, you can try scheduling apps like Float. This gives you a top-level view of how their day looks and you can reassign and move tasks as needed.
“Myself and my co-workers need to work on the same document together”
If your business uses Google’s G Suite, Sheets and Docs both provide real-time collaboration on spreadsheets and word documents, so it’s easy to see exactly what edits your co-workers are making. You can review all the changes made to the files and it’s all backed up to your Google account so you can easily share it around to anyone who needs access.
“How do I know my employees aren’t slacking off at home?”
You can use time-tracking apps like Harvest or Toggl to make sure you’re spending the right amount of time on each project. These programs also offer more than just time tracking, with report generation, team management features and easy integrations to sync tracked time between your different apps.
“There’s so much to manage, how can I hand some of this off?”
Tools like Zapier and IFTTT offer an easy, simple automation service to get things moving between your different apps. For example, you can set up a process to automatically save all email attachments to your cloud storage, or collect new signups from a website form in a Google Sheet. There’s a huge number of pre-made processes you can utilise or you can roll your own as you see fit.