Tips and Tools for Getting the Most from Virtual Teams

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.

My agency, Paraffin, is a globally distributed team of consultants, creatives and researchers. We work together on virtual projects as well as we would in physical office.

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 team work

Transparency

Full disclosure about where you actually are, what you are working on and how much capacity you have is critical.

Tool:  Hours Tracker

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 through 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.

Simplicity

Each person in the team wants to simplify and reduce complexity as much as possible.

Tool: Dropbox

To share resources, documents, design or examples.

What you get if you run virtual teams the right way

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 to give your team visibility.

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 and spend the time you save doing something else you love!

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.

Tools: we are always on the lookout for new ones!

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