The 2 Cs of working with remote-based teams
Technology is driving Communication and Collaboration between virtual teams.
I’ve had the good fortune of running a firm that delivers content and inbound marketing services 100% remotely. I’ve done so for clients based in the US, Australia, Malaysia, France, the UK; different time zones. It’s been almost a decade now.
Coming from working in real world offices to going straight to a virtual one at a time when remote-working was almost unheard of, I can claim to have seen it all. Once it used to be called ‘telecommuting’ and was almost a bad word. Today, its labelled ‘remote-working’, and is no longer frowned upon. Almost.
There’s only one thing that’s carried me though this journey — technology.
Riding on the Internet and the World Wide Web, the pioneers in this new work environment initially used email and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or IP Telephony to go about their business. One thing is for sure — without the Internet remote working would never have been possible. Even today: take it away, and we will go back to the old way.
Yet, I’ve come across clients who hesitate to hire remote employees even though the talent pool available on the other side of the country may be one to kill for. I can understand certain type of jobs where the executive is required to be in the same room as his team members. Like a car manufacturing shop floor. Yet, tasks such as content, digital marketing or the making of apps can easily be farmed out to remote teams.
I get many “reasons” when I ask managements about their hesitancy. But I’ve concluded that the foremost reason is of trust. Some managements/contractors do harbor the feeling that hiring remote staff/vendors would mean them largely “goofing off”', a waste of time and resources.
To this group, I would like to give a piece of advice — look around you. The whole world seems to be going remote. There are surveys that show that over 95% of the world’s employable force would like to work remotely if possible. Every 4th person you know today is working from a virtual environment. If that’s the way the cookie crumbles, you better get in a bite, right?
Employee time wastage happens in regimented offices, too. So unless you have a compelling business reason to have your employee sitting next to your elbow, start thinking remote. Its competitive, cost-effective, and lands you some very good talent from outside your usual skill pool.
I shall not go further into the benefits of remote-employment because this newsletter is specifically about how technology is helping remote-based content and digital marketing fuse together.
So, how does an enterprise keep things tight with its remote-based teams without making the employees or vendors feel they are being spied on? The answer is 2Cs — Communication and Collaboration. For both, there are hundreds, if not thousands of tools, platforms and services, free and priced, that can be used.
Team communication platforms and services range from your humble email to digital chat apps to platforms as evolved as the team collaboration work hub, Slack. Then there are “file-storage/sharing” software like DropBox that allow not only you to access them from any device but also share it securely with other remote teams.
For collaboration, you have tools such as Google Drive and Google Docs, which I must say, have developed into very sophisticated tools over time. Microsoft has its own suite of such productivity tools called Office 365, which are connected to the Cloud.
Over the years, there’s developed an entire ecosystem of tools (for want of a better word) that help managements connect with their remote-based teams on any front — digital marketing, content management, social media — it’s all coming together. Remote-screen sharing is possible (where the screens of two or even more employees/vendors can be seen on your one, single screen), video-conferencing platforms start from Skype to GoToMeeting, and even offer value add-ons to hold webinars; there are browser and Cloud based video-makers, and social media schedulers, even.
For those who code or design apps/websites there are real-time collaborative tools like Microsoft’s Visual Studio Live Share for that. UX and UI designers have the luxury to choose from the many wireframing or prototyping software out there. These even allow team members to log in for a “look” in real time to see your progress or add their inputs to your design.
There are only two hurdles left : a robust Wi-Fi connection, and the issue of time zones. Both are partially surmountable — as an employee or freelancer you can choose the time zone you are most comfortable with, depending on your location, and perhaps switch to a broadband connection if these are available in your region.
Oh, yes, before I end this piece, the best way out for managements/contractors to ensure their remote-teams are working efficiently is to give them time-based tasks or assignments with deadlines. From experience, I can vouch for this being one of the best methods.
For the more skeptical ones though, there are tools like “idle timers” and screenshot software that also let you know where your employee/freelancer has been every minute of their employable time. I would not do this but then, it’s a free world.