Lauren Williamson | @LaurenEW90
The typical workplace is changing. It no longer involves the water cooler, cubicles and a break room, but laptops, cell phones and (sometimes) pajamas. The number of remote workers is growing for some companies in the face of hard economic times. Some of the benefits of a virtual work space vs. an office include sparing the frustration of sitting in rush hour traffic two times a day, saving money on gas spend in said rush hour and an easier time achieving a work/life balance.
Less stress generally means happier team members, but working virtually can have major frustrations. Communication and productivity can be challenging when you can’t simply poke your head into someone’s cubicle or take a short walk to their office. All employees, especially virtual ones, need to be treated with integrity and to able to tap into support when they need it. They also need clear communication tools.
Internal social media platforms can enhance communication, performance and innovation. They can also shape company culture (see how Sprinklr is "institutionalizing culture… and making it social" in this excellent case study). Here are a few tools that many companies are already using to facilitate internal community building and collaboration.
Google+ hangouts are more than just video chatting. They are interactive and let you see the faces of everyone joining for the hangout. All you need to get started is a gmail account, a webcam and microphone (a YouTube account hooked up to the same gmail account is good too if you want to do recorded seminars). Creating a hangout is simple and you can share screen shots. Using this tool, you can have some virtual face-to-face time with your team to stay connected and show tutorials, training and videos to the group without having to use multiple platforms. Also, a bonus of hangouts: everyone can g-chat while working to facilitate communication.
Producteev is an online task management system designed to be simple to use. You can stay abreast of project evolution and streamline tasks that need to be completed by viewing other member’s lists. You can organize tasks with varying priority levels and tag them to group like items together. You can assign those tasks to other individuals or teams, or just leave them on your personal list. Within each task, team members can leave comments, notes or updates on the task to ensure that everything is on track. Producteev also has an iPhone and Android app so you can update your list and keep track of projects from your smartphone. What's more, Producteev is free.
Yammer, part of Microsoft, is an enterprise social network that "brings together people, conversations, content, and business data in a single location." With 8 million users and growing, this popular tools lets you stay connected to coworkers and information, collaborate with team members and make an impact at work. It may be accessed through the web or on a mobile device, so you can connect and collaborate with coworkers anytime, anywhere.
Many other collaborative project management tools exist, and you may want to do a bit of research, check out reviews or test drive a few of them to figure out what works best for you and your team. Or, let us help you improve communication and collaboration among your virtual teams with our consulting and training services. Click here to learn more or ask about our customized training by calling us today at 469.248.0616.