If you listen to Richard Branson (and a handful of people do), at some point in the future, offices will be a thing of the past.
For entrepreneurs, remote or virtual teams are a growing trend that allows small business owners to attract talent and expand their business without having to invest in relocation or worry about geographic talent limitations, all while providing an attractive incentive that allows them to compete with much larger firms.
But a virtual team can’t catch up at the coffee maker or hash out the latest project around a real life white board. How do you remain connected and productive when you might be working from other sides of the country (or around the world)?
Check out our roundup of tools to help your virtual team make the most of collaborative opportunities (and working in pajamas).
One of the biggest challenges facing small business owners who are managing a remote team is managing team communication.
Companies like Buffer use Sqwiggle—a video chat system that remains on throughout the workday—using only your team’s webcam and monitor, no additional equipment required.
Billed as a virtual water cooler, Hipchat works to seriously eliminate a number of email messages that can threaten to bury a remote team. With file sharing, video chatting, screen sharing and easy @mentions, Hipchat syncs across devices, meaning your office travels with you.
2. Project management
When projects require the participation of several people working in different areas, project management software becomes imperative to successful completion.
Basecamp helps your remote team come together to focus on one thing – getting a project completed with streamlined project communication, collaboration, task management and reporting.
For four other project management tools, check out this post.
3. Productivity and motivation
When you don’t get to see your employees throughout the day, it is important to counter the inherent lack of visibility by staying aware of activities and accomplishments.
Each team member closes their day with a simple email of that day's accomplishments and begins their morning with a digest of the entire team’s previous day. Celebrate, request additional information or even view team accomplishments by week, month or year.
And check out these 13 other productivity tools.
4. Document collaboration and file sharing
When working with a virtual team, you can’t just walk to the next desk or down the hallway to share an important folder or collaborate on documents face to face—your team needs a solution to make this happen easily from far away.
Easily sync and share documents across multiple devices and team members. Dropbox helps teams quickly and easily transfer and share important files and reduces unwanted email.
Many virtual teams rely on Google docs, but Draft adds some important improvements that can make document collaboration much more powerful. Additions and changes are clearly noted, feedback is available from professional copywriters, and version changes are easily trackable. Documents can easily be imported from Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, or Box.
We’d love to hear from you. Do you have a virtual team? What are your biggest challenges or tips for success? Which tools could your team not live without?