One of the biggest groups clamouring for Out of Office work is the Millennials, or Generation Y’s. They see the obvious advantages of blending their work and home life, and have grown up with the technology that makes it possible. So the idea of working only from an office seems crazy to them.
In this videoconference, Millennials talk about the pros and cons of Out of Office work:
If you’re managing or working with Millennials, it’s well worth watching.
If you’re working in a distributed team, you might already know about some of the more common tools and apps, such as Dropbox, Evernote, iCloud, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, Skype, Buffer, and Hootsuite. These are all wonderful tools, but there are also a whole host of other tools available. We’re going to share some of them today, so you know about them and can consider whether it’s worth integrating them into your workplace.
Listen to the episode here:
- HiTask: A task management tool
- Trello: A workflow management tool
- Gmail Streak: A basic CRM integrated with Gmail
- HipChat: A chatroom application designed to help teams collaborate
- Slack: Competitor to HipChat, with many of the same features
- Sqwiggle: A simple chatroom aimed at distributed teams
- IDoneThis: A simple tool for teams to share what they’ve achieved each day
Connecting with the world:
I’ve been using HiTask for three weeks and it’s become central to my work flow. It has a simple user interface that allows you to organise all of your tasks in one place that’s accessible from your desktop, tablet and smartphone.
You can organise your tasks by project, date and assignee. I particularly like the ability to break down tasks into separate sub-tasks. HiTask also allows teams to coordinate their work on collaborative projects but I’ve not yet used this feature.
The video below provides an overview of the tool. If you like what you see then try it out.
One of the persistent myths about telecommuting is that teamwork suffers when team members work remotely. However, recent research finds that the key factors influencing successful teams have little to do with the proximity of team members. Ashley Speagle summarizes the science of successful teams:
- team members demonstrate a shared trust, purpose and understanding of team norms and mental processes
- team dynamics are built on a foundation of team building exercises, non-work communication, diversity and social sensitivity
- team members contribute equally and collectively score highly in reading emotions
The key message is that none of the features of successful teamwork is determined by whether workers are distributed or co-located.
One of the challenges with a distributed team is that different people might be in different time zones. As we become increasingly global and mobile, that is only going to be more common, so it’s useful to know how to manage this situation.
A recent Fast Company tackled this issue, giving advice like this – particularly for online meetings:
- Declare a “home” time zone, with normal business hours in that time zone – but of course with enough overlap for all your team members in other time zones.
- Minimise the use of videoconferencing, because it inconveniences people who have to attend outside normal hours.
- Minimise the need for follow-up after meetings, because that can cause delays for people in multiple time zones.
There’s no doubt telecommuting has increased, and that’s just one part of the changing workplace. Faxes, paper, fixed working hours, desktop computers, landline phones, and LANs are still around, but they are gradually being overtaken by electronic documents, the Cloud, flexible working hours, laptops, smartphone, and WiFi. In this episode we look at four key workplace trends, and how they affect Out of Office workers and their leaders.
Listen to the episode here:
- Read the Dynamic Business article Workplace productivity: 5 of the hottest trends in Aussie offices for 2015
Out of Office work, although on the rise, is still relatively new, and there are no agreed best practices on how to make it work most effectively. However, there are a number of case studies and examples we can learn from, and adapt their ideas to your own situation.
Fast Company recently published an article with five such examples:
- Buffer Uses HipChat And Jawbone – for informal online chat
- AgoraPulse Uses Weekdone – to track progress and see status reports
- Zapier Uses Campfire And Sqwiggle – for group chat
- Foursquare Uses Always-On Video Conferencing
- iDoneThis Uses iDoneThis – for productivity tracking
Many remote workers thrive on the solitude that comes with an Out Of Office work style but just as many struggle with the isolation and loneliness. Digital Nomad, Walter Chen shares three suggestions on how to avoid the loneliness of Out Of Office work:
- Consider “timezone syncing” so there is some overlap between your working hours and those of your colleagues. Use this overlap to communicate with your team.
- Be radically transparent with teammates to strengthen feelings of connection with your colleagues.
- Overcommunicate your appreciation of work well done to improve happiness and productivity in your team.
Building a remote team – with both in-office and Out of Office team members – isn’t easy, so it’s useful to learn from people who have done it before. In this video, Poornima Vijayashanker, the founder of Femgineer, interviews Ben Congleton, CEO of Olark, about his experience in taking his in-office team and extending it to be a remote team.
Often, people in distributed teams don’t have the same personal connections with remote team members as they have with people in the same office. This is natural, of course, but can be overcome. Creating better personal connections leads to more rewarding work, better collaboration, and higher productivity.
Listen to the episode here:
- Read the Harvard Business Review article How Virtual Teams Can Create Human Connections Despite Distance