I’ve been talking with many organisations who are embracing remote working, yet are overwhelmed with the choice of tools available to help them work as a cohesive team.
There are so many different apps, programmes and tools available that it can be impossible to decide which ones you need. Too many new pieces of software will only overwhelm your team – especially as they’ve had to adapt pretty quickly to working remotely too. So, how do you know which ones you need?
When we’re in the same building, we might walk round and see that person that we need something urgently from. When we’re all working remotely, that’s not an option. You need a platform that provides a way to ask questions quickly and easily or share information that is urgent. For most, this will be an instant messenger such as Skype, Teams or Slack. Consider how easy it is to use and in particular, how easy it is to use on mobile devices so that these urgent communications can happen no matter where people are. Best practice is to set expectations about how and when this should be used. These expectations will vary depending on your organisation, but consider whether you need to suggest response times or reassure people that they are not expected to respond outside of their normal working hours.
When you want to provide information to your colleagues that isn’t urgent, but is useful, think about the best way to do that. Blanket emails about new policies or company updates may not be needed. Instead, consider building an intranet site where you can post all of this information for those who want to find it. If an intranet is not possible, look at using Dropbox Paper or Google Docs to create collaborative, searchable files that make it easy for your team to look up the information they need.
It gets very messy when people are collaborating on files by emailing each other with their updates. People end up with multiple versions and usually several files named ‘final’. For better collaboration and organisation, use a cloud-based storage solution such as One Drive, Dropbox or Google Drive. Set it up so that everyone has access only to what they need. Also arrange the files in a logical manner so that people can find the files they need. Using these cloud-based storage solutions means that no one needs to email a file to anyone else – they should just send a link to its location.
This is often overlooked or deemed ‘unnecessary’, but when we work remotely, we miss those conversations that happen in passing. The chats that happen in the kitchen or by the photocopier. These chats are often social, where colleagues build rapport and trust. These chats could also be informative, where all those ‘unwritten rules’ are passed along. Choose a platform that won’t interrupt the normal flow of work. You might consider Workplace by Facebook, What's App, or a different channel in Slack. Most of the platforms mentioned in Urgent Communication offer separate chats, channels or groups.
What is the normal way to communicate in your organisation? For most, this is likely to be email. Think about how you should use email at work though. If what you’re trying to communicate doesn’t fall into any of the above categories, use email.
Remember the goal here is to improve communication, not to overwhelm everyone with five new pieces of software to learn. Choose the minimum number you need to communicate effectively – don’t just adopt apps because ‘everyone else is’. Find out more about the programmes you already use – the features you need may already be there.
Once you’ve decided on what you need, make sure you clearly communicate how each should be used, when it should be used and how to use it. Then, make sure you and all other senior managers use them.