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How to Better Collaborate with Coworkers Remotely

How to Better Collaborate with Coworkers Remotely

With more and more companies hiring freelancers or outsourcing entirely, much has been written about maintaining productivity and efficiency in a physically disparate workforce. But it’s not just those labeled “remote workers” who work remotely, nor are they alone in their need for remote tools. In fact, when they’re not traveling between clients, today’s local office workers often choose to spend part of their time in home offices, and they encounter many of the same benefits and difficulties as their officially remote counterparts. If you’re one of those workers, there are number of lessons that can be applied from the remote working world to help you coordinate between the office and home.

Here at Distilled, it’s common to arrive to work in the Seattle office with but a few minutes’ window to communicate effectively with those in our London office. When I started a little over a year ago, this was something that took some getting used to, and while it might have initially been an inconvenience, there are so many great tools and techniques available to those with a bit of creativity. Here are some that we have found particularly helpful:

Embrace the Cloud

For a seamless working environment across locations and time zones, embracing the cloud is an absolute must, as cloud apps power easy sharing and collaboration. We benefit immensely from sharing apps like Dropbox or Google Drive, which allow us to store essential documents, data and projects on remote servers rather than on local hard drives or company servers. Not only does this promote better security and allow for automatic backups, but it also means that when I’m out of the office I need only to log into the app to reach my work, rather than having to coordinate among pen drives or wait for a colleague to email a file. Whatever the device you prefer working on and wherever you prefer to work, any necessary work is just click away.

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    What’s more, the process is extremely streamlined, as my colleagues and I all operate within one, centralized dashboard, and sharing is as easy as sending a link or granting access. With apps like Google Docs, there’s no need to re-enter data in multiple places or funnel multiple edits among colleagues into one document; rather, simply share a document, PowerPoint, project or more, and colleagues both around the office and far away can edit the file at the same time as other team members. In fact, with cloud apps, working in a cubicle almost begins to sound outdated.
    You may also want to consider cloud based time tracking tools like Toggl and project management tools like Basecamp, as they’ll help both you and your team members see just who is doing what without any need for a physical calendar. For more great tips on working in the cloud, we recommend this guide to cloud computing, which provides an excellent grounding for those initial ventures into the more streamlined method of cloud working.

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    toggl

      Get Face-to-Face Time With Chat Tools

      Everyone’s experienced them before: group emails where the original point gets buried in a slew of non-sequiturs; a delicate point that doesn’t come across quite so delicately in a Microsoft Word review comment; little tasks that become big tasks as you wait for someone to reply. While many of these issues do exist in some form when everyone is working in the same office together, they become all the more pronounced in the remote setting.
      To address this problem, create as many faux-in-person experiences as possible with video chat technology. Sure, you could try that old standard—the conference call—but it’s difficult for someone who’s just listening in to get a handle on social dynamics, and often you’ll find your opinions buried in the exchange or that you’re forgotten about them entirely. Instead, stream into meetings with free tools like Skype or Google Hangouts, the latter of which will toggle between speakers so you’ll have center stage when you’re speaking. This technology is perfect for small-group meetings, and it also makes sense for weekly company-wide, cross-team meetings, which you might want to suggest to your company as a means for keeping not just you but also employees across the globe on the same page. It has been really well-received by our teams across timezones, allowing anyone with an internet connection to dial in, no matter the time nor location.
      Even very simple chat tools like GChat can be effective for quick, casual communication as you coordinate with team members on a project. For more tips on communicating and coordinating between workers, we suggest taking a browse through this collaboration guide.

      Be Social and Productive With Social Media

      Whether you choose to stay home once a month or several times a week, it’s important to prevent feelings of isolation. Try starting a discussion board on the private company Facebook page or in a LinkedIn group to discuss company news or even water cooler subjects, like plans for the weekend. Google+ is also a great option for this, as users can easily curate their work-based audience by adding or dropping contacts from circles while they share tips and expertise, alert one another of industry-relevant news, share big client wins, or simply spread inside jokes. It’s not off-task if it promotes a sense of well-being and creates a clear company culture.

      We share a Google+ circle among the team that has quickly become a great internal community where we can post the status of projects, questions we have, and sometimes just funny things we have found around the internet.

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      Make Time for In-Person Meetings

      Of course, sometimes there’s nothing quite like in-person interactions for building camaraderie and getting things done. The more time you spend working at home, the more important it is to make it to on-site meetings to make your presence known. If you’re really feeling isolated, suggest a company-wide retreat, or ask if you might have an in-office point of contact or mentor who can act as your advocate and keep you abreast of any recent developments that may not have made it into the company newsletters.

      Last winter, our entire team flew to London to finally meet in person. While there is no doubt overall productivity that week decreased, this was a wonderful opportunity to grow our interoffice relationships, which ultimately made working on projects remotely far more successful, as we were not connecting the projects to an actual person as opposed to just an email address.

      Take-Away

      Whether you work with a team of remote colleagues or you simply want to be unhindered in your last minute decision to work from home on a Monday morning, there’s no reason the traditional office setting should confine how you work. With the right tools and support from your company, you should be able to embrace all that remote working has to offer while also being more productive than in the traditional setting. So, do your research, choose your tools, and work how you please from office or home.

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      Questions? Comments? I’ll be happy to respond in the comments below, or on Twitter @stentontoledo.

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      Last Updated on February 15, 2019

      7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

      7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

      Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

      Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

      Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

      So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

      Joe’s Goals

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        Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

        Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

        Daytum

          Daytum

          is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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          Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

          Excel or Numbers

            If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

            What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

            Evernote

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              I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

              Evernote is free with a premium version available.

              Access or Bento

                If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

                Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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                You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

                Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

                All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

                Conclusion

                I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

                What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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