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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 October 16, 2019

      11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

      11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

      Automations are key to improving efficiency. Set the system up right from the beginning and you’ll reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations.

      Whatever your business is, with automations, meeting scheduler apps do more than just streamline appointment setting. They prime your workflow for maximum results.

      Meeting scheduler apps are awesome if you use them right. Use them wrong and you can look like an arrogant elitist.

      In this article, I will share with you 11 great meeting scheduler apps you can start using today to boost your productivity.

      1. ScheduleOnce

        ScheduleOnce is an industry leader and robust solution. Whether you work alone or have a large team, ScheduleOnce can support you.

        ScheduleOnce allows you to create multiple users and multiple calendars. I use one calendar for booking podcast guests with automations set up to prep my guests for our interview. I use another calendar for strategy sessions and coaching calls.

        ScheduleOnce also has embeddable widgets so you can keep the scheduler inside your own website.

        Starting at $7 a month and a 14 day free trial, ScheduleOnce can fit a variety of needs in business.

        Available on Web

        2. Calendly

          Calendly stands out for its clean, easy to use interface. If you like clean design, Calendly might be your choice. It too has robust automations and integrations for individuals and teams alike.

          You can try Calendly free for 14 days. Their basic plan is free while their most robust plan is only $12 a month.

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          Available on Web | Google Chrome Extension

          3. Assistant.to

            For those who use gmail, Assistant.to is a super simple solution.

            From inside an email, you click on the Assistant.to icon and pick times your free. Assistant.to embeds the times directly into the email so the recipient can quickly pick a time that works for them.

            While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of apps like Calendly or ScheduleOnce, Assistant.to is completely free.

            Available on Web

            4. Acuityscheduling

              Acuity is a robust meeting scheduler very similar to ScheduleOnce. It integrates with CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, Analytics tools and accounting software.

              It comes with a 14 day free trial. They have a free solo account but if you want the benefit of the integrations, you’ll start as low as $15 a month and can cost up to $50 a month.

              Available on Web | iOS | Android

              5. Pick

                Built for simplicity, Pick is direct and easy to use. You can create your own url extension like pick.co/yournamehere and it integrates with Google calendar and Office 365.

                At $3 a month, this is a great tool for quick scheduling.

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                Available on Web

                6. X.ai

                  For those who are early adopters of AI, this may be the solution for you. X.ai created two AI assistants they call Amy and Andrew Ingram. After setting up your account you simply CC them on your emails with the person you’re wanting to schedule and the AI assistants will email your guests from there until your appointment is set.

                  This type of scheduler feels more personal because of the dialogue. There are stories on their site of people thinking Amy and Andrew are real people. X.ai integrates with Google, Office 365 and Outlook.

                  Starting at $29 a month for an Individual account and $39 a month per user for a Team account, Amy and Andrew are ready to schedule meetings for you. Want to try it out first? They do have a free trial.

                  Available on Web

                  7. YouCanBook.me

                    is another competitive solution for scheduling meetings online. You can manage the calendars of your entire team, configure booking forms, and integrate with your calendar.

                    They have a free account branded with their company name or you can have some control over your branding and appearance at $10 a month for all their features. Either way, this company is worth a look.

                    Available on Web

                    8. Doodle

                      Doodle is unique in the space of meeting schedulers because it helps groups of people find a time to meet that works for everyone.

                      It integrates with your calendar and allows you to send a poll to all invited. Once people vote on the poll you can see which time works best for everyone.

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                      You can also run polls for food preferences if you’re scheduling a lunch meeting or a section of town if people are coming from all over.

                      While there is a free account, you’ll unlock it’s potential starting at $39 per year.

                      Available on Web | iOS | Android

                      9. WhenAvailable

                        WhenAvailable is another scheduler that works for groups of people. You can use it to schedule a pickup game of basketball, decide on your next book club or book your family reunion.

                        Their free account allows up to 20 guests, unlimited events and one contact group. For $15 a year you unlock all the goodies including reminders and chat messages.

                        Available on Web

                        10. Rally

                          Like Doodle and WhenAvailable, Rallly is helpful for scheduling meetings and events with multiple people involved. You create a poll and everyone votes. It’s quick and easy.

                          Unlike Doodle, it doesn’t have as many features, but it’s entirely free.

                          Available on Web

                          11. NeedtoMeet

                            Finishing strong, NeedtoMeet is our last app that allows you to schedule meetings or events for multiple people. It has mobile apps, custom urls, easy polling, notifications and commenting.

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                            NeedtoMeet also allows 1:1 Meetings for things like performance reviews for your whole team. You send out the your calendar slots to your team and they can only pick 1 slot, minimizing the amount of emails and scheduling you have to coordinate.

                            While they have a free account, you can unlock all features for only $19 a year.

                            Available on Web

                            Bonus: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Using Meeting Schedulers

                            In the excitement of streamlining your scheduling process, it can be easy to forget the feelings of those you’re inviting to meet. I know. I’ve done this.

                            To say “Hey, schedule time on my calendar” feels colder than “Hey, here’s my calendar. To avoid all the back and forth, pick a time that works best for you.”

                            Always make sure to frame your invite with your scheduler app with the benefit to them and why we’re doing it this way rather than the old fashioned, personal way.

                            A little finesse goes a long way. Without it, you risk seeming transactional and cold.

                            Some meeting scheduler widgets you can embed in your site can take a couple seconds to load. If you go this route, make sure there’s text just above the widget that lets your guest know the calendar will appear below and to wait for it to load.

                            If you use an online meeting tool like Zoom, it’s also important to explicitly let them know the meeting will take place on Zoom and include the Zoom link in the email reminder. Many make the mistake of not clarifying where the meeting will actually take place which can create last minute chaos at the time of the meeting.

                            Should you require special settings, like ethernet, external mics or lighting, let your guests know that on your thank you page and reminder emails so they are prepared for the meeting and you end up with the best meeting possible.

                            With clear communication in your automation, your meeting scheduler tools can almost perform like a virtual assistant for a fraction of the cost, or free, depending on the app you choose.

                            The Bottom Line

                            Meeting scheduler apps are diverse in features and unique in design. Before committing to one and realizing it’s not a fit, I recommend exploring which 3 might best fit you and then doing a trial with each of them at the same time so that you can see how they feel as you use them side by side.

                            Scheduling meetings the old fashioned way can be tedious. Conversely, finding a scheduling app that works seamlessly in the background is heavenly.

                            Like cell phones, meeting scheduler apps are moving from a nice-to-have luxury to must-have necessity in the lives of productive people. As you explore your options, stay true to your brand and the tools that have worked well for you to this point and simply find a meeting scheduler app that plays well with what you have created.

                            Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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