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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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drive

    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 December 30, 2018

      18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2019 Updated)

      18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2019 Updated)

      No one can dispute the countless benefits technology has brought us. It’s undoubtedly allowed us to connect, perform, improve and leverage our resources beyond what was once imaginable.

      If you’re not taking advantage of one of the hundreds of time management apps and tools out there, you’re definitely missing a trick.

      But with so many apps to choose from, how do you know which ones to use? Well, this will depend on your needs, but we’ve put together a list of 18 of the very best time management apps that can help you with the most common time management challenges.

      Let’s dive straight into the list…

      1. Rescue Time — Use your time wisely

        If you have doubts that you’re using your time sensibly, this app will send you weekly reports to indicate what things are stealing your time. You may be shocked to discover how much time you’re actually wasting.

        Download Rescue Time

        2. Remember The Milk — Keep on top of all your tasks

          If you’re struggling to manage everything you have to do, and you work with many different devices, then this is the app for you. It’s a great free tool which is compatible with your mobile, computer, Gmail, Outlook, etc. It helps you to manage your tasks easily, and reminds you of them – wherever you are.

          Download Remember the Milk

          3. Focus Booster – Boost motivation to complete tasks

            This app is based on the principles of the Pomodoro Technique, and is aimed at individuals who procrastinate and feel overwhelmed by tasks. It’s designed to enhance your focus and remove any anxiety you might have with time pressures.

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            Download Focus Booster

            4. Toggl – Keep track of time spent on projects and tasks

              This is a great alternative to time-sheets, if you need to track how much time you spend on different projects. Effective time management starts with being clear on exactly how much time you actually spend on your projects and tasks, and then through analysis, working out how you can manage them more effectively.

              Download Toggl

              5. Dropbox — Store and send large files easily

                There are many apps that allow you to transfer content from your computer to other devices – but Dropbox is free and easier to use than the others. With the Dropbox app, you can even access and share important files on the go.

                Download Dropbox

                6. Evernote — Keep all your notes in one place

                  Evernote is a free productivity tool that allows you to capture all your ideas, thoughts and images in many different ways (e.g., with voice, notes or images).  You can even record your meetings, interviews, speeches and ideas, create lists, add voice or text attachments, and share your files with friends. You can also sync Remember The Milk with Evernote to really optimize your time.

                  Download Evernote

                  7. Mind42 — Focus on tasks at hand with mind mapping

                    Mind mapping is a great productivity technique, and Mind42 is the best free mind mapping app currently available. It helps you to become more organized by focusing your thoughts – thereby gaining clarity on what needs to be done.

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                    Download Mind42

                    8. SyncBackFree — Back up and sync your files effortlessly

                      This free software allows you to back up, restore and synchronize your files easily. It not only saves you time now – but also in the future. If you have never backed up your files before, you should definitely take a look at this pivotal tool.

                      Download SnycBackFree

                      9. MyLifeOrganized (MLO) — Manage your to-do lists effectively

                        Check this out if you find it difficult to manage all your tasks, to work with your to-do lists, and to organize your goals. This task management system helps you to target what you should be focusing on to reach your objectives. It automatically generates to-do lists, with priority actions for your immediate attention so that you can track your progress methodically.

                        Download MyLifeOrganized (MLO)

                        10. 1Password — Have all your passwords remembered

                          This app allows you to keep all your passwords in one encrypted database, protected by one password. This saves you time when you forget your passwords and need to retrieve them. It also allows you to use various passwords for different accounts so you don’t compromise on security.

                          Download 1Password

                          11. Pocket — Keep your eye on the ball

                            When you’re surfing the web, it’s easy to get distracted by enticing and fascinating websites. Use this tool to save your ‘finds’ to access and read later on at a convenient time which will not impact on your immediate work.

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                            Download Pocket

                            12. [email protected] — Boost your attention span

                              This amazing app combines neuroscience and music to boost your productivity. According to the developers, it’s possible to increase your attention span by up to 400%! Ideal for those who find it difficult to focus while studying, working or reading.

                              Download [email protected]

                              13. Launchy — Interact with your computer in a smart way

                                This small and simple tool allows you to launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes. This makes life so much easier as you don’t need to go through the start menu to access what you want.

                                Download Launchy

                                14. Forest — Boost your focus by growing a forest

                                  This unique and fun app helps you stay focused and on-track. The concept is simple: whenever you want to focus, plant a virtual tree. If you stay focused, the tree will grow. If you lose focus, the tree will die. As the app’s name implies, you can grow multiple trees to create a virtual forest!

                                  Download Forest

                                  15. Trello — Track your projects in a highly visual way

                                    This is a hugely popular app that you may already be familiar with. It works by allowing you to create cards for tasks that you need to complete. Each card moves across the Trello board (which is typically broken into columns such as To Do, In Progress, and Completed) as your start, work on and complete the associated task.

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                                    Download Trello

                                    16. Wunderlist — Digitalize your to-do lists

                                      Purchased by Microsoft in 2015, Wunderlist is an easy to use, feature-packed to-do list app. From planning a holiday, to sharing a shopping list with a partner, or managing multiple work projects, Wunderlist will keep you on top of all your tasks.

                                      Download Wunderlist

                                      17. TimeTree — Have a shared calendar with your family

                                        This app allows families or teams to share multiple calendars and appointments. So, whether you’re planning a party, or run a local sports team, Time Tree can keep everyone up-to-date with all current and upcoming activities and events.

                                        Download Time Tree

                                        18. Todoist — Capture and order all your tasks and activities easily

                                          Todoist is close to being the ultimate digital to-do list. It’s available via browsers and apps, and lets you schedule all your tasks and activities. Each item can be flagged for priority as well as given a due date. There is also a neat option to add notes to any of your tasks.

                                          Download Todoist

                                          The above list covers what we consider to be the very best time management apps and tools. And the good news is – that many of them are completely free of charge! So, what are you waiting for? Select the ones that will be the most valuable to you – and begin boosting your productivity now!

                                          Oh, and one more thing… Take a look at a couple of our other articles that will help further streamline your time management:

                                          40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone and 20 Quick Tips For Better Time Management

                                          More Recommended Productivity Experts on Lifehack

                                          • Leon Ho — The Founder and CEO of Lifehack, which he share productivity hacks to make life easier
                                          • Carl Pullein — A renowned productivity and time management coach
                                          • Mark Pettit — A Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs who want to achieve more by working less

                                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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