After 5 years of remote working, take a read over what works, what doesn’t and why and how our organisation thrives from working in this way.
This article has been a long time in the making. Our way of working is something we pride ourselves on; there’s a real knack to getting right, and it’s something we’ve worked hard to perfect over the past 5 years. In addition to developing a suite of digital tools for our members to stay connected and learn from each other, as a team we also work remotely, coming together in person only once every month. We want to dedicate this article to sharing some of our top tips on making remote working, really WORK.
If you want to add anything to this or ask any more questions about how we manage it, please do get in touch with us. We love talking all things remote working!
- Keep it Simple – there are so many tools out there to use. We focus our main productivity tools onto three platforms – Podio, Box and Outlook (see below for more info about these). We do use a number of other cloud-based tools and integrations, but this trio forms our “engine room” . To try to use more than this can lead to a fragmented working model and lead to confusion with the team. Where is that folder,? Where is that chat thread? Where do I put what? To find an off the shelf solution is tricky, and there will always be work-arounds, but keeping it simple is a start.
- Embed a cloud-culture in the team. Agree your way of working and communicate it clearly with the team. Remote working needs a remote working culture to get things going, and you need someone to lead this culture in order to really get everyone on board. I’t’s helpful to set some ground rules, and pledging as a team to use the systems you’ve set up. For example, when we first shifted our systems on to the cloud, we challenged ourselves not to send any internal emails for a month – it worked, and for the past 5 years later, even through staff changes, our inboxes are purely for external emails. If something isn’t working for you though, speak up and get it fixed.
- Get dressed every day. All the team are fine tuned to get up and treat their home office as they would any other office. We’re not a sofa / PJ team and really pride ourselves in retaining a professional manner at all times.
- Take breaks. We’re a highly focussed team, as we’re sure you are, and productivity is often thrust forward ahead of taking a break and allowing ourselves away from the desk time. We encourage each other to take time for cups of tea. Or to get outside for some fresh air and a stretch of the legs. Sometimes our best ideas have come from these “away from the desk” moments. Value them.
- Schedule online face to face time. Most weeks we’ll arrange an online catch up using whereby.com for general cups of tea chats – this is so important to enable human rapport with your colleagues or partners on a regular basis. These are in addition to any virtual meetings we might have arranged.
- Schedule in person face to face time. It can be easy to spend weeks on your own working, without any human contact. So schedule this in monthly as a team, if you can. Often we find this face to face time sparks a real energy to help re-ignite or re-focus our work when we’re back to remote working.
- Sustainability / Succession Planning. We’re lucky that our staff turnover is fairly low, but we often work with associates and freelancers. Having a rigid system and tool in place allows us the space to easily onboard team members, encouraging total transparency and building a productive and inclusive work ethos, while not together. As a team member, its really useful to see the timeline of any project – what’s already been discussed, decided and actioned, limiting the core team from getting repeat queries and so on. We operate an “if I wasn’t here, could my colleague figure it out?” policy – and more often than not the answer is yes!
In addition to these tips, we wanted to recommend a couple of the cloud-based products that we use daily, and which provide the backbone to our virtual office:
Podio – cloud-based project management and collaboration software
We use Podio for everything! It’s our CRM* software, our event and project management system, our internal communication platform, and our archive. The team log in first thing each working day, and we can see exactly what everyone is working on and keep track of things. It’s a customisable platform, with some really clever features and integrations that help us to work efficiently.
Box – cloud-based file storage system
We’re pretty much a paper-free organisation these days, and use Box to digitally store our files and documents. It syncs well with Podio, and another feature we love is the option to embed PDF previews in web pages. If you’ve explored the KNOW HOW, you might have come across a few examples of this already.
*CRM – customer relationship management
The Touring Network is an organisation that supports and connects a diverse mix of people and organisations scattered across a region which covers half the land mass of Scotland, stretching from Shetland to Campbeltown.