Using tech to collaborate across timezones

Being confined to a desk for eight hours-a-day, five days-a-week isn’t the working structure that comes to mind when I think about some of the world’s most successful and innovative companies. In fact, I’m not sure how many companies will be working that way in the next 10 years. 

I’m fortunate enough that I’ve never had to work under the guidance of this old-fashioned protocol, and so I’d never ask my employees to do the same. It’s a rigid structure and isn’t always conducive to unlocking creativity, innovative thinking or even collaboration from a workforce. Of course there are exceptions – some businesses, in particular within industries such as care and education, need to work within certain parameters – but for the rest of us, is it really a necessity? Or are we following an outdated model passed down from generation to generation?

Empowering employees to collaborate - no matter where they are

Being a software company, we don’t believe confining the team inside the set parameters of a certain building will bring us the best results, because technology allows us to communicate, collaborate and work together anywhere in the world. Though our HQ is in the UK, we quite often work from Canada, USA, Czech Republic and anywhere else we might be for an event or meeting etc. Therefore, the technology we use to keep in touch and maintain a strong company culture is extremely important.

We use Slack, JIRA and Google Hangouts to communicate internally, and Skype to communicate with those outside the company. Slack is something we couldn’t live without. For example, we had a team member in Japan recently, yet we were still able to communicate as a team instantaneously via Slack. What we like about this tool is it gives us the ability to interact all in one place which aids our ethos of being completely transparent as a team, and company.

Another great thing about Slack is integration with services we already use. From Intercom, Mention, Help Scout and Google Drive, Slack is a one-stop shop for a lot of the services we use and need. Whether you’re on your laptop or mobile phone, Slack is very accessible. 

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Google Hangouts is something we use for our bi-weekly company update and stand-ups. It enables us to have some face time with each other, which is great in keeping that strong connection we like to have as a team. The screen sharing feature in Hangouts is extremely useful in that it helps us showcase what we’ve been working on. For example, we have a designer based in Prague who has just shown us some really exciting designs he’s been working on and it's made so simple using Hangouts. Again, this is really accessible as it works across laptops, Android and iOS.

Skype is something we use for more external communications and JIRA is great for planning and tracking our progress. An approach like this is incredibly compelling; in fact research from employee engagement firm, TINYpulse, confirms that those who work remotely are a lot more productive, happier and feel more valued. The bricks and mortar shackles aren’t productive; freedom, happiness and using technology collaboratively are.

Working towards a common goal

It’s important to note, though, that our particular way of working isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. There are processes that need to be put in place to make sure everyone's doing the job that's being asked of them and to maintain a strong company culture but, once these have been agreed, the advantages are irrefutable.

Forget the ‘norm’

It’s not something you can or should implement overnight either. Sit down and really consider the business case for applying this method of working and roll out the changes slowly to find what works for you and your team. It’s difficult to shift your mindset, but it’s important to not just follow the ‘norm’ in terms of the daily working structure just because it’s what we’re used to. If you challenge protocol and really consider the benefits, this way of working will have a hugely positive impact across your company.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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