Make Remote Work for You

Posted on February 27 2014 in Inspiration, Remote Teams

In this article, by Keith Ferrazzi, he points out 3 things that companies need to do in order to make remote teams work. Teams need to:

  1. Set ground rules for managing virtual communications
  2. Align personal and professional goals
  3. Strengthen relationships to enable the candor required for true collaboration

Every once in a while I think back on the different environments that I’ve worked in and I come to the realization that work environments really do matter. However, It’s only recently that I’ve come to recognize what it was about each workplace that I did and didn’t like. This got me thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely, and how you can make those disadvantages disappear.

About 8 years ago I worked for a large, national corporation. Working from home was code for playing hooky (heaven forbid people have personal lives), the only people really allowed to leave the confines of cubicle city were the outside sales people and lunch was exactly an hour long. I know I’m making that place sound kind of awful, but the truth is that there were also a lot of things I liked about it. Actually, they weren’t things; they were people. However much I hated the dreary grey walls of my cubicle, I could always go pop my head over someone else’s and chat with a fellow cellmate (I mean, teammate).

There was a certain sense of camaraderie in an environment like that. You ended up spending an incredible amount of time around the same group of people, and you could choose to connect with them somehow or simply put your head down and do your job. I find it interesting to look back and remember being discouraged from connecting with people. It was considered distracting, unproductive and unprofessional. The funny thing is that I recall the employees that were the most sociable being the ones to bring in the most business, get promoted and just generally be good to work with. So does this mean that louder means smarter? No, probably not, but the individuals that made an effort to connect with their fellow teammates felt like they were a part of something and when you feel like you’re a part of something you work harder to see it succeed.

Now that I’ve been working remotely, or semi-remotely, for a few years I can identify what I like about this environment as well. I’d like to think that I’m a relatively creative person and that a lot of my success is based upon whether I’m coming up with and executing creative ideas. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my working habits, it’s that the “coming up with” and “executing” mindsets happen in different places, at different times, sitting on a different kinds of chairs, listening to different kinds of music and drinking different kinds of beverages. I like to move around, see different places, work at different times; working remotely makes this possible. I believe that it helps the quantity and quality of my work, but there are still some things that we need to do here at Stormboard to make sure we’re not losing touch with each other. I work remotely, but that doesn’t mean I’m stranded on a tropical island (although that does sound nice right about now).

Accomplishing Keith’s three goals is pretty easy to do at Stormboard, largely because we practice what we preach. We love what we’re making and we use it all the time. Whether ideas are big or small, they’re in a storm. We’re commenting, voting, chatting, planning and organizing.We often hear from users that “Stormboard is fun”, and we agree. You see the personalities of your teammates come through as they add ideas to a storm and other team members comment on them. It’s amazing how much of the communication hurdle we solve just by being in the same digital space with the tools we need to make sure everyone is heard. Add a few phone meetings and the occasional pint to that and we’ve got our bases covered.

I think the Stormboard team is a great example of how remote teams can work. It’s only fitting, as we create a tool that helps teams communicate and collaborate better. We could all be in the same room and we’d still use the same processes we do now, because they work.If your distributed team is struggling with communication, brainstorming and planning, I highly recommend giving this collaboration tool a try. We think Stormboard will help you close the gap between members of your team and make remote work for you.

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