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As an online publishing company here at We Rock Your Web, our team works all over the world. Further, every member of our team works virtually from their respective home offices. In fact, we rarely meet in person and more than 50% of the team have never met the majority of their teammates. Does this sound familiar? It is a rapidly growing trend and one you might want to consider when seeking your next job or in making business formation decisions.
But, how do you keep employees on task and team-oriented when they are not on-site to keep an eye on? Here are a few of our top picks when it comes to managing virtual teams. We know them well because we use them virtually every single day to help build team morale and keep everyone on the same page. This is our toolkit for successfully managing a virtual team.
Probably the best tool we have for building team morale is Google Hangout. It allows us to put faces with names on a regular basis in team meetings and also engage in some silliness thanks to Google Effects. (I have attached a screenshot of our team using silly hats and such from Google Effects to have a little virtual fun on a conference call.) Bonus: It’s FREE when you sign up for Google Plus.
Not sure how we lived without Basecamp, because this is the project management tool that drives all of our timelines and projects day-to-day and over the long haul. It allows us to communicate efficiently in one place and also pass off the baton to the next person on the team once one person’s task on the larger project is complete. It tracks all conversations and keeps everything organized to look back on in case of questions down the road. This is the most user-friendly project management tool I have ever used and our team would not be nearly as efficient or effective without it, especially with different time zones and locations to contend with. Communication is key and this gives us all the tools to make it work seamlessly.
Dropbox allows us to share files with one another and also creates a central storage location for all our common-use files like logos, images, research, article drafts and more. We use this tool for files that we do not edit very frequently, more of a storage location.
Google Drive serves a similar purpose as Dropbox, but used for more frequently updated files or those that need to be accessed concurrently by different team members. For example, this is a great place to create agendas for meetings and allow all team members to weigh in and provide their own ideas. We even use it to keep notes during team meetings as well since everyone can login to the document during the call and keep track of both the agenda and add notes throughout. Also FREE with Google Plus.
We owe thanks to Ann Handley and MarketingProfs for this one! We started a private group on Facebook for our team members only to chat about the more social side of life. We share things like what we are reading, what we are doing over the weekend, photos of family and more to get to know each other more beyond our work.
Slack is our main form of communication and has become one of our favorite tools. We use Slack to ask one another quick questions or just have small talk. It integrates with Google Hangouts so we can start a hangout and the link posts in Slack for the whole team to join. Not only is it an efficient tool but it’s also a fun one to use since we can create “channels” regarding different subjects. For example, we have a Coffee Break channel for random, fun topics but we also have an Urgent Notices channel for pressing subjects.
What Tools Do You Use in Managing Virtual Teams?
There are so many tools these days, but these are our top picks for keeping our virtual team uber efficient while also providing both a sense of community and connectedness. We find that the advantages of flexibility and lower overhead associated with virtual teams far outweigh the potential downsides with these tools in place to bridge the gap.
Got some tips, tricks or tools that you’d like to share as to how to make virtual team work even more efficient? Please leave a comment below and share so we can all benefit from your great discovery!