It seems pretty obvious to me. Hire the best people from all over the world to create the perfect remote team. Geo-limiting and having workers housed in offices just doesn’t make sense anymore. With the host of tools available to make collaboration and communication easy and efficient it’s no wonder that there are a number of companies that are 100% remote. WordPress, GitHub, Mozilla and Copy-blogger are all highly successful and but a few from an ever-increasing list of fully remote companies that are killing it year after year.
But it seems that some pretty intelligent people don’t agree with me. A post by Paul Grahamand a response from Automattic’s Matt Mullenwegg sparked a huge debate about remote workers and their overall effectiveness. But think about it. Anytime a software team does a daily scrum with a client, or a team member travels across the country and reports back to her team, or even when developers message each other from across the room, its work that is being done remotely. The dynamics may have changed but remote workers are a pretty old concept. To deny its presence is a huge limitation to how efficiently you conduct business.
Maybe the naysayers are missing out on certain skills that compel them to insist that workers be within reach. Maybe an unpleasant experience is holding you back. Now more than ever there needs to be a deliberate effort on how clients and remote workers can improve how they communicate. Here are 5 powerful tips that can be helpful to both the believer and the skeptic:
1) Use video-chat when dealing with an angry client
Why do you think they have mirrors behind the bartenders? People tend to act differently when they can see themselves. When you use video-chat, you’ll be surprised to see that the angriest and most difficult clients and workers tend to behave differently. There’s a science to it, and it works in bars, even with the drunkest and rowdiest of people. Something about being able to see themselves just sends a signal for your angry client to be more conscientious. Try it out for yourself using a host of resources that allow you to video chat like Skype, or even Facebook.
2) Want faster internet? Use a VPN
It happens to me all the time. I’ll be at a location remotely, maybe at a conference or something. And a carrier like T-Mobile just throttles my 3G connection, subsequently making Skype calls drop and generally make life miserable. A speed-test will show reasonable results but you’ll be instantly reminded of the days of dial-up.
If you use a VPN (Virtual Privacy Network) your ISP can’t detect what kind of traffic is going out of your system. Your ISP cannot possibly throttle your internet in their bid to get customers to pay higher subscription rates or make expensive long-distance telephone calls.
The next time you’re abroad, consider installing a VPN like Buffered on your phone and computer. You might be pleasantly surprised at the improved results. In any case, you will have improved security all the time which is never a bad thing.
3) “Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen”
Listen to traditional age-old advice. Exercise. Take care of yourself. Read the ‘Wear Sunscreen’ article. Listen to the 1999 hit by Baz Luhrman “Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)” that converted this guide on how to live a happier life, free from frustration from an advice column published in the Chicago Tribune to a viral and mainstream hit song that peaked at number 1 in the UK charts.
Your health is as important as any of the advice mentioned above or below. A recently held TED talk termed sitting the new smoking. Herman Millar has spoken about the “turtle position” and how detrimental bad posture can be when working from your computer.
It’s very simple to get into a typing position that feels right and just be at it for hours from your hotel room, or the beach, or your house. But it’s also very simple to keep a healthy exercise routine going even while working from a remote location if you really want to. In fact, a survey from the people at ConnectSolutions tells us that 32% of remote workers say that they are able to get more exercise remotely, than while they could working at an in-office environment.
Keep a Thera-band close by. Olympic athletes use these for resistance training. With only 6’’ of rubber you can have a full body workout between sending out emails, finishing a call, and quite simply from anywhere you want. When you’re working from home and spending long hours on your computer its important to give your body a rest. That might seem like an oxymoron but exercising regularly will do just that.
4) Don’t play scheduling volleyball with clients
I’m sure you’ve had the following happen:
You have a host of resources at your disposal now to make instant collaboration a possibility. Use Slack. Use Hipchat. Use Skype. Use whatever you want. But don’t make e-mails your primary mode of communication when working remotely.
At the most they’ll ignore your call over Skype but use the tools that allow you instant access to the person you want to discuss something with. The proper etiquette for an unscheduled video call is a bit vague, so you might want to work on your opening message. Your client could be in the middle of a presentation or something.
5) Kill the in-line email chain
Here’s another thing you might have experienced before:
Kill the long and confusing e-mail chain. If you don’t have the time to write proper responses then pick up the phone. If you don’t want to call then knock virtually. There are a number of ways to communicate with remote clients and workers so there is no need to tie your colleagues in knots. There should be a rule against this at companies because it is one of the most tell-tale signs of an inefficient and mediocre system. The next time you catch yourself writing “as seen below highlighted in red” as part of a chain of e-mails be the superstar who kills this monster.
If one of the reasons you use email is so that discussions can be documented just follow up a virtual call with bullet-points and action items. It will save you heaps of confusion in the future. Trust me on this one.