We’ve previously discussed the ins and outs of business collaboration, what it means, and what tools you and your team might want to use to collaborate effectively.
But when your team is working remotely in a non-collocated collaboration setup, there are some things to consider to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.
Use as few tools as you can
If you’re looking for remote working platforms or tools, many will market themselves as an ‘all-in-one’ or ‘complete’ solution. In reality, it’s highly unlikely that one piece of software will be suitable to cover all the needs of a company. Even in cases such as Google’s suite of products, the fact that files are stored on Google’s servers might require many companies to use private file storage alongside it.
And when everyone’s working remotely, you might find that different team members decide to use different tools to communicate. While you might find it easier to use Skype, and another team member likes to communicate through Google Chat, it’s best for your team to compromise and choose one way to chat to each other.
If communication and files are spread around too much, it becomes more difficult to keep track of them, and some information may be missed by some members of the team. Having to stay on top of lots of different logins can also pose security risks if people start reusing passwords for each service.
Keep collaboration under your control
Obviously, you’ll need to be selective about the products you choose to use. Consider the needs of your team – will you need to exchange a lot of files? Do these files need to be accessible all in one place? Do they need to be hosted internally? A self-hosted solution such as Nextcloud may be a more suitable choice than a third-party service such as Dropbox.
Nextcloud is an all-in-one collaboration solution with real-time synchronisation, file sharing, chat and organisation features, plus end-to-end encryption for all data. It offers a modern interface, with desktop and mobile apps to help you stay connected with your team. A self-hosted solution like Nextcloud also gives you more control, with everything stored on your own server and nothing passed to third parties.
Consider the tools you already use
If your entire team uses Microsoft Exchange for their emails and calendars, trying to migrate everyone to another service could considerably interrupt workflow. Instead, see if there are ways to use your existing services outside of an internal network, such as using a web version of your current email client.
For example, with Exchange Email from Fasthosts, you can access your Outlook mailbox on the web through any browser, to see what your team is working on with any device.
Maintain your security
In the office, you can rest assured that everything is in place from a security perspective. Internal networks are appropriately protected, firewalls are established and correctly configured, and physical access to the premises is controlled.
But in implementing remote working, a degree of risk is introduced. At a basic level, confidential company information is now visible to anybody else in the home, train or coffee shop that each employee is working from.
Users will most likely be using their personal broadband connection, so their firewall may not be fully configured, and restrictions to internet use won’t be in place for their network. This opens up potential vulnerabilities if the team member downloads something from an untrustworthy source. Public wifi networks, such as those used in coffee shops, also open up work devices to potential attacks from the same network.
Ideally, files and other critical data should be stored on a self-hosted service or internal network. You and your team can then use a VPN to remotely access that data, rather than storing it on their machine. This way, the data is treated the same way as if everyone were in the office, reducing potential risks.
You should also warn your team to be mindful of what they access on their home network. Their work computers should not have administrator access to prevent unauthorised downloads, and they should undergo cyber security training to make them aware of risks such as phishing emails and untrustworthy websites.
Stay in touch
For most people to effectively work remotely, there needs to be some element of real interaction with your colleagues. It makes sense to use video conferencing for scheduled meetings, but these can be few and far between – and you might suddenly realise that you haven’t talked to any of your colleagues outside of text chat for days.
So schedule a daily check-in at some point in the morning. Not only does this ensure everybody is awake and ready to work, but it means everybody gets to see each other every day. It’s a good opportunity to discuss common tasks, reflect on figures from the previous day, and just generally catch up about what’s going on.
On top of this, try not to fall into the trap of only discussing work with your colleagues while working remotely. In the office, there’s plenty of chatter about everyone’s day, debates, jokes, and conversations. Put aside some time each week, maybe after ‘office hours’, to catch up in a casual environment. It helps to keep everyone on good terms and reinforces positive relationships within your team.
Be ready to adapt
The tools and techniques available when working remotely are constantly changing, so if for example you come across a new product which you think would be useful, don’t be afraid to raise it with your team and potentially trial its use. Ways of working should continually be improved upon to keep things running as efficiently as possible.