There’s no denying it: we live in a digital world.
Technology is changing the way we do everything, from romance to home repair to work. One of the changes we enjoy most here at WebProof is collaborating online.
It’s freeing to be able to get things done anywhere, anytime. If you’re disciplined and willing to put in the work, there’s no reason not to experiment and discover the optimal routine and environment for your team.
The trouble is, it can take a lot of time to figure out the perfect formula and get the kind of results you see companies raving about in Forbes, Entrepreneur, or Business Insider.
That’s why we’re sharing the load of valuable insights we’ve uncovered during our quest to build a world-class team of talented online collaborators. We’ve discovered that it’s not just about the apps you choose, it’s about the mindset, too. You’ll see what we mean below.
1. Hire the Right People.
Working online is not for everyone – that’s a fact. From our experience, there are certain types of people who work very well remotely and other types who don’t. Make sure you have the first type on your team of online collaboration champs. Otherwise, you’ll run into a lot of trouble.
Look for prospects who are independent and self-motivated, and share the same values as the company. Ask their references how well they worked remotely.
If you need help finding them, online platforms like Upwork, WeWorkRemotely, Remote.Co, or LinkedIn are a safe bet.
2. Talk, a Lot.
Effective and constant communication is the heart of any remote project. While working online gives you the freedom to design your own schedule, it’s not a free pass to get lazy about keeping your coworkers in the loop.
If your team is going to succeed at digital collaboration, all members must be dedicated to keeping everyone up to date during the process.
Host a regular team meeting at the same time each week, and use it to get everyone up to speed. What needs to get done? Why does it need to be done? Who precisely is in charge of each task? These are the things you need everyone to get clear about.
A video conferencing tool such as Skype will make doing so a breeze. You should also consider a chat platform like Slack, which can also store and archive every conversation.
That way, team members can quickly find information from team meetings and chat during the week.
3. Make Friends.
In a fully remote team, it’s not unusual to be working with people you’ve never met in person. It’s a good habit to get creative and do your best to form strong relationships with them, just like you would with an on-site team member.
Don’t just reach out when you have bad news or need them to do something. Take the time to ask them how their weekend was or share a funny gif or two.
4. Don’t Take It Personal.
When communicating online, always remember that technology has flaws. One of them is that, if you’re sending a sarcastic email, nobody else can hear your tone or knows your intentions.
So if someone says something that offends you or seems harsh, accept that you might have misunderstood them. That’s the way it is online.
5. Use Visuals.
Communicating via text or voice leaves room for error, so make use of visuals when explaining your thoughts. For example, you could use Balsamiq to share an idea, and draw.io or Lucid Chart to describe a new marketing flow. Preparing visuals before a meeting will save you from having to repeat yourself.
6. Keep Organized.
If you want your team to run like a well-oiled machine, you need to stick to a schedule. That means setting a regular time for your weekly meeting – and holding people accountable for being there – and logging events or client calls. You’ll need a tool to help you, your team, and your clients to keep track of it all.
That’s where calendars come in. It doesn’t matter what calendar you use, as long as it lets you schedule events, invite team members and clients, and send automated reminders.
Google Calendar and Calendly both come packed with features that will save you headaches down the road.
7. Manage Time.
Time management is a top concern when you’re going virtual. If nobody is showing up in the office at 9 am, how do you know how many hours each team member is putting in?
These questions usually come from remote work “newbies,” who are used to a traditional work environment. You know, the one where every task is micro-managed and the boss is never out of sight. But that’s not the way it has to be.
Most successful remote teams work on a results-based system. Members are free to work anytime they like, using their own judgment about taking sick leave or holidays. Of course, it works only as long as they complete the tasks assigned to them by their due date.
When working this way, hours and time zones become less relevant. But that’s not to say they’re not worth tracking. It’s a good habit for employees to monitor their time and analyze their productivity objectively.
We’d recommend finding a tool that makes it easy to log time per task and project, and also offers easy invoicing. Both Toggl or Time Doctor are top picks.
8. Track Tasks.
Now, on to the good stuff. How do you ensure everyone knows which tasks are their responsibility? Task management apps!
With task apps, you’ll be able to create new jobs and assign them to team members on the go. Asana and Trello make easy work of task tracking, but they don’t do everything.
Specifically, they’re not ideal for repeatable processes. For that, you can use process management apps like Process Street, Pivotal Tracker, and Tallyfy.
Unlike task management apps, these tools allow you to lay out clear, repeatable processes. That way, any time a new or current team member needs to complete a task, the process is already documented. All they’ve got to do is finish each step and label the job as done.
9. Backup Everything.
Whoohoo! Now you’re a fully certified remote team. You’re organized, on time, on schedule, and on task. You’re ready to take massive action. Ready to build that catalog, design those magazine ads, and check everything off your list! But where do you store it all?
With all your newfound productivity, you’re going to need a place to put everything. You’ll need a tool for creating, sharing, and storing documents. Both DropBox and G Suite are perfect for this.
10. Stay Protected.
Let’s face it. There’s only one thing worse than forgetting to back up all your team’s data – doing it and losing it. You don’t want hackers, server crashes, or any other glitches destroying or leaking your data.
If you want to keep your digital information from ending up in the wrong hands, you’ll need a place to store and encrypt it. LastPass has an outstanding reputation and is our personal choice for controlling access.
11. Use the Right Tool for The Job.
There’s no point in hiring specialists if you don’t provide them with the tools they need to get the job done. Doing so before the project starts will help you save time and money.
For example, if you’re running an online clothing store and have a constant need for new brochures, banners, and newsletters, then use a graphics production tool. Especially if your team wants to collaborate online.
We like to think WebProof is the best solution here, as you’ll be able to manage all your graphics projects in one place.
12. Hone Your Skills.
Investing time into learning how to use the apps and platforms you’ve signed up for is crucial.
It’s not uncommon for companies to buy fancy new tools and then forget to teach their employees how to use them. Don’t waste your resources – take some time out of your week and master your toolkit.
13. Don’t Become Robots!
You might be shocked to hear this, but we don’t recommend you go 100% digital.
Yes, online collaboration is a long-awaited alternative to spending all day in a cubicle. But, we urge you not to forget the benefits of meeting face-to-face. Often a team event or getaway is the easiest way to improve morale and strengthen relationships.
That’s It! You’re Ready to Collaborate Online!
With the 13 tips and tools above, you have everything you need to build a productive virtual workforce. In this digital age, time and space are no longer limiting factors. You can hire the best talent from all over the world and work together to make your dreams a reality.
P.S. If you want to discover how you can save time and money on all your future graphics projects, check out WebProof. Our flexible platform makes it easy to manage, proof, and approve work – anywhere, anytime!