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How to Manage Virtually
 

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Earlier this week, we at Inc. magazine announced that we were abandoning our beautiful offices and going virtual for the month. Since then, we've received lots of great suggestions from readers on how to get the most out of our experiment. Starting today, we'll be spotlighting some of these comments.

Clay Schossow, founded New Media Campaigns, a Web development company in Carrborro, North Carolina in 2006 and, for the first few years, had a central office where everyone came every day. But a year and a half ago, Schossow began letting employees work remotely. "It's really kind of baptism by fire when they leave the office," he told Inc. researcher Josh Spiro, who called up Schossow yesterday and asked him to expand on his advice. Here are Schossow's four tips on how best to manage virtual workers.

1. Have common areas where people can gather, virtually or otherwise. For local employees who want to meet up in person, Schossow keeps an open tab at a local coffee shop. For virtual gatherings, he uses 37Signals's Campfire as a group chat room.

2. Trust your employees but maintain accountability. Schossow eschews a mandatory check in time, but uses another 37Signals application called Basecamp, a project management tool that keeps track of what everyone is working on.

3. There's no such thing as too much communication. Early on, Schossow found that despite all the communication systems the company set up, sometimes an employee would be left without anything to do. To compensate for that blindspot, Schossow began using the Google Talk instant messaging program to get one-on-one updates from his team, a sort of virtual version of poking his head in their office door.

4. Maintain a sense of community. In Campfire, Schossow encourages a lighthearted atmosphere, with staff members posting jokes or links that might appeal to the whole company. Allowing fun to intermingle with work helps keep things collegial.

Over the coming weeks we'll be publishing more reader comments and our own observations from the trenches. So keep the advice coming. What approaches and technologies do you use at your company?

Last updated: Feb 4, 2010




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