Even if you are sitting in a cubicle right now, what are the chances you are actually working with someone over the divider? Is it more typical that you're working with someone not even in your building, perhaps not even your state or country?
The virtual office sits in a virtual workplace and increasingly that is where most of us go to hit the bricks everyday. With this trend, teamwork and online collaboration have become all but synonymous.
Now, let's talk about workflow.
How exactly does it work; working with someone eight time zones away?
If your workflow isn't exactly flowing, it may be time to step back and put some time into thinking about timing.
Here are some tips:
1. Think about who is doing what and create a rough assignment sheet with deadlines.
2. Now add another column on that spreadsheet; synchronous or asynchronous. What shared tasks need to be done in real-time together? Which ones do not?
3. For the synchronous tasks, consider what will be the best real-time collaboration tool to get them done (phone, web conference, instant messaging, etc.). Now, put that in yet another spreadsheet column.
4. For the asynchronous tasks, consider what will be the best anytime collaboration tool to get them done (wiki, blog, e-mailing attachments back and forth, discussion board, etc.). Now, put that in yet another spreadsheet column.
5. Set dates for synchronous tasks and assign a point person to be in charge of setting up the real-time work tool of choice.
6. For the asynchronous tasks, this is trickier. First, set deadlines. Then, pick a time zone as the working time reference. Poll the team members and find out when they work. Plan accordingly. If you know that your colleague in Paris has finished their day before yours begins, then you know you have a 24 hour turnaround for a response. This can really slow the flow, if you know what I mean. Plan and adapt accordingly. I highly recommend using a RSS Reader in the asynchronous work environment, so that you are alerted when your faraway colleagues contribute.