I have spent most of my career as an entrepreneur and executive working remotely. I've run businesses, meetings, and in-depth projects with people in the same city, from the other side of the country or even around the world--all from the comfort of my home office or wherever I happen to be traveling for business.
What is so wonderful about today's technology is that it allows a business world like this to exist and thrive. With the right tools and equipment, anyone can work from anywhere, and access to great talent is not challenged by geography. Many times teams often work better and are more productive than being in a physical office. Plus, this greater flexibility helps lead to greater work-life harmony since people can better balance their work and family time.
While some may argue that technology is making people feel disconnected from each other, I believe the technology available today creates greater human connection. It's all about how you deploy it and build technology into your business process to make it most effective.
Nothing will ever replace real face-to-face encounters; however, it is possible to create daily camaraderie and regular interactions with the right tools. Here are my three favorite tools for keeping my remote team feeling like a team and engaged:
Slack is a combination of project management organizer, file sharing, and e-mail system, and more, all in one. I use Slack for most of my remote communication with my teams that work for me in my businesses. This includes even my yoga studio and committees or groups that I am a part of, so we can stay in communication and keep things moving between scheduled meetings.
What's great about Slack is that you have the choice to organize team conversations in open channels so everyone has a transparent view of what's going on at all times. It's also possible to divide your team among different groups like sales, marketing, and support. You can also set up private channels and can communicate in real time, with the employees or customers you want to be part of specific channels.
Slack is ideal for creating the collaboration you would have in a physical office. I highly recommend it for business owners and leaders who juggle a number of teams and work with people spread out in different time zones and countries.
Gone are the days of conference calls where you cannot pay attention because no one sees you. I have found that having effective remote teams means creating an environment where you can still be face to face. There are many ways to do video conferencing with multiple people, but I'm a big fan of Zoom video conferencing software because it's close to a one-size-fits-all solution for my business needs. The free software combines high-definition video conferencing, online business meetings, and webinars into one handy system. Bonus: Zoom records all the videos for replaying and sharing.
3. Facebook Groups
Many businesses launch Facebook pages to promote their services, reach out to existing customers, and recruit new ones. Private personal Facebook Groups can also be created that are tied around events, or as a way to communicate with specialized social groups. One is for business and the other for pleasure. So why not combine them?
You can create private Facebook Groups for you team and clients where you can interact, share information, and stimulate conversation. This type of setting is more personal and informal, which encourages participation, but also maintains a business-like format, and is easier to reach people than through email.
I've used this approach with my yoga business for both customers and my staff. We created a special group for our monthly yoga members to get important information and address questions and a private Facebook Group for my yoga teachers where among other things, we can get important studio information to them or they can quickly get a sub if they cannot teach a class.
Another advantage is that when you create a Facebook group, you have the option in your preferences to assign a unique e-mail address for members. This way you get an e-mail notification when someone posts a message and you can comment by replying to that e-mail message.
Working remotely has many advantages, but the challenge for business leaders is to find ways to use evolving technology to bring their employees closer together to create a fun, collaborative work environment. With the right technology in place, your remote employees can feel like they are part of something bigger and inspired to work together as close-knit team to fulfill the mission of your business.