Managing a scattered team is a topic that is discussed frequently. There are many effective solutions that can be applied to your organization, but others that will never work due to the way your organization is structured. Every company is different--with a different number of remote locations, or simply one-off telecommuters--making it difficult to find a solution that works for everyone.
Some teams are lucky and have a few hours when offices in different time zones overlap. Some organizations encourage telecommuters to clock in later in the day (and work later into the night) to align with the main office's time zone. And some organizations have far too many locations and time zones to juggle, making it nearly impossible to get everyone together on the phone at once.
From my personal experience of managing over 35 accelerator programs spanning six continents, there isn't an easy solution to the constant scheduling dilemmas at hand. There are, however, solutions that we've adopted to allow us to do more faster, and allow for seamless communication no matter the situation.
1. Use a walkie talkie app.
There are a lot of options for messaging with colleagues (and we do most, if not all of them), but using Voxer, a walkie talkie app that allows us to send voice messages, has improved communication between offices tremendously. So, what are the benefits?
If used exclusively within your organization (don't encourage clients or partners to join in), the tool allows you keep important internal communication on one platform. We get texts, calls, emails, Slacks and Gchats from just about everyone. We prioritize Voxer messages above everything else because it's easy to tell that it comes from the organization. If I see a Voxer notification in the morning, I reply before I check my email.
Voxer messages are incredibly easy to reply to (no need for early morning emails), and don't disturb like a late night phone call. These quick voice messages also save time during the day and allow for quick and easy updates. There's no need for formal email replies when you're looking for a quick status update.
2. Work in collaboration tools.
This goes without saying. If you're team can't all collaborate in the same conference room, using tools to seamlessly collaborate is a necessity.
We stick to the basic tools that Google offers, like Google Docs, Slides, Drive and Slideshow, as Gmail and Gchat are some of the other tools we utilize daily. We use Google Hangouts when schedules sync up for more personal meetings. We also use Dropbox to share larger files throughout the organization, as well as Slack.
While there are plenty of other tools available, using suggested edits in Google's tools allows us to give easy feedback on others work, and the ability to tag a colleague using their email account is another great way to ensure collaboration.
3. Travel to telecommuters.
Having multiple locations spread across the globe is a great way to tap the smartest minds available and bring them into your organization. But bringing in smart people, and rarely seeing them face-to-face is not a good plan for a great working relationship.
My travel schedule is packed, because I'm constantly on the move. In the past month, I've already been to London and Boston to meet with managing directors, alumni and mentors within our organization. While traveling isn't always the most productive activity, I do tackle some less pressing activities while on the plane, like checking weekly newsletters and other emails I push to my "later" folder, reorganizing my to-do list or brainstorming creative ideas for the next week.
Even if you have a few straggling telecommuters on your team, make it a priority to fly out to see them a few times a year. Building a more personal, less digital, relationship with the people you count on to run your business will create a better, most trustworthy working relationship. And, maybe you'll get to see a new and exciting place as a result. Thanks to my non-stop travel, I've been all over the world, from Berlin to Dubai, to Tel Aviv and Australia.