"Good, bad or indifferent, if you are not investing in new technology, you are going to be left behind."
~ Philip Green
Virtual Office Essentials
There are some basics types of tech that every remote leaders needs to build a virtual office conducive to high performance and collaboration:
- video conferencing with screen sharing
- file sharing
- cloud storage
- task/project management
- password management
- virtual co-working
If you can afford to pay a developer to build you a custom virtual office, go for it! However, there are a lot of cost effective options out there that really get the job done.
At Rebel + Connect we use, love, and shamelessly promote Zoom. The video and audio quality is fantastic. There is a built in chat that we can use to share links, copy, etc during meetings.
We use it for all our meetings, internal and external.
The free version is extremely comprehensive, with the only real downside being a 40 minute limit on group meetings.
We would even dare to suggest that this type of meeting is superior.
You can record all your meetings in a compact format (audio and/or video files), the faces of the participants and the presentation content are all in one view!
Team members can watch back the meeting recording whenever they need to reference something previously discussed. Less note taking, more active listening and more engagement!
Department heads can watch back meeting recordings of teams they oversee.
Votes can be captured.
Notes can be transcribed.
God forbid you have a lawsuit that materializes..., you have a video record of your team performing with the utmost integrity.
For file sharing we use Google Drive. Unlike Dropbox, another popular file sharing platform, Google Drive has built in word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and survey builder tech, saves automatically, and has great track changes and comments features.
When it comes to collaborating on working documents, Google Drive is hands down better tech than DropBox. Additionally, it’s easy to share docs with clients and external collaborators without forcing them to sign up or pay for tech they wouldn’t use otherwise.
Everyone who has a Gmail account, (do people really still use other email providers?) already has access to the free version of Google Drive (I’ll get into the paid version in a moment).
We also use Google Drive for our cloud storage. Two birds, one piece of tech!
We pay for G-Suite, because it also allows for custom domain email addresses and a Google phone number, but the free version works very well, with the primary limitation being storage size. You’ll get way more bang for your buck, regarding storage, with Google Drive than you would with DropBox.
We live and breath Slack! Unlike a lot of chat apps out there, Slack allows for multiple channels that help to organize conversations by topic. Channels are searchable. Participants are taggable. Direct messaging is also possible. Plus, it integrates with Zoom, Google Drive, and Todo (I’ll get to this next), which allows for an almost seamless workflow that allows us to really “work” in Slack!
We use Slack for 99% of our communication, almost entirely abandoning email for internal use.
While we pay for Slack, the free version is great, too! The primary reason to upgrade is a desire to search message archives farther back than your team’s 10k most recent messages.
When we first got started we used Trello. It is a very popular platform, with a fairly inclusive free version and a rather comprehensive paid version. However, recently we switched to ToDoBot, which was developed specifically for use with Slack. By simply typing /todo @TeamMemberHandle you can assign a task and set a due date. Similarly team members can post updates on specific tasks, re-delegate them as needed, and mark them as “done” when they have been completed. There are so many other cool features, but this one was a game changer for us.
We are also able to make to-dos that are assigned to an entire channel. For example, we have a #meeting_management Slack channel that we use to start meetings with /zoom command. Once in Zoom, we can navigate to the ToDoBot dashboard and any /todo messages that have been created since our last meeting are right there in one place. In other words, it basically auto-generates our meeting agenda and then allows us to check off topics/tasks as they are complete.
We can also go into the dashboard and see all the tasks remaining on a given project or all the tasks assigned to a specific team member.
Best of all it’s 100% free!
Perhaps the most important part of a virtual office is security. We have a small team, but a lot of joint Saas accounts. Making sure everyone can access all the tech needed to get the job done, without compromising security, is vital! We use LastPass.
This allows us to use really complex passwords, that heighten security, without causing us all to waste value mental energy trying to remember all the passwords. Additionally, if and when we need to change a password, we all get the update automatically.
You might also consider the use of a virtual office or co-working space like Sococo.
This tool is best suited for teams who keep regular office hours.
Additionally, if you have reservations about supervising team members this is a good way to ensure that everyone “shows up” to work.
Rebel + Connect creates custom retreats for remote teams. A Colorado based company owned and operated by Charlie Birch, Rachel McGehee, and Summer Weirich, we operate remotely and service clients from all over the globe. Join us as we create cultures of meaning and celebrate human connections in a digital world!
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