More and more businesses are adopting a hybrid working model, driving the need for collaborative tools to facilitate remote team working. The term “collaboration”, however, has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent years, and often the reality falls short of the promises made both internally to employees and externally to clients.
As an organisation set up pre-Covid as a remote-first business, we have spent a lot of time ensuring that collaboration isn’t an empty promise, but a business-enabler.
For us it makes total sense
Our remote-first working model gives numerous advantages for us and for our clients:
- Operating remotely allows us to work with clients that aren’t nearby and to switch between client projects throughout the day, increasing efficiency for us and reducing the cost to our clients
- We only rent office space when we need it, and the money saved can be spent on more meaningful interactions with each other and our clients
- Eliminating a commute to an office increases time spent outside of work, which drives better work/life harmony
- Not limiting ourselves to a specific location allows us to have a wider recruitment pool
Google Workspace, Slack, and Trello
One of the few positive outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic is that lots of businesses have turned to a hybrid working system, and to enable this the development of collaborative tools has been fast tracked.
Our digital footprint is entirely cloud-based, and this means we can make use of the Google Workspace to work on documents collaboratively in real time, and not have issues with version control. This ability to work on the same document simultaneously not only increases efficiency but also enables us to chat through changes as we go and work through a document as if sat next to each other. We also share these documents with our clients, so they can see in real time the changes being made and can edit documents with us, making reviews and feedback a streamlined process.
We use Slack to stay in contact throughout the day, and organise regular group calls to discuss progress, roadblocks and upcoming projects. We invite our clients to join project channels to discuss ongoing work at a faster pace than by email, and to share progress of working documents. We also have channels dedicated to social matters like the daily Wordle, and we have ‘wash-up’ sessions at the end of each week to reflect and wind down for the weekend.
We use Trello to interactively manage and track projects, which makes task allocation and progress easier to track from a project management perspective. We invite clients to project boards too, so that they have the same visibility as us when it comes to project progress, allowing us to hold each other accountable. Trello also links back to our time management tool to help us run our timesheets from one place, as well as keeping track of budget.
We invest in our home office setup
We’ve all been on a call where one of the participants is using an old headset and all you can hear is them breathing. Or a camera that would be well suited to a witness protection program. All of these things heavily influence the video conferencing experience and cause participants to switch off from the conversation.. Thankfully, Cydea has also heavily invested in our hardware in order to provide the best possible remote working experience, including large 4K monitors, a 4K webcam, and a soundbar that provides better audio quality than the stock laptop/monitor speakers. This allows us to seamlessly communicate via video calls both internally and with clients.
In person days
All these tools, hardware and practices facilitate working remotely, but sometimes there’s just no substitute for meeting in person and having a good old fashioned chin wag. And we appreciate this, so we also have team days at least once a month when we meet and work together in person. For this we use The Office Group to rent out a meeting room as and when required. We frequently combine these with client days and this gives us a chance to develop our rapport with clients in person. Sometimes we use the opportunity to have group meetings with partners or receive training, and sometimes we don’t invite anyone external and use the time to catch up and discuss project updates, strategy planning or ideas more generally.
Communication works for those who work at it
We have invested in the tools we use to collaborate and communicate both amongst ourselves and externally. But they are enablers, not initiators of communication, and they still require users that work well with others, ask for help when needed, and throw a gif in the social chat every now and then. We strive to grow that culture, and with it the benefits of a truly collaborative working model.