More and more companies are turning to remote work and having a distributed team. Whether partially distributed with parts of the team working remotely, or fully distributed without a physical office.
Some of these companies leading the charge are:
Buffer: They’re fully distributed and have written many articles about how they do it.
37Signals/Basecamp: Although they have a headquarters in Chicago, their employees can live and work wherever they want. They even wrote a book on remote work.
Automattic: The creators of WordPress, are 100% remote
Some of the benefits a distributed team can bring include:
Access to the best talent for the job: If the best programmer is 1000 miles away, no problem!
No commute: Here in Toronto, an expressway called the Don Valley Parkway is infamously known as the “Don Valley Parking Lot”.
Freedom: Find the time you work best and the environment that helps you focus. You don’t even need to wear pants to work…but we recommend you do so ;D
Lower overhead costs: Office space can be expensive in some cities. Instead, you can reinvest this money into your business, or to buy your team the coolest, cutting-edge tools.
A big issue with remote work is communication. Some say communication isn’t as efficient when you aren’t together in a physical place. A lot of companies have made use of web tools to combat this and thrive. We’ve mostly got that part covered with all the different virtual watercoolers (Hipchat, Slack) and video tools out there. Tools like Sqwiggle even help remote teams feel like they’re working in the same room!
At Hutility, we’re a fully distributed software consultancy, where we use a combination of email and phone to communicate with our team, partners and clients. In addition to that, we have a virtual library where we store notes and documents available for access to those we work with daily. For this virtual library, we use Notedock, which we initially built in-house for this purpose. Other software that fits your team’s workflow can work as well, whether that’s a wiki, intranet, Google Docs, Trello, or Evernote.
So what’s a “virtual library”, and why is it useful?
Here are some things we use it for:
1) To store information
We take notes on client calls and communications, and by storing them somewhere, we have them accessible by whomever on the team needs it.
We document common/recurring procedures and steps. It saves a lot of time in figuring out how to do things right the first time.
We document bug fixes and gotchas that come up every now and then. This saves a lot of time and frustration since we have solutions ready and on hand.
2) To plan projects
- Related to making notes from client calls, we document the specifications and requirements for each project. This way, any team member that’s involved is in the loop, and knows what’s required.
3) To store files, share them and add notes to them
Instead of emailing each other files, we upload them to the virtual library. With this, everyone is using the latest versions of files.
Adding notes to files helps with context. You can include notes on how the file is supposed to be used, it’s dependencies and the environment it’s to be used in.
In the case that you use Dropbox, Box or another file storage solution, you can still store a link to the file in your library. The benefit of this, is being able to have a discussion around the files and having a hub for all your things.
4) To help ease onboarding new people
Helps in onboarding new employees or contractors for a project.
They’ll have a place to catch up on the history of a prject and become aware of any recorded issues.
A real example of this, was in the development of Notedock’s logo. We had multiple designers work on it before we found a logo we liked. Each new draft we liked more and more since the new designer could see a history of what we’d tried, liked and disliked, and our discussions with the previous designers.
Having a “virtual library” for your team members to reference can be very useful. It’s a great way to save time looking for things that you need for work, because you’ll always know where to start.