Working in an office is great, but thanks to technology some jobs find offices obsolete and they see it only as an expense which they don’t need. Most of them have decided to ditch the classic office scenario and replace it with working from home or some other place more conducive to where each individual coworker feels the best.
Regardless of your working environment, the team still needs to be able to work, collaborate, communicate and function together as a team. Technology has made that a pretty easy task today as most of the tools you’ll need to accomplish this type of work are multi-platform and low-cost (or free). So basically, all you need to telecommute is a laptop, or mobile device, with an internet connection and some great applications and you’re ready to go!
First off, you need to communicate. Instant messengers are a great tool for quick sharing of information, so you should try out Skype for text messaging and voice and/or video calls. The only downside of Skype is that it’s a peer-to-peer messenger; meaning both parties will have to be online in order to get messages delivered. There’s practically no offline messaging involved until both sender and the receiver get online. A good alternative is Google Talk, a simple yet effective desktop client for Google’s Chat inside the Gmail service.
CMIT Solutions‘ Evan Stein notes, “If your team isn’t all using the same one (messaging program), programs like Pidgin, Spark IM, or Digsby work across multiple platforms. Digsby also lets you manage your social media, as well as chat. For secure chat, Microsoft Lync Server provides IM services that never leave your corporate intranet. It’s not free, but has a 180-day trial period”,
If you have a large team, you may want to consider using project management tools to track projects and communicate between team members. Some great project management apps to try include Basecamp, Producteev, Trello or Asana. Basecamp and Producteev offer free trials and then have packages starting at $20/month (Producteev remains free if you only have 2 people in your team). Asana is free for up to 30 members, after which it jumps to $100/month for a team of 30 plus. Trello is a free application.
You’ll also need some way of sharing and storing files. Dropbox is one of the most popular, but there’s a variety of file sharing services. Google Drive is one of the latest and it can be nicely integrated with your workflow if you’re already using Google’s services. If you’re more of a Microsoft user, SkyDrive allows you 7gb of free storage, more than either Dropbox or Google Drive.
Communication, collaboration and file sharing are basic fundamentals for your team to be virtual and to work effectively in a virtual environment. Since each business is different, you’ll need to test out which applications will suit you and your team.
Are you part of a virtual team? What applications are working for you?