6 tips for managing a distributed team using Yack.net
With the spread of high-speed internet and the increasingly competitive job market in certain tech focused cities, companies today are more likely to look at hiring employees from all over the world. Start-ups especially are finding that having access to a global pool of talented individuals, each bringing with them a different cultural and professional background, has boosted their company’s chances of success.
Distributed teams, otherwise known as remote workers, can add tangible value to your business. This could simply be by having reduced operating costs involved with not running an office. If your staff are based in different time zones, you could also benefit from round the clock customer support. But overall, employees are more likely to be happier and more productive in an environment which is more flexible and allows them to fulfil their role around their other life commitments.
However, distributed teams do pose a number of challenges. To start with, it can be hard to foster a sense of community and belonging when you aren’t physically in the same office and making each other cups of tea. Communication can also be an issue. How should I best contact my colleagues without constantly disturbing them? For managers it can also be unnerving to not know whether your staff are working hard or just sat there playing solitaire.
Here are some top tips for how you can successfully manage a distributed team in your company, plus how Yack.net can help.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
When it’s harder to check how people are doing, it may be tempting to leave them to just get on with it. But this can lead to people getting stuck and feeling they’re unable to ask for help, or needing an answer but not knowing who to ask. When managing a distributed team, you should be aiming to over-communicate rather than keeping quiet in the background.
Companies who are managing a distributed team well hold catch-ups when it’s appropriate for them. Some may have a morning video call with the whole team which serves as a brief announcement of what each person is working on that day. Others prefer to run longer weekly meetings to enable more in-depth conversations. As well as this, most companies have a place people can quickly message each other for information (or a cat gif) when needed. Deliberate and proactive communication allows everyone to keep on track and surfaces issues early.
Yack.net allows you to hold video or audio calls, as well as allowing you to instantly message and send files to your colleagues. You can also send nudges to people (like a digital version of an elbow in the ribs) when you really need to get someone’s attention. One to one yacks are also great for catching up with someone privately.
…But also agree ‘do not disturb’ time
The trouble with working remotely online is that you can sometimes feel that you are always on call. A colleague might not know that you’re working on something with a 1 hour deadline when they message you asking how your new pet dog is doing. One way of combatting this is to agree ‘do not disturb’ time with your colleagues during your working day. This could be a regular block of time every day, or just a chunk of time when you need it. Setting expectations that you won’t be available at a certain time means that you’ll be able to work with fewer interruptions and be more productive overall. Then once you’ve finished, you can tell Matt all about your adorable labradoodle.
One way of managing your availability on Yack.net is to make use of the three statuses – Online, Busy and Offline. Your status is automatically changed to Busy or Offline when you lock or close down your computer, but you can also change these manually if you wish to give yourself some time to work. Alongside this, you can change your sound notifications so that you aren’t told about new messages or nudges on Yack.net if your status is set to Busy or Offline.
There are also three priority settings that you can give to each of your conversations (yacks) that determine the notifications you receive, plus the ability to customise these as you wish. Want desktop notifications but not a push notification to your mobile app? Not a problem.
Create a shared space
Most non-distributed companies have some form of intranet or repository for key company information, such as the staff handbook or more importantly, instructions on how to book holiday. If anything, this is even more important in a distributed company where you can’t just ask Julie at the next desk. Having a dedicated place for staff and company information makes it easier for new employees to find everything they need to know in their first few weeks. It can even be supplemented by welcome videos, or tips from other new employees about settling in.
On Yack.net this shared space could take the form of a group yack which every person in the company is a member of, and which everyone can contribute to. It could include documents, images, links to external websites, messages and even videos. New employees added to the conversation would be able to access the entire history, and contribute themselves.
When working remotely it can be easy just to talk to the colleagues that you work with most often and forget about those who make up the rest of the team. Distributed companies work best when everyone is connected and most importantly, is open about what they’re doing. Some successful distributed companies go a step further and make their whole business transparent, with their financial results and even their salaries able to be viewed by anyone. While this may not suit every company, feeling able to approach any colleague and start a conversation breaks down barriers that can unintentionally form. You never know, it might spark new ideas or ways of doing things.
Members of an organization on Yack.net are all automatically connected with each other. You can start a one-to-one conversation with anyone in your organization from the contacts book, or create a new conversation with multiple colleagues. Video and audio calls that are recorded and transcribed can also be accessed by anyone who is a member of that yack, no matter if they were on the call at the time or not. This lets colleagues in different time zones catch up on what they missed whatever time they start work.
Foster a sense of community online
Working in front of a computer screen every day can be isolating, and even more so if you’re geographically far from your colleagues. But technology can actually help create a sense of community among your team. Having a place where you can discuss what you’re doing later that day, or the cute thing your nephew did (or if you’re British, the weather) brings people together in a way that collaboratively writing a marketing plan doesn’t.
In Yack.net organizations, you can upload company logos which then appear in yacks associated with that organization, and next to each member’s name. This is a subtle way of signifying that everyone is an employee of the same company even if you’re awake when everyone else is asleep. Each person can also upload a photo as their avatar, which makes conversations feel that little bit more personal. Finally, there are a range of emojis for almost every scenario, letting you commiserate or celebrate in style.
…But also form relationships face to face
However, emojis can only go so far. If you can, meeting up in person every so often is by far the best way to create a sense of belonging in your distributed team. Whether it’s a dedicated company retreat once a year, or smaller more frequent in-person meetings, they make employees feel valued and involved in your company. Not only that, but new ideas often spark and flourish when there’s a group of people all in the same room.
Unfortunately Yack.net hasn’t perfected the science of teleportation (yet!) but a good way of ‘meeting’ face to face is on video calls. Even if it’s just a couple of times a week, turning on your camera instead of typing a message lets you have a fuller conversation that can bring you closer to your colleagues.
What Yack.net features would you find useful in managing your distributed team?