How to organize working processes of a distributed team in a small business
Most of the time questions about organizing a distributed team rise up when company has no office available and everyone from the team is working from home or other places. Still, every company that has several distributed offices can face the same problems.
In large companies some things can be ignored, but when a company is rather small and has only several distributed offices (like in our case when we have only two) you need to take really good care about working processes in terms of suballocated work.
In our company we have 50 people. It just happened that all management and design team are located in our office in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, while the development team is situated in Saransk. To make this distributed offices work to its max we developed series of simple rules.
Unity of the team
United team and friendly chatting outside working subjects can lead you to a success in most of the cases. When your team is situated in several offices at once, it may be harder to reach unity, but it’s not impossible.
More private level of communication
We can reach more private level of communication by various methods that help every person on the team to know what’s happening on every project and know everybody by face even while working in different parts of the Earth.
Communicating during events
We often give our team a chance to meet each other while going to some events together. If the event is going to happen in Saint-Petersburg or Saransk our team can also visit our local office to meet new people and work in the local atmosphere with local corporate spirit.
Corporate parties are also a great place to make a disvirtualisation of the team. That is why we are trying to make such parties to both offices together at once.
We have various chats in Telegram for different working purposes where everyone can see the current events on the project and also communicate with a team in informal manner. Of course, we also have a chat for everyone from both offices.
Once a month we produce an inner mailing (so called digest of positive things) where we highlight all the most important things happened in our company this month and also share the private achievements of people that they want their colleagues to know about. Such mailing list shares the company’ news and makes everyone involved.
Moreover, from time to time we create various activities for teambuilding that are not neccessary require to be in one place. For example, last month we decided to create a short videos (just a minute of time) about everyone in a team and his personal likings and hobbies. In several weeks we hyped our office chat in Telegram with videos from both offices. Everyone got a chance to see his colleague from a different and previously unknown side.
We think that such activities need to be done at least onces in several month to reach a completely new level of communications in the team. After such activities many tasks become more simple bacause people start to understand their team members better.
Focusing on results
When we are seeking for a new team member, we are not looking only on his level of personal organisation, we also look on how this person is motivated to get the work done and project successful. Of course, we have an eight hours working day, but we don’t have fixed time of coming to an office and going home. It’s important to understand that we are not focused on sitting in the office the right amount of hours, we look on results and the work being done.
Personal motivation and self-operation
We are always looking on how the person is self-motivated and organized to take actions. If a person can organize his time conveniently and can understand what will lead his work towards a success of the company in the future, — he can be integrated into our team and working processes successfully. Every person in our team needs to be able to plan his work and cosider his planning with working plans of a team from another office.
As you understand, we are looking for an exact behavior. That is why we have team interviews for many positions in our company. Together with head officer other people from a team with whom this novice will be probably working can also go for an interview and ask him some questions.
Using various tools for working and planning
When we speak about planning working processes in a team located in two offices at once, we instantly think about various tools for project management. For big tasks we use Redmine, for small ones — Wunderlist. We also use Slack to communicate during projects.
No one needs to work alone
All these tools we mentioned and other planning things are created to make every person work in a team and never do anything alone. If you leave person alone with a task, sometimes even the most active people loose motivation, so it’s really important to make no such mistake and solve the issues as a team.
To make sucessful teamwork possible every department needs to have at least one person who is active enough to drive all the tasks and monitor the work of his team on regular bases. Such person can always say why there are loopholes or other problems and instantly organize a team to solve the problem.
Monitoring and regular communications
As was mentioned before, person who is left alone with a problem usually starts to loose his motivation and sometimes can even left his job. That is why it’s essential to monitor all activities regularly and cummunicate with every member of the team. It also neccessary to perform it both online and offline.
The main thing here is not to overdo it. If you’ll be constantly saying the same thing to an emloyee or will be giving him too much reports to fill, — it can be seen as pressure. It’s easier to create one informational field for all employees and make all communications effective with a help of various tools.
Many solve this issue with creation of unified database, but we don’t need such thing. Slack for communications and Redmine for tasks are enough to plan the work of entire team and see that it’s actually is progressing.