Harvard Business Review wrote a great article on “Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged.” At Tier 3 we believe in this and have always maintained a very large amount of our company working remote. In fact, our VP of Product Management, and nearly our entire Network Operations team, work outside our headquarters in Bellevue, WA. Here are some of the tools and ways we do team collaboration at Tier 3 to enable our remote workers and keep them engaged.
These tools are what helps Tier 3 have very few internal meetings to brainstorm or resolve problems. Instead, our collaboration tools have helped us tackle problems and ideas quickly without polluting our schedules with unnecessary meetings. Nearly all (save Lync) are web-based, and each one can be accessed from a mobile device. This means that we can rapidly engage across teams even if someone is running through an airport or resolving a late night bug.
- 37 Signals: Campfire: Campfire is a great tool for communication and allowing subject based channels that can be used for support or team questions. Our entire development team uses it for problem solving and notification with integration to Github. Also, our support team has a chat room for any issues or questions that is very active. The great thing about this is that anybody from the company can quickly jump on and get a question answered within minutes. The other great feature we like on this is the history and client support that has been built around this system. Employees using the system are using clients and setting up desktop based notification if their name is mentioned or certain keywords.
- Microsoft Lync: Lync is a great tool for supporting internal private chat between two people or a group. This is also very useful for desktop sharing and to see a persons status very easily. The integration with outlook/exchange is also very impressive. The last thing on this is that it works on OSX and Windows which is key as our company is very (Yes, I know there are many people that do not like MS but this is a product that is very nice.)
- Go to Meeting / Webinar: By adding a good way to have meetings with VOIP and screen sharing we have seen many uses from our team standups to quick technology presentations. One interesting thing we have found out is to always record the presentation so that it can be used as training/reference material later on.
- Github: With Github we are able to do more integration and social interaction in the past around code updates and releases. Recently we integrated a Github bot on campfire to give us notifications and other calls back into the system.
- Trello: Trello is used by our operations and development team to know what people are working on and also what is coming up next. In one board we can see the activity of all team members no matter where they are at.
- Team Standup: A simple team standup every morning to talk about major issues, project updates, and any blocking issues is key for the team. This is a call that takes 30 minutes and gives the ability for all of us to adjust as a team.
- Brown Bag Sessions: Every month we work to have what are called brown bag sessions where we pick a topic and discuss it and the entire company is invited. These range from new features to also how customers are using our product. It is also time for people to socialize. Remote workers can connect via Go to Meeting.
- Visit Rotation: Sometimes you just need to be able to be closer to people and that is why we ask that people who work remote figure out a visit rotation. This rotation has them come into the main office about every 6-8 weeks to work directly with the team.
- Monthly Company Calls: The last thing that we do is monthly company calls where we give updates on the progress of the company and also allow people to ask questions and give feed back.