As a recent transplant to our Boulder, CO office, many of the team members that I'm used to working with side-by-side on a daily basis are now on the other side of the country. By utilizing the following techniques, however, it feels like I never left.
Use Google Hangouts for conversations and meetings.
The introduction of Google Hangouts has greatly improved cross office communication. It's easy to quickly jump into a one-on-one conversation with someone in another location or have people from multiple locations join a group discussion. Screen sharing is built right in so everyone can walk through the issue at hand together. Most importantly, with the addition of Google Effects, you’re only one click away from donning a pirate hat.
Use instant messenger for questions and updates.
I use IM throughout the day to ask and answer quick questions that come up and to share my work as it progresses. By keeping my IM status updated and accurate, team members in other offices know if I’m available or busy and shouldn’t be bothered.
Embrace quick video chats.
When you’re in the same location as someone, it’s easy to stop by their desk and ask them a quick question. You can treat video chat with the same mentality. Don’t worry about reserving a conference room and sending out an official meeting invite. Send them an IM asking if you can chat for two minutes. If they say yes, just jump into the hangout, ask them your question, and move on with your day. Sometimes talking to someone for two minutes is much more effective than trying to figure out the issues over email or IM. Being able to have those quick conversations without leaving your desk is important. As long as you keep the conversation brief and use a headset, video chatting from your desk shouldn’t bother those sitting around you.
Use IPEVO Cameras for sketching.
While nothing beats being in the same room as someone, the IPEVO cameras make it possible to conduct collaborative sketching sessions remotely. We’ve had success generating and sharing ideas with the IPEVO P2V.
Don’t forget to give virtual high fives.
High fives are a quick and easy way to let your team members know they’re doing great work. This type of validation is helpful throughout the design and development process, especially on tough projects. It’s important to find ways to keep your fellow team members motivated throughout the process even when you’re not in the same location and can’t give them an actual high five. Whether that’s done through a quick email, IM, or some other thoughtful way to show you care, don’t forget to let your teammates know that you’re rooting for them.
Working on projects with team members that are in different offices can be a challenge but using these techniques has definitely made it easier for my teams to successfully work together. What techniques do you use to make cross office communication work?