Scatterwork is in good (virtual) company

The Benefits of Virtual Working

Since Scatterwork was established in 2008, the company has had the objective of having a 100% virtual team to support its operations. In fact, the company name was selected to reflect this interest only a year after Twitter was launched and a year before Facebook made any profit.

Our service is Project Consultancy, so is dependent on its team of experts. By developing a team which is 100% virtual has several tangible business benefits in contrast to bricks-and-mortar companies:

Some Benefits of Virtual Working

Among the many benefits of virtual working, these are the most important ones for Scatterwork:

  • The opportunity to select the very best experts wherever they are in the world, compared with being restricted whoever lives near enough to commute.
  • Rapid launching of new assignments, sometimes within only days of notice compared with longer lead times if experts must travel, get visas, book hotels etc.
  • Team presence is many locations, countries, cultures, time zones etc, so improving the variety of experience which supports problem solving.
  • No investment in office space and overheads (insurance, telephones, telecomms infrastructure etc.) which simplifies incremental growth.

There is no such thing as a free dinner

While the benefits of virtual working are very real, they do not come without some overhead:

  • The dependency on communications technology, which must be specified to match virtual working and managed actively is a significantly more complicated than for colocated businesses. This offsets some of the simplification and cost saving compared wtih working from a physical location.
  • Every opportunity should be used for the team members to meet each other face to face, for example when travellng to the same client. Ideally this would be supplemented by team meetings from time to time, again not free of cost.
  • Everybody should be comfortable with asynchronous (= not at once) communication with the team. Synchronous communication (e.g. the live team meetings) are like gold dust and should be protected.
  • Team members tend to feel lonlely and this is not addressed by nearby team members, unlike the situation where they are colocated. This does not suit everybody.
  • Mostly it is not possible to see the work, only the results of the work. This demands a mind-set change for management compared with a traditional office.
  • Each team member is responsible for agreeing their own work with the stakeholders and managing the communications and tools. In short, they should be “self-starters”, which does not suit everybody.

In summary, there are positive and negative features of virtual work, which for Scatterwork are balanced in favour of virtual working.

Is Scatterwork on its own?

No, although the vast majority of companies have physical offices, there is a significant number of companies which, like Scatterwork, work virtually. Here are some that we are aware of:

Zapier: 25+ Fully Remote Companies That Let You Work From Anywhere

Scopic: How do the top 10 biggest virtual companies in the world make it work?

Remotive: Live Remote Jobs

Author

Dr Deasún Ó Conchúir, Founder and CEO, Scatterwork GmbH, who can be contacted at deasun@scatterwork.com

Culture Tips for Long Distance Business Relationships

This video is about culture tips for long distance business relationships.We mentioned before in another video that two complicating factors are time zones and cultures. Here we’re just picking a very small number of culture tips, which are not even prioritized. There are so many things that we can do in this area. The first tip is to devote time to personal introductions:Who are you? Where are you from? Have you family? All those sort of introductions tend to fall away when we just have electronic communication with somebody in the team somewhere else.By giving specific time where that can happen, a scheduled meeting can be a great idea. People can use their LinkedIn or Facebook pages and show that to the others which certainly helps break the ice.

A related tip is to learn about each other’s cultures. I was on programs in both India and Algeria that had been scheduled by head offices somewhere in Europe. On both occasions they were on the eve of big holidays. Naturally enough, the people I was working with wanted to close and go away in the middle of the day and this was completely ignored by the scheduling. If something is scheduled with no knowledge at all of the big festivals in the country,then that tends to send a very negative signal. Another little tip is to communicate spontaneously so that you actually talk from time to time.

One way of doing this is for example you’re working and you get a message over LinkedIn from somebody who comments on something that you said; then you know that they are active there and then. You can call back and you have a good chance of getting them. Scheduling meetings and so on can be very laborious but the spontaneity can be really nice. Another tip is to mix communication methods because skills in different languages vary. It could be that somebody writes well in one language but doesn’t speak it so well; or understands very well but doesn’t write very well and so on.

If for example we have a meeting by telephone or teleconference supported by slides with diagrams, work breakdown structures, Gantt charts or whatever and then afterwards we ask if there are questions and allow time for replies: maybe 24 hours. The questions might come back in written format,there might be a 2nd conference and so forth. This might seem to be “overkill”, that it’s too much. It is if everyone speaks the same language but it certainly is not if the team members speak various native languages. It allows people to latch in and genuinely understand what is happening.

The final tip is to get a good collaboration app such as Podio (or search for “alternatives for Podio”). You have a task that needs to be done; it goes into a database with a message saying “please do this” and then onto that you can hang messages, comments, documents, links etc. If you’re talking, you can click on the person’s image and up comes the video conference. This is much better than email where you have to think “what did that relate to?” and make a mental connection with the topic. Maybe the document you are talking about is somewhere else, so you loose a lot of time just jumping between one another.So clearly, there are dozens of things in this area that could be said but these are just a few short ideas. If any of this is of interest to you, please feel free to contact me. Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

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