I've been working with an absolutely stellar team for the past 10 months. One of the best and worst parts about this team is that we're entirely remote. None of us are required to go into an office, work particular hours, or dress in a certain way. The only thing that matters is that we get the job done. While the hours and lifestyle are great the downside of remote working is that you feel so isolated. The closest WooThemes team member is about 400 miles away across 2 states.
Communication Creates Connection
The biggest problem this creates is one of connection. Human beings are social creatures. We crave social interaction. In a work setting that's usually giving someone a pat on the back when they do a good job, asking for advice on a project, or mentoring a new person. All of these are vital for an individuals motivation and the company, but that's not where real connection starts.
Connection starts with the “hellos” and the “good mornings”. The small talk about the weather, your weekend, your cooking experiments are what gives everything context. If you don't care about your job or the people at your job you're only going to work hard enough to not get fired. Not exactly the shining beacon of motivation.
Moving to HipChat
One of the best things WooThemes did in the last 6 months wasn't hiring more people, it wasn't giving someone a raise, it wasn't releasing a new product, it was without a doubt moving everyone over to HipChat. Both Skype & HipChat allow group messaging but it's in their subtle differences that really make an impact on an organization.
With HipChat you can easily join any room whenever you want, for however long you want, without getting annoying notifications all the time. I'm available for a work related chat or just a fun chat anytime and can passively follow along to the conversation in-between tickets. Moving from a system like Skype where you have to be invited to groups into HipChat makes it much easier to connect with people.
We only have 30 people on our team and there used to be colleagues who I didn't know at all and now with HipChat I know everyone very well. I love chatting with the theme team about their upcoming conference, talking to one of the cofounders about fishing, and talking to someone else on the WooCommerce team about his tragic lack of snow this winter.
If any of these team members asked me to help them with someone I wouldn't hesitate for a second. They know I'm busy, they know I'm a real person whose time they shouldn't needlessly waste and I know they're a real person with real needs too. If they need me to cover I'd be more than happy to do so.
When it comes to leading a team to achieving something great you have to let them act like a team. And that takes some time letting your team mingle. No one wants to feel like a cog in the machine. We'll all work better if we have that connection with our team members.