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How to Create an Efficient Virtual Team Office: Hsoub's Solution
Is it necessary to have a team working in one office in order to coordinate effectively? If I were writing this article 10 years ago, I would say ‘yes!’, but many perspectives have changed now, as long-distance work or working in a coffee shop has become very common, especially for online companies. Emails, instant chat services like Skype and different social media do a great job of empowering individuals online and keeping them up-to-date and connected, regardless of their geographical place.
Yet sometimes, those solutions are not always suitable for the work environment. I am speaking from experience, because we at web development company Hsoub have tested many of these solutions, since our team is located in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, UAE and Saudi Arabia. Our biggest problem was scaling our platforms and communcation as our team members grew.
We discovered that social media is often a huge source of distraction and is not always suitable for open and direct discussions. Also, sending emails to massive groups to discuss a subject can be hard to track and unpractical most of the time. As for Skype meetings, ensuring that everyone can attend the conference call without encountering many technical issues in the Arab World can be a waste of time for logistical reasons and can distract the team from its focus.
After researching and experimenting with different solutions, we finally resorted to a solution that worked, and got rid of long meetings and instant chat programs. What we really needed was a virtual office that gathers team members in one place and empowers them to communicate freely. The solution we resorted to was WordPress P2.
WordPress P2 is a free design of WordPress developed by Automattic Company, the company that originally developed WordPress. P2 transforms WordPress into a microblogging platform that can be compared to Twitter, but has more privacy settings and is not limited to 140 characters, of course!
With a few adjustments and additions, P2 has become the virtual office we needed, and we've been using it for 6 months now. During that time, we haven’t organized one team meeting on Skype and we stopped using the emails and weekly reports that we used previously.
P2 is the ideal solution for us because the team is working from different time zones, and we don’t rely on specific working hours. Instead, we measure the performance of completed tasks. Some team members might prefer working in the early morning or during the night or midnight. Instant chatting programs require the presence of everyone at the same time in order to do the discussion. In addition to that, it also distracts and bothers everyone who is trying to work silently. Since we started using P2, the team’s productivity and performance have increased significantly. That is why I think it’s an effective way to remotely cooperate and work in a group.
For an optimized experience, I recommend using the below additions in WordPress P2:
- Password Protected: This addition protects WordPress using a password to forbid anyone outside the team from accessing the blog and reading what’s published on P2.
- P2 Resolved Posts: You can add a button for the topics that are going to be published, so it’s marked as Unresolved. This is useful for determing fast tasks that individuals can complete within the team. For instance, if you want to assign one of the team members to solve the problem or follow up on it with one of the clients, you can mark the demand as Unresolved and it will show in red so the person sees it clearly, and once the task is done they can mark it as Resolved to inform you that the task is completed.
- Who’s Online: This feature shows the people that are currently connected to P2 and when they were connected the last time, which facilitates the tracking team member’s activity especially when they are given a determined task.
Using WordPress P2 is like using any other web application; you need to install it on your website or host it from any of the companies that offer hosting services. Still, it costs less than other similar solutions like Yammer. Also, since WordPress and P2 are both open source, it's easy to personalize your company's interface, unlike it is on other commercial solutions.
Abedalmohimen is the Founder and Executive Director of Hsoub, a web development and internet services company in the Arab World.
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