Travel is often a necessary part of business life. It offers potential new revenue streams, but it also provides challenges for keeping in touch with your employees while you’re away. Here are some tips for staying connected to your team.
Collaborate in Real Time
Most of today’s Web-based collaboration and project management tools allow real-time viewing of documents and files. Services like BaseCamp, Google Docs, Smartsheet, and a host of others let you simultaneously work on projects as a team. For example, in Google Docs, a little box in the upper right corner shows when someone else is viewing or working on the document.
Meet Face to Face
What if you need some face time with your team? You could use any range of Webcam programs, such as Skype for one-to-one video chats or Google’s Hangout feature if you want to add up to eight people into a real-time video conversation. (Just make sure you're signed up for Google+.)
If you want voice-only, Skype’s audio teleconference function for a group call works very well. But you could also try FreeConferenceCall.
Share Your Ideas Visually
Screensharing makes a meeting come to life and there are plenty of webinar and webcasting solutions on the market today. Some of my favorites are: Skype, AnyMeeting, which allows you to easily record audio and screen, MeetingBurner and finally, a fast-loading app called BeamYourScreen.
Some people can’t communicate without a marker and whiteboard. If that’s you, then you’ll want to take a look at Gliffy, Lovely Charts (with its iPad edition), and ScribLink. You can instantly invite others to join your session, too.
Monitor Your Office
Sometimes you don't want to communicate, but want to keep an eye on things. An office monitoring solution is an option if you don’t already have a full security system. For example, Sensr is Web based, quick to set up and very affordable. The easiest setup involves purchasing a camera that is FTP-ready; but there are workarounds for built-in webcams, too, with the right software.
Chat with the Group
Twitter is a bit too public for many uses, but Yammer is a similar network that’s private. You could also test out GroupMe (recently purchased by Skype) that allows you to set up group lists and notify everyone with one text message. 37 Signals, which offers the popular BaseCamp, also provides Campfire as a group chat room, plus it works on the iPhone and allows you to make a conference call from within the application.
Your team may need to find you during your travels and the iPhone has a location-based app called Find My Friends, which allows a private group to keep tabs on one another. Android-based smartphones can use Google Latitude for a similar purpose. There are privacy and security features within both services. You could also use FourSquare in creative ways for this purpose, too.
Manage Tasks More Efficiently
My two favorite task management tools are the popular Evernote and lesser-known, but useful task management tool Remember the Milk. With Evernote you have to create a notebook in order to share the file with others, however, it can be a simple task list or whatever you want. Remember the Milk (RTM) is task-focused and lets you share a single task or the entire task list. But you have to invite that person to get their own RTM account in order to share and manage tasks.
You may have to be out of town for business travel, but it doesn’t mean you have to be completely “out of the office.” With today’s Web and phone-based tools, you can stay connected to your team back home.
How do you stay connected when you're out of the office?
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