Over the last few months when we’ve spoken about how our team at gemaker works with potential new clients the question always comes up…

“How do you get the best out of your team when they don’t all work in the same office?”

At gemaker, we take an extremely flexible approach to work. Our team work from home at the hours that best suit them so they can deliver gemaker projects with impact. For example – I work best after my morning coffee at 9am – when I can then knock up a decent report in 30 minutes – however if I get up at 7am with no coffee – it’s more likely to take 2 hours…. Other members of our team have family commitments and may work between school hours a few days a week.

We have found there are three key ingredients to ‘getting stuff done’ effectively together:

1) Good regular communication

2) Trust

3) And more communication!!

“But you don’t share an office, how is that possible?”, I hear you say. It doesn’t matter. Here’s how we do it…

1)        Good regular communication

  • Meetings (yes, I can hear you groan): It’s the simple things, but we have a team meeting once a week and smaller specific project team meetings to nut out problems for clients. The person who leads the meeting may be seen a ‘meany’ – but their role is really important as they keep these short sharp and focused – by setting the context, the agenda and time – and then getting the team at the meeting to stick to it.  Sideline discussions may follow after these succinct team meetings for more banter and detail on tasks.
  • Documentation:  We have a weekly task list and the whole team gets a copy. It tells you who is doing what and when it’s due. This is great to help focus the team on immediate requirements and understand what everyone else is doing. We scope out a project with who is going to be involved and to what extent. Then we share the scope with the project team – so each team member can understand the end game and check the impact on projects they are also working on. For long term planning – We practice what we preach, we frequently use our business strategy – on one page.
  • Technology: The good old phone – so easy to dial in multiple parties on mobile phones (click here for how to do it) or we use skype. We share files using dropbox as it’s easiest for clients to connect and we use a simple CRM called capsule as it integrates with other software that we use and doesn’t require a degree to operate. Then of course we use email (not dead yet) and social media (Linkedin group and twitter).

2)        Trust

  • Recruitment: This is fundamental to how we decide who we employ at gemaker.  Our model doesn’t suit everyone, as some people need to be in an office setting with people around them to thrive. Sometimes this takes a little time for people to work out so we start people on a small project, and then work towards bigger ones.
  • Knowing the end game: We have good idea what the outcome needs to look like, how long it takes to deliver whether it’s a market assessment, a business plan or even an infographic. We look at time spent on past projects as an indicator. We set the level of expectation with the team through a plan, and adjust the plan with their input.
  • Macromanagment: We trust our team to deliver and manage their own time to get the job done. The empowerment they feel by not being micro-managed or watched as they work is extremely satisfying.

Our Communications Manager Julie loves working this way and says, “after 15 years of working in the research sector with both micro-managers, and absent managers I’ve never worked in such a collaborative and cohesive team, where the whole team only meets 2-3 times a year!”

We trust, that when our staff have a hurdle in their work they know to… drum roll … to communicate it!

3)        And more communication!!

Face-to-face time is important too. We make time to connect with each other in person – through training days, going to business networking events, team workshops and business planning sessions and of course celebrating events like awards and our birthday.

And we don’t stop there we’re always looking for ways to improve our communication.

It’s simple really; we’ve taken the principles that you would apply to someone working in an office on their own projects…But with flexibility that most of us only dream of.

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