Digital platforms can bring teams together and boost projects, but the real transformation is that they allow us to work with anybody, anywhere
When I went freelance a couple of years ago, I was surprised how similar working with people remotely was to collaborating across a desk in the office. Instant messaging, video calls and cloud computing allowed me to seamlessly work with others across continents and time zones.
I found remote teamwork could be incredibly productive. It’s not only quick to fire off a couple of easy one-liners in Slack or comments on Google Docs, but most communications are focussed and deliberate, which speeds things up. Being able to tune into a Slack channel to catch up on a project, or tap into the hive mind for advice, can be incredibly useful to move projects along.
But it’s not just freelancers – businesses all over the world are adopting instant messaging platforms, such as Yammer or Slack. The latter now has 1bn weekly messages, and 87% of users say that it improved communication and collaboration inside their organisation, stating that it increased team productivity by a considerable 32% (https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/slack-statistics/)
Chatting to other Hoxby’s (on Slack, obviously) everybody confirms that it’s the centre of the organisation and makes them feel connected and part of a team. Katerina Kontogeorgou-Gilbert, Hoxby’s head of marketing, says, ‘It’s amazing how we are all local, yet global. We work from our own home, or a shared workspace, and yet we support each other in ways I’ve never felt while 15+ years in the office.’
Jessica Gray is a digital project manager for Hoxby, who says, ‘I believe people feel more supported at Hoxby, working remotely, than in previous traditional office environments because of how we use Slack. Hoxby has created dedicated spaces within Slack to talk about things that make us human, like our interests including books, being parents, sports, football, food, pets, etc.. We are inviting everybody to join these channels and just be themselves. Slack is particularly effective for teams who understand the value of communication and transparency. What’s the cliche, “it takes teamwork to make the dream work?” Well it’s true. The team has to be willing to write and share and participate. They have to be willing to ask questions and be personal and real.’
Andy Williams, Hoxby’s Operations Director, calls Slack ‘our virtual office’. He says, ‘It’s where we come together to chat about personal things but also projects with clients and help run Hoxby as a community.’
Andy says, ‘Things move a lot quicker on Slack. It seems self-organising. With any project, you have the goals you would like to achieve, but there is no chief whip. Everybody chips in and is contributing. It makes it a lot less hierarchical than the traditional office, where you have to get sign off by a manager or specialist. Anybody can join in the discussion and help to move things forward. It’s a very concise way of collaborating that has its own dynamic.’
He thinks that millennials and organisations that work remotely, like Hoxby, are ahead of the curve, driving a communication revolution, with other generations and traditional offices slower to catch on.
Jon Reay, CEO of rewrite Digital and Hoxby’s digital office tech guru, says, ‘It’s not just the technology that’s changed, it’s people’s openness to it, and that’s really critical to making it work. The more teams embrace such tools, the more value they bring.’
But for me, by far the most significant change has been that – somewhat paradoxically – working from home has massively broadened the range of people I collaborate with, and with it, my skills and professional horizon. In the last couple of years, I have done everything from writing for corporate clients to essays and features for a wide range of national and international publications, working with people from Ukraine to the US. It’s been an incredibly exciting time, which opened up the world for me.
These technologies are not just enabling people to choose when and how they work, but also help organisations like Hoxby to stay agile and respond to the rapidly changing economic conditions. It’s clear that this technology is starting to disrupt the traditional economic structures.
Jon says, ‘When more and more people choose to fight against the daily commute, building the best teams means looking beyond your doorstep. Hoxby’s global community of over one thousand talented freelancers embraces technology and collaboration tools in innovative ways to deliver exceptional results for our clients.’
As a tech writer, I have observed over and over again how technology amplifies existing trends in our society – both, the good and bad. On the one hand, we see more digital services platforms, such as copy mills, which often drive prices and quality down in a depressing race to the bottom. On the other hand, there is the immense potential and promise of technology to emphasise and celebrate what makes us human, putting individuals, communities and ultimately humanity at centre stage.
Technology can automate repetitive tasks to free us up to be more creative, or allowing us to work from home so that we can pick up our kids from school or have the work/life balance that allows us to thrive.
But digital technology can also help us harness our collective intelligence, creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts – from Wikipedia to dynamic projects on Slack, or local environmental pressure groups, these platforms can make us come together in new, spectacular and beautiful ways.
Hoxby’s virtual office
• Slack is the office with channels from #thenewsroom to #hoxby_Pprandjournos as well as Hoxby’s charity causes and of course various channels for each projects. It even has #thewatercooler, where people can just go for a bit of light relief.
• Cloud computing, such as GSuite makes collaborating on documents easy and seamless, even if you’ve different working hours and are based in different countries. Google docs has long been tried and tested and makes commenting and revision quick and easy.
• Basecamp is Hoxby’s project management platform used for allocating responsibilities, scheduling, to-do list and tracking progress.
• MyHoxby is Hoxby’s own platform, which gathers information on associates skills and preferences to match people with projects as well as help Hoxbies to use our tools.