A lot of founders work remotely at the beginning of their project. They might still have day jobs or live very far away from each other. Or, like us, they just don’t want to go through the hassle of finding an office. Working remotely comes with a lot of communication problems that can seriously hold you back if not addressed. However, it is possible, with the right tools, to be very efficient remotely.
There are two forms of communication: asynchronous and synchronous. Communicating synchronously means that all the interlocutors are communicating at the same time. This is usually the case for all voice-based communications. In a synchronous conversation, people expect an instantaneous response from the other participants.
On the other hand, asynchronous communication entails letting people take part in the conversation when they
want to. For that to work, asynchronous communications need to rely on a written exchange. It is not possible to have an oral conversation where response arrive every few hours. Examples of asynchronous communication media include texts, chat and email.
Most people use both forms of communications naturally, but often applied to the wrong usecases. It is not rare to see people send an email and expecting a quick answer, or conversely to see people engage in oral conversations that really should have been asynchronous because the matter under discussion is not urgent.
When you work remotely, you need to nail your asynchronous communication even more perfectly than when you have an office, because the alternatives are phone or conference calls that are notoriously inefficient. At the same time, this is a blessing in disguise, since you will not convene useless meetings and disturb people just because everyone is a few steps away.
Learning to be patient and accept the asynchronous character of most communications is hard enough, but if you use the wrong tools (or no tools at all except email) it will be almost impossible.
In our company, we use Hipchat to chat about everyday matters, Trello to drive our product management and follow what’s going on at a high level and Github to collaborate and converse around code. We only use email
for announcements or things that don’t require answers, because email discussions are a pain to follow, filter and organize.
We feel that the chat room is the base of all remote communications, so let’s have a look at how we use it. Our chat room is divided into channels in order to compartmentalize conversations and follow them more efficiently: we have a Work channel for everything that’s related to work and concerns the three of us. We have a Lounge channel for everything that’s not work. And then we have one-on-one chats that are great to discuss things that don’t concern the third person, like asking questions. Finally, we have channels that are entirely dedicated to notifications from Github. They make following all the coding activity extremely fast and simple. Hooking up HipChat with Github is straightforward and increased our productivity tremendously.
Image by Flickr user Images Money