During these trying times, the world is learning together how to collaborate remotely. Working effectively across time and space is challenging under normal circumstances, and is even more so in times of uncertainty. On top of that, many teams have been caught flat-footed by the sudden change in ways of working caused by COVID-19.
As I wrote earlier this year, effective collaboration is all about designing time. When people work with each other remotely, setting up meetings, achieving purposeful outcomes, providing clear direction for what happens after the meeting, and making meetings fun requires more discipline and even more mindful attention to the participants. Chances are that everyone in your online meeting is distracted by something in their living space. For example, I find switching between work and personal life very challenging in a remote setting. Transitioning from pressure-packed business meetings one minute, to “quality time” with the kids another minute, can be overwhelming. This is important for time designers to know because participants can bring such mental baggage to meetings, which can lead to distractions. Since we cannot read the room as easily as we can in person, the ability to make course corrections in real-time is difficult.
A major component of time design are the technologies that enable remote meetings. Through my experience collaborating with global teams at Moonshot and teaching at Northwestern, I’ve observed a range of emotions when it comes to virtual collaboration: anxious, overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated to name a few.
One of the reasons people experience those feelings is that the landscape of virtual collaboration tools for designing time is so broad. From video conferencing, to chat, to digital whiteboards, a lot of the existing platforms offer redundant features and are not always simple to figure out. Are all video conferencing tools the same? Which platform should I use for messaging? Where the heck did my digital sticky note go???
Time designers need more than a smattering of technologies. They need a framework for understanding how the ecosystem of tools fit together to meet their broader needs of keeping their teams focused and productive. Because for many companies, virtual may be the way forward permanently, long after COVID-19 runs its course.
To help, we’ve created the Time Designer’s Virtual Tool Chain. Our goal is to share a perspective for bringing these tools together in a more purposeful way. We’ve focused only on technologies used for virtual meetings, not virtual work in general. As such, tools like InVision, Figma, and Atlassian are not included. Our Virtual Tool Chain is all about helping businesses and individuals figure out how to manage one of your company’s most precious assets: time.
We hope this visual brings clarity to you and your teams in these uncertain times. We’d love to hear which combinations of tools you use to bring people together with purpose.