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Building bridges: How we collaborate in a virtual workplace

April 09, 2019

With offices in Halifax, St. John’s, and Saint John, NATIONAL’s Atlantic team works on optimizing cross-office collaboration on a daily basis. This is a challenge in some obvious ways (most notably, FOMO) but it’s also a unique opportunity to hand-pick the best team for a project from a wide and diverse group of individuals.

As a rule, we approach projects with “best teams” in mind―this means bringing subject-matter expertise and passion to projects. And this approach, we have found, is not limited by geography.

I am located in St. John’s, and my colleague Emily is in Halifax. In a recent project, Emily and I seamlessly used several programs and processes, merging digital and content mindsets, across provinces and office locations, to deliver an efficient and effective product to our client.

Here’s how.

In advance, we took a “divide and conquer” approach to get ready for a full website content audit. This type of project includes a review of website analytics, site architecture, linking, user experience, and content, which allows us to make recommendations on structural changes for landing pages and subpages, and adjustments to copy throughout the website. It’s complex, and it requires collaboration. So while Emily developed a detailed sitemap with the digital team, I reviewed the client’s brand, narrative, and strategic direction in relation to the website project. This way, we came together informed and ready to bring our subject matter expertise to the virtual table.

Next, we planned. We booked dedicated time in calendars and planned to work from home or behind closed doors to maintain focus on the project and remove “real world” distractions outside of the digital meeting space we created.

In order to truly dial-in and engage with one another and the content we were reviewing, we used a few programs to help connect:

  1. Zoom: A simple way to host virtual meetings―we used the video, computer audio, and screen share functions, seamlessly and simply.
  2. Google Docs: This is where Emily shared her sitemap. I could see all the additions and contribute where needed, always updating in real-time as opposed to sharing a saved Excel file.
  3. Slack: Emily and I are always sharing quick messages and thoughts on Slack. For this meeting, it acted like a virtual whiteboard, where we could share links, notes, or sections to add to the reporting document that would follow our meeting. By sharing these in Slack, they would not be lost when the Zoom meeting was closed (and allowed for the occasional emoji, of course).

Overall, it’s our culture to connect, with clients and colleagues. It comes naturally. It’s how we do our best work and ensure the best people are on each project. And we never let location affect this. By investing time and thought into these digital meeting processes in advance, we can make projects come together quickly and with very little difficulty, despite the distance.

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Written by Stéphanie Auclair

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