Nowbridge: A useful tool for bringing teams together

Disconnected. That’s how we reckon many Wellingtonians must feel while their office buildings get assessed for earthquake damage. Of course, most, if not all, will work from home. However, being separated from work colleagues is not always so great — sometimes, there is just no substitute for face-to-face communication.

The age of connectivity

The world has never been more connected. As a result, we can enjoy flexible working arrangements and communicate in real-time with anyone on the planet.

‘Connectivity’, though, comes with a price. And, ironically, many workers actually feel more isolated and less connected.

This is because, even though office politics is a drag, interacting with colleagues fosters a feeling of camaraderie and togetherness.

Connecting teams

Nowbridge is an application that takes photos using the camera on your computer screen.  Every few seconds, these photos are exchanged with those of your contacts.

Rick, is a project manager for a property development company. Though based in Wellington, his team resides in Auckland. He explains that before Nowbridge, it was hard to keep track of everyone’s availability.

“I use Nowbridge every day. It allows me to see who is in the office. So, if I want to talk to them, I know whether they are available—it’s like a virtual office,” says Rick.

Privacy?

Now, if you think Nowbridge sounds like “Big Brother’, Rick says it is nothing of the sort and is no different to working in an office environment.

“You control who you connect with and when, and you can only be seen by the people you can see. If you’re not in the office and your computer isn’t on, the other person just sees a blank screen.”

He points out that there is no sound and none of the images are recorded.

One of the main benefits, Rick explains, is it provides the illusion of being together, which is important when working on joint projects.

“As an employee, you feel part of the team, so your behaviour is similar to if you worked in an office,” says Rick.

Also, don’t worry about offending someone whose face you don’t want to see every day. If you choose not to connect with a colleague, they will just see a black space where your image should be. For all they know, you could be out of the office or not using Nowbridge.

For those in Wellington

Luckily, Rick wasn’t affected by the recent earthquake. However, he believes Nowbridge would be a an ideal solution for reconnecting displaced workers.

If you would like to learn about Nowbridge, see the website at www.nowbridge.com.

Remote Working for Office Workers

Even if you work in an office it is great to work remotely from time to time.  Working remotely can be very productive if you are properly set up.  You might consider working from home one day a week to get some time away from the distractions and interruptions of office life.  Here are some suggestions to make working remotely easier.

1. Have a remote office

Even if you only work remotely occasionally, try to have a dedicated space with a desk, a phone and a computer where you can work in peace and comfort.

2. Use remote access

You can always carry a computer with you but try to get into the habit of accessing your work computer remotely, for example with Remote Desktop Connection which is built into Windows.  That way you have access to your work computer but without the need to carry it around, avoiding the risks of loss or damage.  If you don’t know how to remotely access your computer here are some instructions or talk to your office IT administrator. Remote access can be configured to share the clipboard between machines so copying and pasting between your remote and work computers is possible. You can also set it up to print on your remote printer from your work computer. To use remote access you need to leave your work computer running.

3. Consider an IP phone

Some IP phones can be configured to ring simultaneously in two or more locations. You can set this up so that your desk phone at work will also ring in your remote office so you can pick it up wherever you are.  Having an IP phone in your remote office that is connected to your corporate PABX means you can have a second line at no extra cost to keep your home line free (if you have one) and you can dial your colleagues using extension short dial numbers to speed things up.  Good IP phones allow you to conference in more than one caller at a time or you can use a teleconference facility for group discussions.

4. Use Nowbridge

Nowbridge helps overcome many of the issues that can arise from working remotely.  When you use Nowbridge you can see and be seen by your colleagues just as you can when you are at work.  This helps to stay in touch with and feel part of a team and it helps to overcome the feelings of isolation that might otherwise arise.

5. Use video conferencing

Video conferencing with applications such as Skype or Appear.In is almost the same as meeting in person but can save a lot of travel.  It is possible to join multiple parties to the call.  If your call would disturb others, consider using headphones with a built in microphone.  Having two cameras can make it easier to use both Nowbridge and video conferencing.

6. Use cloud-based services

There are lots of services and productivity tools that can be accessed through the cloud. Consider using those that are relevant to you to make it easier to access information direct from your home computer. For example, One Note and Evernote are much better than physical notepads because you can access your notes from any device.

7. Dress for work

Consider dressing as if you are going into the office. This allows you to draw a mental distinction between when you are ‘at work’ and when you are not, even if you work from home.

8. Minimize distractions

Working remotely occasionally or often can be productive and effective, but it is important to minimize any distractions within your remote environment.

9. Remember to take breaks and keep regular hours

It is easy to get absorbed in your work when you are away from the distractions of the office so remember to take breaks from time to time.  Unless you are very busy or it suits your way of working, avoid the temptation to work outside business hours so you maintain the right balance with your other priorities.

10. Make time for exercise

When you work from home you miss out on your daily commute.  That saves time but it might mean you don’t take as many steps in the day.  Use some of the time you save by not having to commute to go for a walk or do some exercise at some time during the day.

Remote workers can stay in the picture

Woman's hands keyboarding on net-book while sitting in cafe

People working remotely are sometimes out of sight, out of mind.  This works both ways.  Those in the office can forget about their remote colleagues and so leave them out of key discussions and decision making.  Those who are working remotely can feel isolated and disconnected from the team.  In the office interaction is easy and so there are frequent micro-interactions: you can ask your neighbor a quick question or pass on a comment in a very natural way.  Communicating remotely with someone could involve ringing or emailing them without knowing if they will answer right away – potentially wasting your time or getting a response too late to be useful.

Technology can help to overcome these issues.  Video chat rooms are very powerful for interacting at a distance, although they need to be arranged.  Things like status indicators can help show when people are present and available.  The most accurate form of status indicator is a recent photo.  Nowbridge exchanges small still images between contacts every few seconds to convey the illusion of being together.  Remote workers have to compromise a degree of their privacy just as they do when they are in the office but they gain a visual connection to those they work closely with that can overcome the distance between them.

Introducing Nowbridge

Nowbridge is a new concept in on-line presence.  Whether you work in a large office or remotely, you can’t always be with the people you are closest to.  Wouldn’t it be useful if you could see them though?

Nowbridge exchanges small still images every few seconds with your contacts.  You can see if they are there, if they are free, so you can ask a quick question knowing you will get a reply.  You will feel part of a team even if you are alone.

The exchange of images on Nowbridge is mutual so you can only be seen my the people you can see.  You can control who you connect with and when.

Nowbridge is not like a chat room.  You can connect with anyone on Nowbridge whether or not you are part of a group.  You can set up groups on Nowbridge but each member can still individually choose who they connect to and when.

Nowbridge is not intended to replace your other means of communication.  Instead, it works along side those other methods, allowing you extra visibility of those you are closest to.