My Digital Office, or MDO for short, is a virtual office space that seeks to bring the benefits of a physical office to distributed teams. MDO is unique among other virtual office spaces in offering a literal office space for your remote team.
The above image shows the layout of my virtual office space. There's an office, a couple meeting rooms, a lounge and an open space. I'm currently sitting in the lounge, and team members can freely join me if they want to hang out or run ideas by me, just like you could in a physical office. This concept of a virtual office that mimics a physical space feels a little strange at first, but when you think about how you interact with your team in a physical office vs. on Slack, there's certainly a noticeable difference.
Being in the same physical space makes collaboration easier and can keep team members feeling engaged. You lose these benefits when you switch to a remote team primarily interacting through messages and the occasional Zoom call. In addition, it can be hard to know when team members are busy (although Slack has a Google Calendar integration), and when they're free to provide feedback or work on something together.
My Digital Office, by software engineer Wyatt Benno, seeks to bridge all the gaps in remote collaboration tools by providing a single platform for all your remote working needs.
Where You Sit Matters
Where you sit matters. It affects who you socialize with, how people find you, and ultimately your career as a whole.
- Wyatt Benno, Founder at My Digital Office
The core problem MDO seeks to solve is to provide a better way of viewing your team's status beyond just a green circle on Slack. An "online" status could mean a lot of things: your team member could be available, in a meeting, working on a task that requires their complete attention, or watching Netflix with Slack open in the background. Tandem, a remote workspace app, tackled this problem by adding "rich presence" to statuses. You can see exactly what work app your team members are currently working in, and for some apps like Google Docs, you can even see what document they're editing.
MDO tackles the problem in a slightly different way. Users set their own statuses and can provide a link to what they're working on. In the below example, I set my status to "Working on backfill scripts" and linked to the GitHub repository.
On my avatar, you can see a GitHub icon in the bottom right, indicating I'm working on code. If you click on my avatar, you can see my full status. The fact that I'm sitting in the office implies I'm either waiting for someone to join me for a meeting, or I did not want to be interrupted. Either way, my team knows not to disturb if they didn't already have a meeting scheduled.
Collaborate More Efficiently
If someone joins my room, they can type in the room chat that's specific to the room we're sitting in. No one else will get pinged by our messages, and we can have a discussion without worrying about bothering other people. If they want to discuss something that requires screen sharing, they can launch a screen share or built-in whiteboard with one click.
Thanks to the detailed status feature on MDO, you can also see what team members are working on without having to ask. Users also have the option of setting tasks and marking them as "in progress" or "completed", so your team can know the status of a task without needing to ping you. One of the challenges of working remotely for our team has been working on tasks that are dependent on input or deliverables from other team members. Using MDO, we can now eliminate the step of asking about progress and get to work right away when something is marked complete.
You can also create tasks for yourself and others easily. From the homepage, you can click on the check mark to create a new task. We've found that we tend to talk about tasks in Slack channels and DMs, but we often forget to log them as specific action items and assign them to people. MDO streamlines this by allowing you to double click any chat message to log and assign it as a task.
A big reason we created the Aloa Platform for managing outsourced software projects is because we felt the existing options didn't handle asynchronous conversations very well. When you're working across time zone differences, no one likes to wake up to 100 Slack messages, and there could be easily action items or major decisions lost in those messages that you will never read. MDO provides chat rooms for short-term conversations that disappear when everyone leaves the room. For items that need to remain, you can log them on the task board, which is a permanent fixture.
MDO offers a free plan for up to 3 users with access to all basic features that we've outlined in this review. If you upgrade to premium, you'll get up to 20 users for $99/month, plus the ability to customize your office and even select an office phone number, as well as file storage. Elite, which is $250/month for up to 50 users, adds API access to your plan so you can do more complex reporting if necessary.
All their plans are for a flat fee, which is unusual in the SaaS space where we tend to see per-user fees.
Is My Digital Office a Good Fit For My Team?
All these features sound great, but how do you determine whether or not to make the switch to MDO for your remote working needs? See if you resonate with any of the following statements:
- I often don't know whether I can ping someone or if they're busy
- I have to follow up with coworkers to see if they've finished a task that my work is dependent on
- Slack is too "synchronous" for me. It feels like if I look away for 5 minutes, I'm super behind on the conversation
- I feel like action items get lost in chat messages and don't get tracked or aren't followed through
- My team works across multiple time zones and waking up to 100 messages is a nightmare
- "Water cooler" conversations can inspire ideas and provide team members with valuable input
- I don't feel as engaged with my team when working remote
If you resonate with any of the above statements, My Digital Office might be a good fit for your team. However, if you find having to set a detailed public status and having public tasks to be a nuisance and think it feels like you're being micro-managed, then MDO may not be a good fit.
Applications Outside of Remote Working
My Digital Office has seen success in other spaces too, such as universities. A Japanese professor uses My Digital Office with her students so they can interact with each other and attend her office hours.
You can see how she set up a lounge for her students below, with a lot of seating and even a pool where students could hang out.
Whether you're a remote team, a professor looking to engage your students, or simply looking for a better solution to collaborating online, My Digital Office can be configured to work for you. Since there's a free plan, we encourage you to sign up and give it a spin.