There are a lot of benefits that companies (and individuals) get from working on a remote team. The flexibility to work wherever you feel most productive, the ability to focus more fully on deep work, etc. However, opting to be a remote team does have some tradeoffs. Luckily, there are some tools to help minimize some of these tradeoffs and one of these tools is Tandem (tandem.chat), a virtual office for remote teams.
What is Tandem?
Tandem is a desktop app that simulates a "virtual office," allowing you to see what other people are working on and letting you quickly jump onto a video chat (with screensharing) with the click of a button.
The benefits of using Tandem for remote teams
As a fully remote team, we saw immediate benefits of using Tandem, and we think other remote teams will too.
More spontaneous conversations (for better or for worse)
The ability to spontaneously have a conversation with a co-worker during lunch or swinging by someones desk to ask a question is replaced by a quick ping on Slack and hopping on a video call. It doesn't have the same feeling.
Once we started using Tandem, we noticed an increase in spontaneous conversations. Did that increase productivity directly? Probably not. However, it did give us some opportunities for impromptu brainstorming sessions that led to some cool things.
Tandem also has what are called "rooms" that emulate real-life conference rooms. If you've used Discord before, you're familiar with the concept of voice channels. A Tandem room is essentially a voice channel that anyone can join and it'll automatically connect you to everyone else's audio in that room.
We found that sometimes members of our team would be having a brainstorming chat in a room and another team member would stop by to see what was going on. If these conversations were happening in Slack DMs, it would have been impossible for others to notice a meeting happening and join in on the discussion.
The magic moment for us was when two team members started a discussion in a room, and one by one more people joined until we had 5 people in the call providing valuable feedback for the discussion. Normally, this would not have happened without a formal meeting, but Tandem allowed us to do this on the fly without planning anything.
Better collaboration for remote teams
Tandem is a really well built piece of software. The team behind it did a great job thinking through the user experience, especially when it came to screensharing and collaboration. Having the ability to quickly share my screen with someone and share my cursor with them made getting feedback or troubleshooting an issue a more seamless experience (so much so that I didn't even mind hopping on a call anymore since I knew it would be pretty quick).
Tandem also allows to get on calls a lot quicker than with Slack. When you click on someone's name in the Tandem app, it immediately pulls them into a call with you. The person who did not initiate the call is by default muted and won't hear anything, so if they're in a meeting they won't be disturbed until they click on the Tandem app to fully join the call.
If you give Tandem permission to access certain work apps, you can also jump directly to the app your coworkers are using. For example, if your coworker is editing a doc in Google Docs, clicking on their app will take you to the exact page they are working on so you can quickly work with them.
More transparency = more motivation
One of the cool features Tandem has is showing you what apps other people are working in. Being able to see what other people were doing really motivated me to get things done too. It's hard to procrastinate knowing that someone on your team is being productive.
When I see one of my team members using GitHub or Visual Studio Code, I know they're working on code and that I should try not to bother them with lengthy calls. If I see a team member working on a pitch deck in Google Slides, it might remind me that I owe them a data point for one of their slides.
This transparency also allows my team to know when someone needs help. If I see someone's been in inVision all day long, I can reach out to them and ask if they need help finishing a prototype.
Tandem already has a ton of integrations and are always adding more (https://tandem.chat/integrations).
Remote teams should give Tandem a try
Although you lose some benefits of co-working by going fully remote, you can always count on technology to find a way to even the playing field.
Tandem is a great way to regain some of the lost benefits for remote teams, such as promoting more spontaneous discussions and better collaboration. It really lives up to the "virtual office" tagline they are going for, and it's become a tool my team can't live without.