At work, we have a pretty distributed team. There are team members across the US, in Canada, the UK, the Czech Republic, and Israel. Even though we are spread out, the team interacts very well:
- There are conversations via email, via IRC. Team members are good about communicating that way so everyone is in the name the room.
- Collaboration tools like etherpad allows the team to edit documents as if they are in the same room.
- Code sharing via git, github, etc allow for code reviews by peers across multiple time zones
All of this means that, although distributed, the team knows each other very well. They communicate often, and provide better code because of their collaboration.
A while ago, one one team, we started to use Google Hangouts for our Friday Scrum calls. As much as a pain as it was to get going the first week or two.. this has been a huge improvement for morale and general team dynamics. Being able to see folks faces, even if only for 10 minutes every week, really seems to bring the team together. Yes, it forces the remotees to wear pants onc a week. But, I think it provides a bit of that “being in the office” which the non remotees get just because of there they sit. I have spoken with other teams who are using this, and they all agree on the benefits.
So, for anyone with remote teams.. especially if you are using SCRUM or another agile process. Look into Google Hangouts. I guarantee the team will appreciate it.