You should have already downloaded and installed Skype as part of your onboarding process, and hopefully you’ve already been added to the AvaCon Staff group chat. If you have not yet been added to the group chat, please contact your supervisor for more information.

How AvaCon Uses Skype

As mentioned in the New Employees welcome page, one of the critical differences between working in a physical office and working in an entirely distributed team is the extra effort needed to communicate with each other. In an office where you see someone in person every day, it’s easy to ask a quick question or give a quick status update. It requires a little more effort to do that when everyone is working from a remote location.

Fortunately, we can somewhat replicate that experience of being able to have a quick chat by using Skype group channels. The AvaCon Staff group chat serves as a partially synchronous, partially asynchronous way for everyone to keep in touch. You should feel comfortable asking questions, giving brief updates about something you’re working on, or even having those “water cooler” conversations that might happen in a physical office.

We ask our staff to install Skype on their computers, laptops, or mobile devices, and set it so that Skype is logged in all the time.

Does this mean I have to be available all the time?

You are not expected to be available on Skype every minute of every day – none of us are! But as a general rule, we keep Skype installed and running on all of our desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones 24/7, so that whenever we do get a moment to take a look, at whatever time day or night, we can glance at the chat to see what is being discussed. Even if you don’t have time to read back through all the chat, just seeing that there has been activity on the channel that day may alert you that something is going on!

Using Skype to Keep in Touch

During busy periods, or when we’re planning or running an event or activity, the Skype channels become crucially important to coordinating our activities. We often set up separate groups or channels to bring in collaborators or others we’re working with for projects.

We also use Skype for conference calling in voice, and we use it to keep each other informed about our progress or what we’re working on. In between the busy periods, it is just as important that you keep in touch, check in, or even just say hi, and that helps everyone feel and stay connected as a team, even when the pace of the work may slow down.

The line between friendly chit-chat and off-topic chat

There’s a fine line between keeping things open, friendly, and flexible enough that we can all feel comfortable popping in to say hi or chatting to get to know each other, and keeping things topical about AvaCon and its work. We do want that social, personal, friendly chit-chat to take place, but we don’t want the chat channels to become so full of fluff chat that it crowds out the work chat. It can be very daunting for someone to come back to their desk and see that there are hundreds and hundreds of new messages on Skype since they last looked, and even a bit frustrating if they take the time to read back through it all and the chat was largely personal and not work related.

How to manage that balance between personal chat and work chat is an ongoing experiment, and we ask that you use your best judgement about where that line is – and to remember that you can always IM someone outside of the group if you want to engage in a deeper conversation with each other.