With the number of COVID-19 cases rising, government officials around the world are taking various measures to stop the virus spread by canceling events, issuing warnings against public gatherings and closing offices. Many organizations are faced with the reality of remote work and not all of them are ready.
Our team has been enabling clients to manage distributed teams for over 15 years. We know that it could take some time to transition to remote for some businesses. Many of our clients were skeptical at first, refusing to see alternative approaches to achieving a goal and claiming that their processes are unique and can’t be changed. However, with time they learned to embrace and appreciate distributed culture.
Here are some tools to make the transition to remote work as smooth as possible:
- Collaboration Instant Messaging (IM) platform: Slack, Microsoft Teams.
- Video conferencing solution: Google Hangouts Meet (if your organization is using GSuite), BlueJeans Networks, Zoom. Do not hesitate to jump on a quick call, it’s much more productive than sending multiple messages back and forth.
- Document collaboration tools: Google Drive, Office 365. If you are still sending MS Doc and Excel files over email, stop. Document collaboration tools help your team members encourage close cooperation on documents of any shape and size.
- Task tracking/management: JIRA, Trello. From hosting weekly meetings to brainstorming boards, these tools are essential for distributed teams.
- Virtual Desktop. If you need specific apps that run on the desktop, try Citrix VDI, VMware Horizon, Workspot
- Shared Directory: use the Directory for G Suite, Active Directory for MS. Business directory software is always up to date with all team member’s contact information. It can be especially helpful in emergency situations. Your team members can do a quick search, not only by name, but by location, department or job title and reach the matter of minutes .
- Knowledge base: Confluence, Basecamp, SharePoint, Google Docs. Knowledge is your company’s primary asset. A well-organized internal knowledge base is a must for any organization, especially in a distributed team setting. It allows the sharing of information and knowledge across various departments. It may include product information, FAQs, manuals, troubleshooting guides, and other important information your team may want or need to know.
Additional things to keep in mind.
Define and Manage Expectations
When transitioning a team to remote work, it’s important to outline expectations, share them with everyone on your team, and update them regularly. Clearly define goals, schedule weekly one-on-one check-in meetings to connect on your goals, upcoming projects, and daily tasks.
Be explicit about your expectations. Clearly define parameters and deadlines and make sure that everything is understood. For example, if you need weekly progress reports from your team, make that clear.
Our engineering team sends each other daily progress reports – just a few sentences to the team Slack channel or mailing list. This way, everyone knows who is doing what. It also helps people to reflect on what they actually did that day and plan for what needs to be done the next day.
Create Clear Communication Guidelines
When it comes to distributed teams, it’s easy to let communication fall by wayside. Clear communication guidelines are important and should be shared with everyone on your team. Don’t forget to include things like how the team prefers to communicate (phone, video conferencing or IM platform). What’s your expected email turnaround time? Here at Digamma.ai, we like to acknowledge receipt of valid emails as soon as possible. It’s usually a simple reply stating “got it”, “received it”, “working on it”. Remember, your coworkers can’t see you nodding.
When does your team prefer to communicate? Include regular meetings, certain dates and times, be mindful of team member’s time zones. Always send calendar invites, even for short calls. Pay attention to who accepts and declines the invites. When it comes to meetings, don’t overdo it, keep them short and informative.
Increase Productivity and Minimize Interruptions
Distributed teams can be very productive when they are given the right information and tools, but there is still a risk of interruptions that can disrupt your team member’s workflow.
Shared calendar is a simple and effective way to balance the workload and give managers a better idea of each team member’s current projects, availability, and working pattern. They also make planning meetings a breeze.
Create a Virtual Water Cooler
Switching to remote work can be stressful and isolating, especially during a time of crisis. Create an environment where your team members can interact and support each other. This can help with so-called “Cabin Fever” that many remote workers experience or in this case “Quarantine Fever”.
Our team has a Slack watercooler channel that we use for informal break-time chatter. We share jokes, pet and family photos, and discuss various non-work-related topics. This helps us get to know each other as people, not just co-workers.
Do you have any tips of your own? Please share them in the comments.