The ‘remote work trend’ is becoming increasingly common, especially for forward-thinking companies that have come to terms with the fact that top talent is geo-dispersed – the best developers and product owners from your team may be anywhere in the world.
The challenge with a remote team, however, is the ability to create the right workflow. First of all, you’re all in different time zones. Secondly, you don’t have the benefit of hopping into a conference room to brainstorm and talk through conflict. And then there’s the toughest part of remote work – it’s incredibly hard to build interpersonal connections.
Processes that are natural in an office take dedicated focus and strategic planning for remote teams. Here are some tips to help you implement high-impact processes and workflows:
Step 1: Plan Consistent, Productive Video Meetings
Face-time is invaluable for building strong relationships – and video is the second-best option when your team is scattered all over the world. The challenge with video meetings; however, is that they’re clunky and awkward. Inevitably, someone’s microphone is acting up, and somebody else is working in his or her pajamas.
The key to making video meetings work is to set standards ahead of time. Recommend video and audio equipment for your team to use – a high-quality headset and external microphone. Ensure that all company laptops have a high-quality webcam.
Choose your meeting software ahead of time – Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting are two strong options – and ask team members to test their software 5-10 minutes before logging into a meeting.
With some simple, ahead-of-time planning, your video meetings will be much more enjoyable and productive.
Step 2: Set up Policies for Your Team Chat Software
Development teams often use tools like GChat, HipChat, and Slack to stay connected. The challenge with these tools; however, is that they’re relatively new communication mediums. People know how to use them and why they’re important, but managing communication is challenging.
When should you use chat vs. email? Is ‘water cooler’ talk okay? Should you sent a group message, or message specific team member 1:1?
These deceptively simple questions are challenging to navigate – it’s definitely worth compiling an employee playbook so that team members know how to use chat effectively and constructively. Talk about these points of confusion openly so that chat participants know that they’re not alone – it can be embarrassing to ask a question about something that seems extremely straightforward.
Step 3: Make the Best Out of Time Zones
It may seem incredibly frustrating to be worlds apart from your team members – but you can actually use time zones to your advantage.
Developers can build workflows to tag-team initiatives. When one country shuts down, another can pick up and move projects forward.
When testing and creating systems for approach, you’ll quickly realize how important it is to be disciplined about your communication. You’ll need to be incredibly clear in your commenting, make sure that files are easily accessible, and have thorough structure in place for delegating next steps.
Without this careful planning, even the best development teams can feel lost and fall flat. Strong communication will yield even better code.
Step 4: Encourage Plenty of 1:1 Time
Remote work makes teamwork a challenge. Employees are often in their own worlds, communicating with their managers only.
That’s why it’s important for managers to take a step back and encourage plenty of 1:1 time between team members and direct reports – that way, they’re working together and relying on one another to collaborate.
Managers should find opportunities to delegate and encourage team members to find solutions among themselves – regardless of where they might be in the world.
You Pick #5
Are you part of a geo-dispersed team within your organization? What lessons have you learned, and what challenges have you overcome? Share your favorite tip in the comments section below.