Are your teams working at home yet?
More and more organizations have rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Most modern business operations are still super dependent on face-to-face interaction. A lot of leaders are scrambling to figure out how to effectively manage newly remote teams and ensure that teams are still productive. We are fortunate at SolutionStream because our teams have always been distributed. We have an office in Utah, but we also have developers, designers, and product managers that work all across the United States, and by necessity, we have had to figure out how to build and manage remote teams in a way that ensures the teams have chemistry, team cohesion, and accountability. We believe strongly that remote teams can thrive and develop successful and innovative products and be just as effective as teams whose members are all co-located.
Here are some tips to help your teams continue to deliver great results and avoid going stir-crazy:
Do it on video!
The importance of heavily using video conferencing cannot be emphasized enough. Regular face to face communication is vital to create a feeling of teamwork and to ensure that people are communicating well. Phone calls just aren’t the same. You need to see the whites of each other's eyes. You need to see reactions and facial expressions and emotional impact of words. And don’t join a video call with your video off because then it is just a phone call again. Make video face-to-face communication a priority.
Using a formal agile management process facilitates accountability and predictability across a team. We are a scrum shop and the formality of scrum ceremonies allows us to have better visibility into productivity and a framework for a team to share accountability. Scrum also ensures that everyone has clear tasks that they're are committing to and accomplishing and an understanding of what everyone else on the team is working on. This is especially powerful when it's practiced throughout an organization even up through the executive level.
Use collaboration tools!
There are so many amazing tools that allow everyone on the team to see the same information and easily collaborate on it. Here are just a few:
- Miro for whiteboarding and sticky mapping.
- Stories on Board for user story maps.
- Jira for managing all the tasks and the day-to-day.
- Slack for chatting and written communication.
- Google Suite for a wide variety of collaborative work.
To make collaborative tools even more effective, use the tools in conjunction with video conferencing as part of every conversation.
Even if you feel like you are communicating like crazy, it probably isn’t enough. One of the biggest challenges for remote teams is misunderstandings and miscommunication. Tools like Slack feel like they are helping us communicate better (and often they do) but the written word can also make it easy to misunderstand intentions. Also, typing can slow the conversation substantially compared to a video conversation. Again, the key to fixing this lies in heavily using video conferencing tools. Encourage your team to regularly take the conversation off Slack (or other written communication channels) and onto video to ensure clarity of communication.
Isolation and loneliness are real problems for remote workers and teams. As a leader, you need to make sure that people still feel teamwork, trust, and personal interaction. They need to feel like they are part of something bigger and feel like they are working toward a clear goal. Your team also needs social interaction with each other to feel camaraderie. Schedule regular online social interactions between your team members and encourage team members to have watercooler style conversations regularly. Have virtual lunches or virtual cocktail hours for your teams to let down their guard and communicate more casually.
Do you have suggestions for remote teams? Please share them in the comments section.
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