Staying on top of work when working remotely

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

A big reason we are productive when working in an office setting is the ability to interact with our team, solve problems as they come up, and to achieve a shared objective — day in and day out. However, with pandemic response across the country requiring all workers be remote, a lot of companies are having to figure out how to work remotely — and fast. While a big part of going remote has to do with technology, there is also an equally big part that’s driven by the process we use when working remotely.

In the age of the Internet, VoIP and social media, going “fully remote” in 2020 is easier than ever — but to be just as productive as a team requires some modifications in how we approach remote work.

Here are some tips I have gathered from 2 decades of managing remote teams:

Organize yourself: Build your digital workspace

The biggest hurdle for working remotely is the inability to see what everyone is working on, and to coordinate what’s being done. The first thing a remote team needs to do is to have a common place that they can share their documents and their thoughts. I like to create a secure, shared folder either on the Intranet (preferred) or an online portal — some place that is reliable and can be secured with Multi-factor Authentication.

Both Google (Gsuite) and Microsoft (Office 365) have such online portals that connect with their versions of Word Processing tools — and they are both very good options that I have used in the past.

Bonus tip: Share your documents online rather than attaching to emails — this will ensure you will all have access to the latest version of the document and avoid confusion.

Coordinate: Use your communication tools

The most important coordination tool for a remote team is in fact, the Calendar. Everyone has one, but when you are working in an office with desks within visual range, we seldom block each other’s calendar, opting instead to walk over. That (meeting in person) is in fact, the best way to communicate, but doesn’t lend itself to remote team settings.

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Getting in the habit of using the calendar for one-on-one meetings (to share your screen or video) as well as group discussions is the single most important behavioral change one can do.

Online chat tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Chat are also equally important in a remote setting. These tools allow users who may be temporarily offline or “AFK” to respond when they can.

Meet Regularly (Online)… but keep it short

The third most important communication tool is the online meeting / audio / video / screen share application. I have used Zoom, Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams, Slack and others — and they are all quite adequate. Amazon Chime is also a good option and so are join.me and Webex.

Organize governance meetings (daily cadence is best when working fully remote) with the entire team and get everyone on the same page. As the meeting host, it is very important to have a set agenda for every meeting — and never have a meeting longer than necessary. As a rule of thumb, daily governance meetings should never be more than 30 minutes long.

If you have multiple teams that need to coordinate with each other, have a hand-off document online, which describes what was done and what needs to be done… and setup a hand-off meeting so the team that takes over knows what is critical.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Phone calls still work well for direct communication. If your team is in-country but remote, don’t hesitate to call direct — it doesn’t have to always be VoIP and screen-share to speak with just one person.

While it is important to have everyone on the same page every day, it is also equally important to set weekly goals for the team (or sub-team). A remote team is only effective when it is able to meet business objectives just as efficiently as when everyone works in the office. Having measurable short-term, weekly goals are key to ensuring things are on-track.

And finally…

Be very careful of what you share online. If you use free online tools, do not share sensitive official documents. And most importantly, always use secure communications. Be safe online!

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