Working remotely is seemingly a benefit brought to us by 2020 with many companies and employees embracing the “work from home” work style. However, making the switch can be tricky, especially if you are a collaboration based team, like in software development.
Here at Codebots, we pride ourselves on our flexible working arrangments and being able to move with ease between working from the office and our homes. So we’ve collected some tips and tricks to help prepare your team to work remotely.
Clear communication channels
The most important thing to maintain across workstyles is the ability to communicate effectively. If your workplae only uses electronic mail, it’s time to investigate quicker and easier ways of communicating such as online chat and video calls. These tools are a more engaging way to communicate and will mean your team is more responsive and proactive when working remotely.
A lot of bigger offices use online chat services for inter-office chat already, think Microsoft Teams, Slack or Mattermost.
Online chat is a simple and effective way of sending information to team members, including sending links to tasks, asking questions, sending a video conference meeting link, and even notifying the team of a sick day. This allows employees and managers to stay connected throughout the day, with real-time notifcations, which means you don’t miss out on anything important. Providing your team with an easy-to-use online chat is one of the best steps you can take to ensuring your team feels connected and supported whilst working remotely.
Virtual face-to-face conversations
Nothing beats a real-time, face-to-face conversation, but video conferences is as close you get when it comes to working remotely. Zoom is a service that allows you to simulate all of those important in-office conversations; including one-to-one catch-ups, as well as team and company wide meetings.
We’ve found that video chat has allowed us to feel connected and has also provided us some much needed structure: daily huddles (check-ins), weekly progress reports, and virtual team-building events can all be conducted over Zoom. No need to fear the dreaded “zoom-bombing”, just make sure your security settings are set so no one can just “drop in” and you’re all sorted to have those important conversations face-to-face! (well, virtually face-to-face).
Cloud based everything
In software companies, like most collaborative spaces, having cloud based software is almost a given. Cloud based software allows for real-time collaboration between and within teams. Examples include project management software such as the Atlassian Suite, suitable for software and business projects using scrum or kanban methodologies, and DevOps program GitLab. Having all your work in one easily accessible, secure place allows for a seemless transition between working from the office and working remotely.
Using new software can be daunting, so make sure you introduce documentation around these new communication tools as soon as possible to get your employees up to speed, weed out any issues you see arising, and of course, make sure your channels are secure!
Structure, structure, structure
Another huge challenge for remote teams is the lack of structure in comparison to an office environment. Of course the flexibility of working from home can be wonderful, but it is important to find the balance between a typical 9-5 work day and a work from your bed situation.
Encourage your team leaders to do regular check-ins with their team. A leader’s availability in these times plays a huge role in determining how supported your employees feel. Leaders need to be able to maintain their “go to person” status, unblock work, offer advice, and review things as needed. Some things you can implement to make this easier is to have daily mini-meetings, or huddles, where your team lead checks in and runs through the tasks for the day. This helps everyone stay focused on current goals whilst still allowing the team to feel connected, especially when working remotely.
When we say structure is important, we mean all of it. Not just the day-to-day but the long-term company attitudes. Your company’s paperwork needs to reflect the expectations and challenges that come from a remote working environment (and these need to be expressed clearly to your employees).
It’s important to ensure that your policies and team expectations are outlined and easily accessible for all employees, for example you could make these available on a cloud based document manager, such as Confluence.
The mental impact of a global crisis is huge and work is such a big part of every employees’ life - they need to know you support them and what resources you have put in place to ensure not only the success of the company as a whole but of every individual employee as well.
Trust and balance
Trust is a huge part of having a remote workforce. Being able to trust your employees to maintain a standard of work whilst at home may seem like a given, but it can be a little tricky. Remember to set realistic excpectations and check-in with your team regularly to ensure they are staying on track.
Here at Codebots, we actually noticed an increase in productivity over lock-down with developers being able to smash out code in isolation. After restrictions eased, we came together as a team to discuss new flexible working arrangements moving forward. We agreed on 2 days in the office and 3 days working from our choice of location. This balance has allowed our teams to make the most out of working from home, put our new policies to use, and see great results from both collaboration and isolation.
You want to make the transition between working in the office and from home as smooth as possible, so creating consistent and transferable ways of working ensures that the only change (as huge as it may be) your employees will go through is one to their physical environment. However, with these tips we hope it will be a seemless as possible and you’ll be better equiped to support them remotely.