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For a company that has never attempted remote work, it takes weeks, months, or even years, to make that transition smoothly. However, with Covid-19, we don’t have that flexibility. We need to act quickly. That’s why the whole process won’t be perfect, and you should be fine with that fact.
See what steps you need to take to make the transition to remote work relatively quick and painless.
1. Write down the company’s workflow
With all employees working remotely, it will be harder to control the workflow. That’s why writing down all the processes that happen inside the company is a good start. You need to have a roadmap of all the projects that are happening and the people responsible for each task. Then, you can identify and track dependencies between teams. You can achieve that by embracing asynchronous communication.
One of the tools that might help with that is Jira. It’s a place for tracking work: tasks, progress, and blockers. It’s also a great place for keeping all of the company’s information such as rules, guidelines, feature descriptions, internal knowledge, and more. Read more about it here.
2. Set up core working hours, and be transparent about availability
You need a tool to communicate with the whole team on a daily basis. It can be Slack, Microsoft Teams, HipChat, or any other channel that suits you. It’s important that everyone shares their availability. For example, on Slack you can set up a status informing everyone about your working hours or that you’re currently on a break. You can also agree on core working hours, let’s say 10 am - 3 pm, when everyone is available for others. Smaller teams sometimes prefer to greet each other in group conversations, letting others know they’re ready to work.
Besides everyday availability, you need a place to track each other’s vacation and sick days.
For smaller companies, email might be enough to inform everyone about a planned absence, but for larger businesses, we recommend Google Calendar or Spreadsheet. Having one place to check other people’s availability helps to better plan a project and avoid any downtime.
3. Choose a platform for daily communication with your team
Pick a single platform that serves as your company’s meeting place. You want to avoid people talking across different platforms. Depending on the size of your business, you can pick from a variety of tools. For bigger teams that handle many projects, we recommend Slack. It’s great for chatting and because it can be customized.
It allows users to create:
- Channels for projects: Everything related to the project happens there, and you can easily track it.
- Channels for teams: Teams such as marketing, product, or sales can communicate here.
- Channels for the whole company: Channels like #general or #marketing are a great place to gather people from different departments that are interested in a particular topic. This way developers join #marketing, and marketing people can keep track on #support. It increases the sharing of knowledge and collaboration between teams.
You will also need a tool for teleconferencing. Zoom and Google Meets work great and they make it easy to conduct a group meeting.
4. Establish tools and software for working together
You also need to decide on the tools to use for where the actual work happens. Google Docs may serve you for creating content, spreadsheets with data, and presentations. Dropbox is great for file sharing. Figma is awesome for designing and collaboration between content writers and designers. It has a great option for tracking somebody’s cursor when they present a project. So convenient!
Avoid multiple tools for the same purpose because they might do more harm than good. Also, make sure everyone can access these tools, whether it's with a single account or with 1Password (it’s a password manager for businesses, teams, and families). Recently, they have removed trial limits to help businesses work securely from home.
5. Make sure your team has the right equipment to maintain their work routine
When all the important technical matters are set up, it’s time to take care of your team. Not everyone has a suitable place to work at home. Some people work from the couch (ouch!).
Others don't have room to create a separate place to hide from the kids. Make sure people can take the work equipment they left at the office: desk, chair, headphones, etc. If they didn’t have those things already, try to provide them if it’s possible. Professional headphones can increase productivity significantly. Imagine how much work people can do when they don’t hear kids, neighbors, or construction crews.
Also, some people have issues with their internet. Provide options for employees to access better internet.
6. Help people avoid distractions
Although we want others to be available, it’s important to give them space to focus on their work in solitude. It’s best to come up with a routine with your team without imposing too much. Instead of creating strict rules, make your team part of the process of shaping their new environment. They will be thankful and more engaged.
You can do this by asking people about their routine, the hours they work the best, or how much “alone time” for work they need. If someone works best in the morning, perhaps you don’t have to conduct a daily meeting at 8 am. Maybe it can happen at 10 or 11 am after they finish some of their tasks. Try to adjust to each other!
Also, understand when someone wants to snooze notifications for a while. It requires trust, but let’s hope you do trust your team.
7. Be transparent, and communicate more things publicly
Communication is the most important aspect of working remotely to figure out. Teammates should do their best to be transparent and inform others about the projects they are working on.
Now, we won’t overhear somebody’s work progress in the kitchen, right? It’s important to write down updates and inform everyone about changes. Everyone will read it at a time that is perfect for them. Another thing is to trigger discussions. You all want to stay in touch, so posting interesting articles on the channels, asking questions, and giving feedback should be part of the routine. Especially on the public channels where everyone can join and speak their mind anytime they want.
8. Organize 1 on 1’s
Check in with your teammates. Another reason working remotely is a challenge is because of the social distance. With online calls, it’s hard to know how people are feeling, and not everyone speaks up. Schedule some time to check on people, ask about the challenges they’re facing, and offer solutions. Some won’t handle quarantine well, and some have kids and have a hard time finding their quiet zone. They feel guilty for not being as efficient as usual. Make sure they feel understood and noticed.
It’s not only about results and great work. It’s also about staying positive, healthy, and engaged. One way to connect with them is through videos. Check out our guide to running effective virtual meetings. It includes all the steps you need for running online meetings, as well as icebreakers to get to know your teammates more. Working remotely will be much easier when people feel like they can be open with their leaders about work, health, and any challenges that interfere with their performance.
I hope these steps will make it easier to maintain remote work at your company and keep your teammates engaged. Don’t strive for it to be perfect. Some things you can figure out along the way.