Working Remotely is Hard, but So Worth it!06 Sep 2017
What is your first thought when asked about remote collaboration?
Anticipation of endless free time? Fear of not managing your workload? Dread of being cut off from your colleagues in both social and collaborative ways? Or does it make no difference to you where you work from?
Very often, the people we ask about "remote working skills" automatically go for describing the tools they use to facilitate it. And this is great, but having the right tools is not the whole story. Given the great choice of work collaboration tools we are presented with, you are bound to find the one that will suit your needs.
The aspect that requires more attention is the general team communication and attitude towards other team members. But how to manage an attitude towards co-workers that you hardly ever see?
Remote Application of People Skills
Make it clear at what times you are available and stand for these hours - if your status says working from 9 to 5, be reachable at these times. If you need to make a change, leave a note so that the team know when to expect you back - don't annoy them by being mysterious ;)
For deep focus tasks, you may also benefit from introducing a quiet time throughout the day, during which the team know not to disturb you for best results.
Try to act as though you were in the office, even though you're at home. Limit personal calls and breaks to what you'd do at the office. By all means - create a work-dedicated space in your home and dress for work (!). These things will make it easier for you to be at work while staying at home.
Staying on Top of the Information Flow
Getting rid of daily / weekly meetings will have a lot of benefits, but keeping people uninformed may accidentally become one big flaw in this change. There are things that only some people need to be notified of and others, knowledge of which will benefit everyone. When unsure, it is good practice to make the conversation open and accessible to everyone, so that people can catch up on the progress and all going-ons.
For that reason we recommend using Kanban Tool's comments function, which allows you to send a commenting message to someone specific, but everyone else can see it too, to observe how the process flows.
Extra Attention on the Quiet Types
General rule of thumb says no news is good news, but it may not necessarily apply to remote collaboration. It's much better to force a daily update email, chat or call, than to assume things are going well. Teammates who tend to stay too quiet may particularly need to be asked for an update or their input, before their part of the project starts to live its own, separate life and becomes a problem down the line.
Acknowledgement & Recognition
To avoid making remote team members feel lonesome and get an impression as though their efforts flow out into a vacuum without anyone noticing, it's important to recognize what has been done and to let everyone gain access to what was achieved on a whole by the entire team.
Seeing the big picture and getting a shout out for your part in it helps with motivation and understanding of the big picture, which translates directly into better appreciation of one's role.
It's hardly ever the case that nothing can be improved in how teams work - so do try to get better at it. Run periodical recaps to asses how well you work together, keep an idea backlog and experiment with new methods. It's worth being aware that remote collaboration is a deliberate process and that it requires attention from time to time.
Sticking with the Traditional Productivity Tips
Though you're now working at home, don't disregard the regular productivity tips you may have got familiar with when working at the office. Doing the most challenging work first, to have the day get easier with every hour, making a plan for a day and a week, stacking calls & video conferences one next to another and getting regular breaks all add up to making the best of the time you have to do your work. Also while at home.
Engaging a remote team to cooperate on a project can be a great success, but it demands a lot of attention to detail and the right kind of people. Not everyone will intuitively know how to make sense from working in their home, but with the right information and processes in place, it can be done.
And the benefits of running a remote project are great – there is a choice of team members from anywhere on the planet, there are office space cost savings and the team get great flexibility in choosing their hours and methods.
So, plenty of liberty is involved - the only thing that must be present to make it work is TRUST between the team and their manager.