Another guide for remote work? Yes, another one. We know that since the Coronavirus pandemic disrupted the way companies do business, remote working has spiked and everyone is sharing these guides. Yet, we promise that you will find some tips here that you aren’t tired of reading.
How can we be so sure? Well, at BairesDev, we’ve been working with remote teams since our own inception. We made remote working a part of our DNA, simply because our business model called for it. So, in the years we’ve been doing this, we’ve gathered quite a lot of knowledge about how to make this remote thing happen efficiently.
Surely, we’ve made countless mistakes and we tried a lot of things that didn’t work. But it’s precisely that experience that puts us in an unbeatable position to share the tips that actually do work in real life. Thus, we’ve focused on tips for managers of remote teams that are doing this for the first time or for the ones that have some experience but might want to freshen things up a little.
Without further ado, let’s dive into these 5 tips that we promise will work for you during this pandemic and well beyond.
1. Define “Available” Hours and Stick to Them
When people first start working remotely, they find themselves with a lot of feelings. For once, there’s the great joy of being able to work without having to commute (or changing out of their pajamas, for that matter). Then, there’s the perceived freedom to do as they please since they don’t have prying eyes meddling with everything they do. However, they might also feel lost as to things that in the office were pretty menial.
From reaching out to teammates (should they call, send a message, an email, hook them up on video?) to eating lunch, working remotely can change everything. But that’s the thing – that can happen only if you let it. One of the things that we found out helped us most is to define “available” hours and make people stick to them.
Since people working from home don’t have a clear start and end of the day, they might work around the clock and even well beyond the hours they are expected to put in. We surely know about this in software development. So, the way to keep things clear and organized for everyone is to set up strict hours in which everyone is allowed to send emails or call. By doing that you are sending a clear message – you expect everyone to be available during a specific time frame but no one will get in trouble if they don’t answer outside of it.
2. Cameras On for Meetings
It sounds too obvious to be a “golden tip” yet you’d be surprised as to how many people don’t turn on their cameras while on a call. Maybe they are shy, don’t like it, or have simply forgotten about it. Whether the reason, meetings are always best when everyone can see each other (especially during dire times like the ones we’re living).
So, make it a routine to ask everyone to turn their cameras on while on a meeting or one-on-one calls. Even if you end up staring at your respective screens rather than to each other, the sight of people on the other side of the line humanizes the whole thing. Besides, humans are very visual creatures, so you may communicate more clearly if you can see the reactions and gestures of your team.
A suggestion that stems from this one – ask everyone attending a meeting to have their own individual camera, be it the one on a phone or a laptop. Even if some of them are in the same office (we’re guessing that that won’t be happening during quarantine, but still), make sure that you get different cameras. That way, the people working remotely can be more engaged and keep tabs on who’s talking and what they are saying at all times.
3. Don’t Hesitate to Add People to Calls
On a regular day at the office, you might approach one of your collaborators to chat about something. Next thing you know, you’re discussing a work issue that might benefit from the input of another team member. You don’t hesitate for one second – you go to their desk and ask them if they can join you and share their take on the issue. Sounds like something natural and evident, right?
However, when remote working, people often forget about this, either because they feel like adding one person to a call or meeting is a hassle or worse – because they don’t consider that option altogether. This can happen a lot, even in normal circumstances. Don’t let that happen to you.
Make it a routine to say “wait, Sarah surely has some thoughts about this”, stop the meeting and contact the remote worker to check if they can join in. If you, the manager, do so, it’s highly likely that your collaborators will start doing it as well – even if you aren’t on call. Of course, this works best if everyone shares the same tools and platforms, so it’s easier to add anyone at a moment’s notice (from that you should also take away that you need to check that everyone uses the same communication tools).
4. Understand that You’ll Have Longer Meetings
If you are like us, then you don’t want to waste too much time on long meetings that don’t go anywhere. You want to pop into the meeting room, say what has to be said, discuss, and leave in a reasonable amount of time with something actionable on your list. Unfortunately, things get trickier with remote working.
Why so? Because people will take advantage of meetings to catch up with other things, like discussing a movie they just watched or the last book they bought. That’s especially true in quarantine times but it can also happen under regular circumstances – and you should be totally fine with it. Online meetings are a replacement for in-person interactions, so it’s understandable if they get derailed a little by these things.
Additionally, you’ll also have to come to terms with the idea that you’ll have to reach out periodically in one-on-one sessions with your remote workers. That’s highly advisable, as they’ll see how approachable you are and that you care about what they have to say. These meetings will probably go longer too, as you’ll cover business-related topics but you’ll also make some (much needed) small talk as well.
5. Try, Make Mistakes, Adjust, Try Again
Some of the things that you see as a given in any business won’t be as obvious when working remotely. So, be sure to have an open mind about it and try new things. Maybe use different communication tools or arrange online matches in your team’s favorite game to build rapport. Perhaps you see that starting to work earlier (or later) positively impacts your productivity.
Whatever change you can think of, don’t hesitate to try it. Chances are you’ll be making mistakes here and there, and that’s fine. You’ll always have the possibility to adjust and move on. In such a process, it’s very important to listen to your team and how they feel. They might have some ideas to make remote collaboration more efficient or funny or whatever. Be sure to make them feel heard.
And remember that you can be the change you want to see. Since you’re in a managing position, your collaborators will look up to you for answers to their remote issues. Make sure you have the digital door open to support them with what they need. It might feel awkward at first, especially if you’re more of an in-person kind of manager but you’ll get the hang of it.
No Recipes for Success
Perhaps we should have said this above but it’s better late than never – these tips work great for us at BairesDev but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily work for you. Of course, we believe they will, but it’s important to note that you don’t have to force these tips on your team.
Remote work in itself is challenging and can be intimidating for people accustomed to working in an office. Just be sure that you communicate these tips for what they are – suggestions. They can take your efficiency up (they surely did for us) but if they don’t feel right, adapt them to your reality.