As you've probably seen, a lot of companies are moving towards remote work in the midst of coronavirus. There are many articles out there that give great tips like taking breaks, getting outside, etc. I call these "puppy mandated" recommendations 😂; important structure that enforces healthy habits easily you can ignore as a remote worker.
This post is a bit different. I want to focus on some of the things teams, and their members might benefit from if they're not used to having a remote workforce. Collaboration and communication don't need to suffer in this environment, but it does require a different approach.
If you're not used to everyone being in a different location it likely hasn't been a necessity for people to use the same toolsets. It is now. This is especially true of tools meant for communication.
Determine what video conferencing tool you'll be using. Have a single tool for chat/quick text interactions. Have a primary shared tool for document sharing and review. And it may make sense to align on an IDE so you can use built-in tools like VS Code's Live Share.
Not used to all your meetings needing a video link? They will now! How about the ability to spin up an impromptu call while in a text chat? It's about to come in handy.
There are amazing tool integrations out there to make this smoother. For example, you can integrate Zoom with Google Calendar and set a call for every meeting. You can also integrate Zoom with slack; allowing you to start a call by typing
/zoom meeting <title>.
You'll also want to integrate your calendar with your Slack (or similar) status. Since you can't look over at someone's desk to see whether they're available, this helps a lot. Clockwise is the one I use.
Conference calls are notoriously derided, but they're essential for remote work. How can you improve on them? Make everything a video call!
It's a lot easier to tell when someone is done talking if you can see their face. This improves the flow of conversation quite a bit.
If you're not in person, you no longer have a shared whiteboard or projector. Video allows you to switch over to screen sharing whenever necessary. It's often good to configure your call so that anyone has permission to do so.
The most startling part of remote work, if you haven't done it before, is the loss of the "casual". You can no longer walk over to your coworker's desk and have a quick check-in. You're not going to run into someone at lunch and talk to them about a project.
In an office, it's a bit easier to have impromptu conversations that don't need to be official meetings. And the reality of remote work is that not everything needs to be pre-scheduled, even though it may feel that way. However, you'll have to be more intentional about it. Having the tools and integrations mentioned above makes doing so considerably easier.
Whatever chat platform you use, Slack or otherwise, you'll want an all team async conversation. Without this, the alternatives are DMs and larger channels. In the absence of correctly scoped audiences, team members are far more likely to make use of DMs, preventing the level of communication you'll want with remote employees.
Additionally, these chats keep emails from getting untenable. They allow for more realtime feedback and exchanges. And they keep morale up, creating some friendly fun moments that may feel lacking.
It can be good to set up an automated daily status bot. Geekbot, for example. Even if you don't normally do a standup, increased communication and visibility goes a long way in a remote environment.
You can set up team member's status to populate in your team channel. Doing so allows others to chime in if they want to be involved in a particular call, are doing overlapping work, etc.
Remote work can feel isolating to a lot of people! You're used to spending some of your day catching up and making jokes and walking about. You should still do that, but doing it alone isn't quite the same.
Be in contact with your friends during the workday! You don't have to be talking about work. This can be chats, twitter, etc. It doesn't really matter. But again, you're going to have to do this intentionally or it won't happen.
If you and your teams think proactively about tackling some of these new challenges you'll do just fine. We don't know how long remote work will be the best option, so it's good to enable everyone to be productive.
The goal is to keep people safe and healthy. And showing companies how that can be accomplished with remote employees can have larger ripple effects in the long term.