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Current COVID-19 (Corona virus) out-break is forcing many companies to apply the Work from Home (WFH) policy to its employees. Those companies that are established and are not setup for remote work are at a great disadvantage as remote work needs deliberate shaping of the company culture to actually support that work. This post serves a guide to those companies and employees (managers and direct reports) as a starting point to adopting WFH even though they have never had any experience with remote work before.
Three pillars of work
There are three main important ingredients to any type of knowledge work: Team, Tools, and Process
By far, the most important ingredience to doing any meaningful work is a team. Not everyone can work well in a remote environment, not everyone can manage a remote team but with a bit of time and learning the team become great at remote work. Here are the characteristics of the best teams that are good at remote work.
1. Team comprises of doers
Doers will get stuff done even if they are working from a secluded island. You don’t have to give doers tasks to know that something will get done. You’ll still have to provide direction and guidance around the most important things to be executed, but in the absence of that, a doer will make something happen.
2. There is trust within the team
Remote work stops working when you can’t trust the person on the other end of the line. If you continually find yourself worrying what someone is doing, then you are spending brain cycles focusing on something other than the product or customers. Trust is key.
The flip side of this is a manager also need to exhibit trust with the people. As a manager, you need to learn to manage by expectations rather than by “butts in seat,” so make sure you can show trust your team.
3. They are great writers
In a co-located office, a lot of information is shared in person. In a remote situation, almost everything is shared via written communication. Communication is one of the most important parts of remote team. Therefore, get good at writing for your team’s success.
Tools / Software
In a co-located facility, you can always round up the team for an all-hands meeting to steer everyone on track. In a remote team, you’ll need the right tools to make sure everyone stays on the same page and can continue to execute without a physical person standing next to them.
Below is a list of tools recommended to be used by remote teams. While the exact tools are not super important, you will likely need a tool in certain categories like group chat and video/audio conferencing to make remote successfull. I recommend using Basecamp as it serves all the collaboration needs for a team except the video/audio conferencing.
1. Basecamp for team collaboration
Basecamp combines all the tools teams need to get work done in a single, streamlined package. Basecamp as a company itself embraces remote first culture. With everything in one place, your team will know what to do, where things stand, and where to find things they need.
Note: Basecamp is not meant to be an enterprise planning or Project and Portfolio Management (PPM)) tool but rather a collaboration tool for teams.
Real-time Group Chat & Direct Messages (Pings): Basecamp’s real-time group chat (Campfires) lets you ask quick questions and get equally quick answers. All without reaching for a separate app. Mention people directly to get their attention or use one-on-one chat.
Check-in Questions: Stop wasting time on status meetings. Checkins let you ask your team questions on a regular basis, with all the replies rolled up in one easy-to-digest thread.
To-do Lists: Create to-do lists for all the work you need to do, assign tasks and set due dates. Note that To-Dos can be used as Scrum or Kanban boards or even in waterfall projects. Agile is a methodology and not dependent on any tool.
Reports: Reports cut across every team and project to give you quick insight into exactly where things stand.
Message Boards: Keep the entire conversation about a specific topic together on a single page. No more digging through email or trying to reassemble a story from a series of fragmented replies.
Client or Vendor Access: If you work with clients or vendors in an organized place and get everything on record.
Cost: Basecamp costs $99 per month for the whole company which is way more affordable to the tools that it replaces such as Slack ($12 per month per user), JIRA ($10 per month per user).
Read-more about Basecamp features here at Basecamp Features
2. Zoom for audio & video conferencing
Zoom is the most reliable and clear for large group video and audio calls.
3. HelloSign for document signatures
Every now and then, you and your employees might need to sign something. Spare yourself the hassle of printing out the document, signing it, scanning it back onto your machine, and sharing the document with the next person that signs and instead just use HelloSign. It’ll make your head hurt a lot less.
The third ingredient in a powerful remote team is process. I know most people don’t like to think about process, and process might feel boring and rigid. But if you think of process as “how we work,” it starts to feel more powerful.
Good processes let you get work done in the absence of all else. It provides structure and direction for getting things done.
If you are a company that has processes that depend on people being available physically to work through any processes then its good time to start thinking about making those processes as asynchrounous as possible.
A company that has been on-premise mostly and requires actual meetings for approvals need to get better at this and make use collaboration tools for decision making, processes, customer support etc.
Some tips on working from home
To do your best work you need to take care of the following:
Setup a dedicated space or room for work only. Let that space serve as a workspace where you get your serious work done. Try not to take work in other areas of the house such as living room etc. This would help you make a mental distinction between work and non-work activities.
Stick to your normal working hours. If your company time is from 8am to 5pm, stick to the same routine. Everyone being available during the same time helps collaboration in a company that is not used to remote work.
Be mindful of the distractions at home. Kids, TV or simply your phone can be distracting.
Keep getting up from your chair every hour or so to strech to reduce the fatigue of sitting still for long time.
Dont forget to call it day when the time’s up. It can become really easy to get stuck at work for longer hours than you would normally do if you were office. So, do sign out when its time.