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How to successfully organize remote teams and ensure productive cooperation

Jacob Dunn

As the world hunkers down and attempts to slow the spread of the novel Covid-19 coronavirus, millions of workers are now working from home. While the virus wreaks havoc on public health systems — and the global economy, it’s forcing many companies to rethink their remote working practices. This new reality doesn’t have to be soul-crushing or unproductive, though. Done right, home office work can yield great results. Here are some of our tips for organizing home office work so that everybody’s happy.

 

While we would not like to minimize the human tragedy of Covid-19, we would like to offer some of our own lessons we’ve learned on how to successfully organize remote teams and ensure productive cooperation for employees and clients alike. After all, a deadline is a deadline and keeping the momentum of a project is essential — regardless of external threats.

Find out more about how we organize remote work, keep clients happy, and get the most out of a remote team.

 

 

1. Create space for remote working conversations

 

Life and business must go on, which has driven many companies to go fully remote — something they’re maybe not used to doing. While remote work is on the rise globally and has been for a decade, the novel coronavirus — and the office closures it has caused — has driven a surge in demand for teleconferencing tech. This not only presents technical challenges but also ones of leadership. It opens up trust issues with employers and clients and can raise questions about productivity. As more homebound workers settle into their sudden new routines, more companies are wondering how to successfully organize effective home office work.

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One of the most important parts of successful remote work is to bring people together. Technology has come a long way. For teams used to working in the same office, this daily contact can be a really valuable part of their day.

Coffee machine conversations and virtual face-to-face contact with colleagues bring teams together and improves cohesion. With so many employees working from home this can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. One of the ways we overcome the isolation remote work can cause is to work hard at keeping communication flowing. Setting up spaces for these types of conversations to thrive is vital. We use Slack, for example, to facilitate this contact. Slack is an invaluable tool to work with — especially for its video conferencing features.

One of our long-term Scandinavian clients has set up a virtual coffee break room for daily midmorning chats. Anyone on the project can join via Google Meet and have a quick non-work related chat.

Marcin Latos, one of the developers on the project said they sit together, drink coffee, and feel closer to the team.

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“Working remotely isn’t something everyone is used to,” he said. “At the beginning, it’s not so easy — especially when you call and see kids in the background. It’s nice to see that people have similar problems.” 

 

Part of the comradery according to Latos comes from common challenges like finding a quiet place to work in a small flat. The virtual coffee break room humanizes the team — you get to meet the whole family. This valuable place gives everyone the chance to make vital connections.

 

2. Use the right equipment

 

Another trick is to encourage everyone to use their cameras during calls and meetings. We do this anyway — not just during this recent quarantine period. Seeing the person on the other end is far more welcoming than just listening to someone’s voice. At the same time, the nonverbal communication of seeing someone listening ensures that everyone is following along and that the connection is still up. 

Obviously having the equipment to pull this off is vital. A good webcam and a good microphone are essential items for effective remote communication. Being able to see and hear others keeps everyone engaged. 

For extended remote work periods, this gets even more important as the isolation sets in. We do this normally and also encourage this of our clients and partners who work all over the world. It helps avoid miscommunication and conflicts and ensures a productive project. 

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3. Focus on communication 

 

In addition to ensuring a good connection creating dedicated channels helps teams self organize by focus topic and interest. This is really important now more than ever since people are cooped up. Sharing with colleagues and clients builds rapport and also leads to more productive remote work.

Of course, now that teams will be working remotely for a longer term, encourage everyone to communicate with more energy than normal. Be eager and proactive in communicating with your team. A lot of meaning gets lost in text and so creating a culture of open communication over a tool like Slack requires constant enthusiastic contact. Setting a status and working hours lets your teammates know when you’re available.

Nothing is more frustrating than waiting for a response to an urgent question. These types of breakdowns can get worse over time, leading to resentment and killing productivity. Making it clear when you’re available, or not can minimize some home office frictions.

One big advantage Piotr Horzycki sees in the current push to work from home is that members of meetings all have their avatars visible. That way, there’s no questioning whether someone is in the meeting or not.

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“At our daily meetings,” said Horzycki, “everyone calls from home. This means we can see all the people as avatars on a Slack call. This is useful because we can immediately see who’s on the call. There are no more time-wasting questions like ‘Is X with us? Earlier, there was just one avatar of someone who brought a laptop to the conference room and the remote people didn’t know who was sitting in the office.”

 

Piotr has written previously on organizing remote work. He normally works fully remotely and has great insights on productivity and team cohesion. These types of simple tricks can go a long way to improve communication and well-being with remote work. 

As with our internal workflow, we also extend these principles to our work with our clients. Working across timezones presents scheduling and connection challenges. We also create dedicated spaces and agree on communication standards with our clients. Just because we work remotely does not mean we’re all that remote. Prompt responses and regular contact increases productivity. If you know the other people you’re working with, you’re more likely to work well as a team. 

 

How clients benefit

 

One of the great things about our industry is that it’s fairly straightforward to go fully remote. We’re already adept at running remote projects and interacting with clients and with each other over Slack. As most of the world is scrambling to come up with solutions for home office work, we’re fully prepared to mobilize and work remotely. For ongoing projects, this means that there will be minimal interruption — even as other industries struggle to cope.

Since most of our work involves some level of remoteness, going some steps further will not affect our team or their output. With the strategies we’ve put in place, and the lessons we’ve learned in the process, we will wait this virus out and carry on. You too can put in place some of these strategies to move to a remote work model and avoid any disruptions to your productivity and workflow. Don’t let the home office blues get in the way of a good day’s work.

 

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