7 tips for working together remotely
As more and more people have had to start collaborating with their coworkers remotely, they’re discovering it takes more than a webcam and a Zoom account to work together efficiently.
Information exchanges that occur naturally when everyone is in the office – quick chats to clarify expectations, project updates, simply knowing who’s at work – require entirely different approaches when everyone is working remotely.
At the Forte Group, our people work together from separate locations and different time zones every day. Recently, we asked our Director of Practice Engineering, Glenn Eckstein, to share some of his thoughts on what works when working remotely and what doesn’t. What follows are a few of his recommendations for establishing an effective remote-work dynamic.
If one person is remote, work as if the entire team is remote.
“We always hold to the rule that if one person is remote, the whole team is remote. Otherwise, that person will always feel left out, they’ll never be included, and they just won’t be as connected.”
If working from home, everyone needs to be flexible.
“When you’re in an office together, it’s easy to see who’s working. When people work from home, they will most likely have to work outside the normal 9-to-5 schedule. You need to create processes that allow team members to work autonomously, and then trust that they will.
“You also need to set clear expectations about what types of communication need an immediate response and what can wait. At home, life is going to happen around the work. You have to anticipate that people won’t always be at their workstations.”
Build a virtual culture of trust.
“Set the expectation that every remote meeting is with video and voice, that way everyone can see people are engaged in the conversation. Being able to see and hear who you work with also helps build rapport. Most importantly, management needs to set the best example. If it doesn’t, nobody will take the expectation seriously.”
All written communication should be targeted and concise. Avoid side conversations in the main thread.
“This is another area where management must lead by example. When working remotely, people will be inundated with all kinds of written “noise”, from instant messaging to emails. Establishing separate chat or email channels for communication that only applies to certain team members is key to minimizing the noise.”
“And all written communication should clearly state expectations. If I send someone a quick message asking about the status of something, I need to be clear about when I need the answer so they can prioritize.”
Avoid long emails or messaging threads. Have a meeting instead.
“We all joked when (the quarantine) happened that now we’ll know what meetings were really needed. When working remotely, we actually see an interesting side effect. Thanks to things like Zoom, meetings happen just in time and end up being shorter.”
“Unlike in the office, you don’t have to leave your workstation or find a room to talk. When an email or messaging threads start to get too lengthy or complex, it’s usually easier to jump into Zoom and talk it out. If I have Zoom integrated with Slack, all I have to do is type “/zoom” in a message thread and we’re instantly in a meeting together.”
Every work assignment should have clear acceptance criteria that can easily be measured.
“This is where having the right tools is so important. Making use of shared documents, calendars, and project management apps will allow everyone on the team to track assignments without additional meetings or messaging.”
“Here at Forte Group, we have everything set up so that whenever someone closes a task, I get a notification so I don’t have to ask about it. This way, we can spend our meetings solving problems instead of discussing the status of the job board.”
Last, but not least, make it fun.
“Using funny emojis or SFW memes to express feelings in written communication can actually foster a sense of camaraderie and help everyone loosen up when things get hectic. Having separate channels for topics that aren’t work-related is a good idea, too. You could even try hosting a virtual coffee chat or a happy hour via Zoom to celebrate the end of a project or the start of the weekend.”
We hope you found these tips useful. You can find more content like this on our Insights page. There we cover a wide range of topics that include software-development best practices, hiring trends, and the many ways IT enterprises can accelerate, advance, and evolve.