You may be packing your chargers and heading home to set up camp for the foreseeable future and you’re not alone. Perhaps you work from home (WFH) most days already or you’re part of the recent WFH migration.
Remote work means your team may be virtual, but your productivity doesn’t need to be. Shifting to a WFH policy means you and your team will be defining a new workspace routine. I manage a Customer Success team at monday.com that has always functioned remotely, and I’ve got a rundown on our best practices and how to set your team up for success.
How can you plan for success?
A little bit of planning ahead – even when you don’t have a lot of time – will help everyone in the long term. You can divide planning into two categories: communications and operations. Both of these are important ingredients that contribute to the success of a remote team, because they overcome two key challenges of remote work: 1) keeping everyone aligned even when they aren’t physically present; 2) making sure everyone has the tools and setup they need to get work done.
Find the right digital tools for your communication needs
This may be the first time you, or your team, are switching to digital tools as your main form of communication. There are loads of tools out there that will enable your workflows and defining which tools are meant for each type of communication will save you time and hassle in the long run.
Successful remote teams communicate effectively and often. Rarely will you have doubts or misunderstandings from your team members due to the good practice of clear communication (often written), enabling tools, and open channels to address lingering questions. Due to the reliance on communication tools to collaborate, remote team members are excellent communicators and value this important habit.
Here’s how to get started with your internal communications:
- Create a communication space and define your cadence for updates. For example, our team uses Slack for quick Q&A with team members and more informal communication (aka sharing memes). We use monday.com to plan our projects, assign ownership, and communicate in context. We use Zoom for longer meetings that would traditionally take place in person.
- Define how and where work will be tracked. With everyone dispersed, it’s more important than ever to define expectations, goals, and deadlines. Everyone on the team should be confident with what they are working on and know where to check for updates on projects.
- Define etiquette for conversations on digital platforms. Working from home often means you and your team need to make the effort to define boundaries. This could mean turning off notifications after a certain time, muting all of your platforms while on calls, or whatever is defined by your team. Drawing boundaries that the whole team agrees on prevents burnout and ensures a healthy work life balance.
- Be over-communicative with when/how/what to expect. Once you end a call with your teammates, it’s much more difficult to continue with follow up questions than if you were sitting next to them, so make sure you are crystal clear on who is doing what, when. I suggest finishing each call with a summary and action items to ensure everyone knows what he or she is responsible for.
- Set timelines and expectations. For team leaders, defining the scope of the work for the next few cycles or periods and scheduling enough time to monitor progress and reevaluate priorities in the intervals will help you stay on track of long-term goals. Creating habits that work for you such as daily stand-ups over video conference or weekly reviews can help you stay proactive.
Setting your team up for operational success
Operationally, you have two main tasks:
- A list of the physical things your team will need while working from home.
The list should include an organizational vision followed by any number of items. Your vision will serve to guide the transitional journey and define how your team will operate as a successful remote team. It can be as simple as some enumerated Q + A’s that describe your team’s day-to-day as a distributed team with the purpose of illustrating your group’s new dynamic. Describe of the functions of what your team will do and less so the details of “how.”
The list of items may include any number of functional items and intangibles. Consider what your team might need to perform successfully. Need a desk chair or additional hardware? Upgrade of broadband connection? Think of anything your team would have at an office that enables them to do their work and find a way to have that in their new remote space.
2. Define what information goes to which tools and grant appropriate access.
By defining which tools will be used to house each kind of communication and information, going back and finding what you are looking for will be much simpler. Granting the right access to each team member will avoid bottlenecks due to limited access, and overcrowding of information that can come from too much free access.
What does continued remote success look like?
In your first few days of remote work, consider what areas of communication can be improved and modify your organizational vision to correct for it. This is where using enabling tools is key. Time management will also be a skill sharpened by remote work, especially on collaborative efforts.
Make the best use of digital platforms to remain engaged, connected, and in-sync with your team. Managers, don’t adopt any single “vision” of what successful remote work will be but instead, describe the practices and core functions in your vision and the “how” will form through iteration and discussion of what is working for your team.
Some of the pros and cons of working remotely may arise on day 1 or day 100, and it’s perfectly normal to modify your workspace throughout! We encourage you to experiment and see what works best for you and your team. Having open communication with your team, working together to define expectations early, and accepting continuous improvements on your remote work schedule will be you and your team’s key to continued remote success.