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Remote Work Tips for Teams

laurieontech profile image Laurie Updated on ・4 min read

Originally posted on laurieontech.com

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 you can easily 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.

Align on Tools

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.

Integrations Help

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.

Video First

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.

Chats and Check-ins

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.

All Team Channel

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.

Daily Status

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.

"Friends"

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.

You can do this

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.

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Laurie

@laurieontech

Software dev at Gatsby | DC techie | Conference speaker | egghead Instructor | TC39 Educators Committee | Girls Who Code Facilitator | Board game geek | @laurieontech on twitter

Discussion

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Wonderful tips, Laurie!
Working remotely has its pros and cons.
You can have more time for yourself, enjoy the flexibility, and wear whatever you want. But you may also feel quite lonely and lack motivation.
One of the biggest problems is that it is hard finding the best remote work tools for your work. It it also better if the tools have integrations with each other.
My team ended up using Quire for task management, and Slack for communication. We also use Zoom for video meetings.

 

Great to encourage remote dev. For me the whole idea of working in offices at fixed hours and daily commutes is bizarre.

On the video calls I would say that this superfluous and most teams I work in rarely use it. Basically it is all IM until a conf call speeds things up.

One thing to avoid is trying to transplant the office culture of pointless meetings, chit chat and "face time" into remote working. This is an opportunity to change the work ethos as well as the workplace.

 

For some people yes, but for others no. It depends entirely on what type of collaboration makes your work more effective!

 

Great set of tips :)

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.

Yes! Do this - in fact, my team (distributed across 2 countries and often with many people working from home anyway) have 2 "private" channels for our team - the "work" one and the "cat pics" one (which of course has way more than just cat pics - it's really just the fun one!) - a great way to build the team morale and break down barriers that can naturally start to occur when remote teams only ever talk work - when things feel almost "transactional" it is terrible for morale and (ironically) gets in the way of good teamwork.

 

Love that! We have random-pets haha. Same idea but my dog is allowed :)

 

Haha yes I'm all for pet diversity ;)

Pet diversity

 

Being a remote team I'm surprised I never even thought of finding a plugin such as Live Share -- we were mostly using screen sharing. Looks amazing, I will give it a try.

The part I like the most is how your remote colleages should be your friends too and actually many of our meetings are just to catch up on life. Remove can quickly become very isolating indeed.

 

It is brilliant. Far quicker that screen sharing. Allows people to dive right into the code.

 

Years ago (as in 2000) I worked on the other side of the country from my team. It was a disaster because I'd miss out on so much information that they did not feel inclined to share. Remoting was a real hardship.

However, now the tech is better and the people are more tech-savvy and I find it preferable to being in the office.

 

Great tips, thank you, Laurie. In our team we used to track our hours with time recording systems which can be easily integrated with other software. We chose TMetric for this year. tmetric.com/

 

I love your mention of tools, especially IDE and pair plugins like VS Live Share.

Regarding remote pairing and mobbing, we found out at work that using a continuous git-pull-push-loop enables everyone to work from his own environment, with almost no extra setup. I wrote a full blog post about the Best open source tools for remote pair programming

Thanks a lot for your post

 

Thanks for the article!

...you're going to have to do this intentionally or it won't happen.

I think that sometimes this happens more naturally depending on the group dynamic and how used to flowing in and out of the 'acoustic' and 'digital' worlds everyone is, e.g., between the 'audible' convo in the room and what's happening in the slack channel.

If the remote tech tools are a part of the everyday communication when in the office, like some people conferencing in for a standup, or the conversation moving from chatting with fingers to chatting with mouths, fluently, then I think the move to remote feels more natural. This is my recent experience, anyway! :)

 

P.S. Cool tip about Live Share for VS Code!

 

Awesome article, help me how to remote work!