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Remote Work Series #1 - How To Avoid Common Pitfalls

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Two months ago, companies both big and small from around the world rushed to roll out remote work policies in response to a global pandemic. This response fundamentally changed the outlook on remote work, and it is clear that it is here to stay.

Working from home has it’s benefits, but there are some common pitfalls that are easy to fall into for those not prepared. We’ve been working with design and manufacturing teams across North America to help them transition to remote work and have compiled the lessons we’ve learned to mitigate the negatives and keep your team happy and productive.


Disconnecting From Work

Without that physical separation of leaving the office and shutting down for the day it can be difficult for employees to disconnect. In fact, a recent survey from buffer.com (as you can see in the image above) stated that the biggest struggle with working remotely is unplugging after work

Be open with your team about work hours and expectations and provide guidance on how to disconnect. Here are a few tips we encourage your team to implement:

Be flexible with your team and allow them to take time off during the workday to avoid burnout. If possible, encourage them to get outside and take some time to recharge and refresh even during work hours.

A Home Office Setup

While it may not be reasonable for all, having the right equipment setup for employees at home is paramount in jump starting remote work productivity. Allow your staff to take equipment from the office or provide a stipend to purchase the necessary equipment. Encourage them to have a separate space they can designate specific to working. For those employees that don’t have a home office, here are some ideas for creating an a dedicated workspace in a small space.


Isolation and Loneliness

The 2nd largest struggle of remote work as reported by Buffer was loneliness. The sheer nature of remote work will cause loneliness but this has been exacerbated by our recent pandemic that has not only forced us in to work from home but also removed many outlets to socialize. Below are a couple tips to combat the isolation and boost morale.


Take a Break - Together

While you may not interact with your team face-to-face when working remotely, that doesn't mean you can't still interact casually with your team and take a break from work. To keep morale high and keep things light, taking break together for a quick meal is an excellent way to stay connected and keep your relationships healthy. 


Simply setting up a video call for a regular "virtual team lunch" goes much further than you'd expect!


Remote Games

Another fun way to keep spirits high are remote games (via video conferencing software like Zoom which will discuss further below).There are lots of options out there, but remote bingo is an example. The software and bingo cards are readily available online, for free or little charge. We've implemented remote bingo through CoLab and have had several dozen companies reach out to learn how we've done it!


 It's the little things like these that let your team know you're still thinking of their happiness.


Communication

Working remotely doesn't mean you have to compromise on open communication with your team or keeping productivity high. There is no doubt that distance can cause communication breakdowns but with a little effort, it's easy to stay connected and on the same page as your team.


Daily Standup Meetings

One way to stay aligned with your team is a daily standup meeting (standing also gives you a break from sitting!). This quick 15-minute meeting between a small team is a way to share what each individual worked on the previous day and what's on their plate today. It's also an excellent opportunity for quick problem-solving and recognizing any follow up discussions that might be helpful. 


CoLab Tip:
 Schedule this quick update for 9:00am to kick off your day on an energizing, positive note!


Feedback, Transparency and Trust

It may be many of your employees' first time working remotely so it is crucial to have a feedback mechanism in place to understand if they are happy and what adjustments can be made. Be transparent about your policies and open about future plans.

 

High Fidelity Video Conferencing Software

If you want to share ideas, see the reactions of your team or watch a presentation together in real-time, then you must have video conferencing software with screen-sharing. Right now, Zoom is the hottest offering on the market. High quality video, simple to use and integrated with your calendar. There are, however, security concerns regarding Zoom that should be considered.

There are two popular alternatives to Zoom - Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. Google Meet (the business version of Hangouts) offers easy integration with google suite of tools, video calls with up to 30 participants, and simple screen sharing.

Microsoft Teams, which we will discuss further in a section below,offers a collaborative hub that includes video conferencing. 

If you are still considering using a dial-in conference system, think again. The power of seeing your team will not only improve the quality of your discussion but team
morale and clarity.


Collaboration Hubs

A common theme across the industry is the replacement of long,time-consuming meetings with concise online discussions focused on a single topic - whether that is a document, presentation, or design file.

For collaborating around general project files, platforms like Google Drive and Microsoft Office 365 are the top options. From spreadsheets to slideshows, all of it shared securely in the cloud where your entire team can work together.

Slack or Teams for Daily Communication

To keep productivity and efficiency high, it's important to keep regular communication with your team. Slack and Microsoft Teams are a virtual collaboration space for all of your team's general conversations. With channels for different topics, it keeps all your conversations organized and gives everyone on your team a view of progress.  

Slack and Microsoft Teams allow your team to have real-time communication and get work done, without having to be face to face. Say goodbye to long email chains for internal communication and hello to real-time collaboration.

Our next post in this series will focus on cloud-based design tools and how to thrive in the future as a flexible and forward looking engineering design team. Stay tuned!

More Useful Tools

Remo.co – Remote conference and webinar hosting tool
Clubhouse - Project Management for software teams
Fireflies.ai - Free AI based meeting transcription tool
Tandem.chat - A virtual office for remote teams
Jamm - A lightweight audio and video collaboration tool.  

 

Resources

Microsoft Team Best Practices Guide
Slack Best Practices Guide
Mental Health Tips

 

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