This article was first published on DZone in 2018.
During the last 3 years, in which I have been working exclusively remotely, I have been taking diverse notes on the things that, as a remote team, we cannot fail to observe and those we must work hard to avoid, among other general thoughts and conclusions. The following are 5 of those notes.
Company’s norms, guidelines for communication, and processes must be clearly documented — with comprehensible clarifications about roles, tools, metrics, goals, etc. The documentation must be close at hand, and leaders must frequently encourage people to take a fresh look at it, as well as keeping everyone informed about any relevant updates. Well-written and faithfully updated documentation is handy for everyone. Bear in mind that old saying often used by business analysts: if it’s not documented, it doesn’t exist at all. There’s no such thing as implicit.
Before we can document our processes, we must, of course, define them. Well-designed processes will provide the structure and the direction for getting things done efficiently. Also, they facilitate onboarding, communication, planning, tracking, predictability, improvements, etc. I like to believe that well-designed processes work towards making everyone happier.
When designing or improving processes, remember to involve everyone, to keep things as simple as possible but as comprehensive as useful, and to leverage technology — automate all the things. And, of course, never forget continuous improvement.
Some remote workers will find harder to give that kind of spontaneous and genuine feedback they would give more naturally in person if they were working in a co-located model. To overcome this hurdle, we must nurture an outstanding culture of openness and exchange, where feedback is encouraged at all times. This is besides, of course, keeping a proper agenda to often gather formal feedback, both from one-on-one meetings and from group meetings (e.g. retrospective meetings).
Of course, at this point in time, all companies, remote or not, should be heavily nurturing a culture of appreciation. Still, remote companies must take an even closer look at how to effectively make employees feel valued, due to the lack of face to face.
Also, keep in mind that appreciation is not only about notice, commend, celebrate, and reward employees’ efforts; it’s also about relentlessly working to create the best remote work environment for them; respecting the individuals and their different opinions and cultures; and supporting them whenever they need, including being mindful when they have personal problems.
A mixed model of allocation in which a team has both people working remotely and people working from offices brings in additional challenges. One of them is the communication. When part of the team is working co-located, they must communicate as they were working remotely in order to not create a feeling of segregation and to not break the flow of communication. Everyone must be on the same page at all times. And if occasionally, for any (valid) reason, the co-located team members hold a discussion exclusively among them (which in general should be avoided), a clear and comprehensive summary must be shared with the remote team members straight away.