It’s trying times at the moment for everyone. With lockdowns happening in some cities and others trying to self isolate, more and more companies are switching to have everyone working from home. This is a big adjustment to the day to day so I thought I would give some tips as someone who has been managing remote teams for almost 10 years now.
At Jamm we are a 100% remote team, we are even distributed across 4 cities with very different timezones, Barcelona, Perth, Sydney and San Francisco. That hasn’t stopped us being a really productive team. There were definitely some growing pains at first though as we all adjusted to how to work in this new mode.
We’re all entering uncharted waters now, and it’s a stressful time. It’s hard enough as it is to switch to working from home, let alone with everything else that’s going on. Lots of people are stuck at home with children who are being kept home from school without an extra set of hands to watch them. Don’t expect everyone to be 100% productive straight away, “It is a pandemic out here”.
There are some things that I think you can do as a manager to make things a little less stressful for everyone and help with adjusting to working remotely. We borrow a lot of ideas from GitLab who have been working as a fully-remote company for a long time. They have a lot of great content on their website about how to do remote well including a Remote Manifesto which has 7 simple principles to follow.
Here is our own list of 4 simple tips.
1) Have Daily Standup-Meetings
You were probably doing this already when you were in person. Even if you weren’t, it can be even more important with everyone remote to have that time to be able to synchronize on what you’re wanting to do in the day. We would love it if you used Jamm for this of course but any other video conferencing software will do.
2) Use Video
This applies to the daily standup meetings as well as any other meetings you’re having. While it might be tempting to just use audio (to hide your messy home) we believe that video is really important when people are working remotely. Seeing the emotions on people’s faces, and the kids that are likely in the background, will really help everyone to be understanding and bond better.
3) Communicate Asynchronously
This is a good general rule for people working remotely but I think will be especially important with this current situation. We can’t expect people to always be available to talk synchronously, the context switching is distracting and with everything going on people are going to need to be flexible with their hours.
This means that you need to make sure people have all the information they need to do the work they want to do at any time. They likely can’t go and tap someone on the shoulder and ask for clarification on something because that person might not be available right now. This means that everyone needs to be really good about documenting things.
This can be both written documentation as well as recording short videos. Recording videos can be a really quick and easy way to share details about something with someone. For example sharing a design, demo of a new feature or steps to reproduce a bug. Any time you wish you could walk up to someone’s desk and show them something you can instead record and send a video of you sharing your screen.
Again Jamm is great for this but other screen recording software works too.
4) Don’t track your employees
Hopefully you’re not the type of manager who focuses on how many butts are in seats and for how long. But if you are now is not the time to do that. You can’t expect to track people when they’re at home and you shouldn’t try to. You need to be able to trust that they are getting their work done and instead focus on their work outputs rather than obsessing over whether they are online and being productive right now.
Again, this is a stressful time as well so don’t expect everyone to be as productive as they were before. Generally I would say that working remotely you can be more productive than in person because there are less distractions and more time for focusing. But it takes time to get there and these are special circumstances.
Free for 4 months
A reminder that we’re offering Jamm for free for at least the next 4 months during these trying times. We just want to do what we can to help people stay productive, connected and safe.
If you have any other thoughts or want to discuss feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org