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Overcoming Remote Work Challenges

Remote

24 September, 2021

Rushabh Shah
Rushabh Shah

Principal Software Engineer at Harness

Rushabh Shah, Principal Software Engineer at Harness, uncovers how to overcome some remote work challenges by introducing more effective online collaboration.

Problem

While some companies were prominent advocates of remote work, only the global pandemic made remote work a new reality. Today working remotely is not a question of choice but a question of effectiveness. Benefits, as well as downsides, are many, and many factors determine if a specific organization will be able to make most of the benefits. In a nutshell, it is how you will benefit from the advantages while mitigating the risk. Not surprisingly, it is easier said than done.

Actions taken

One of the biggest challenges we all face is how to collaborate effectively. It was so much easier to share an idea when the team is under 1 roof. All we had to do was speak your mind or write your idea down while whiteboarding. The process becomes challenging over the Zoom screen, where a screen mediates the spontaneity of the creative process. My solution is to double down on documentation. Whenever you have an interesting idea worth sharing, write it down. Depending on the tools you are using, it can be tedious, but it has multiple benefits. For example, a number of people can work on the same idea asynchronous, at times that work best for them. Also, writing things down brings clarity and conciseness, which helps to better articulate ideas. At the same time, by documenting things, you build a knowledge repository, making it easier for a new person joining the team to come to grips with the problem.

Remote work also resulted in team members spread across different time zones. To make the work easier, you should establish a common time zone: an overlap lasting a couple of hours. Perhaps, some people would start their mornings earlier, or others would stay a bit later, but they could meet up for those two to three hours of collaboration time. This time should be used most efficiently: you should try to get the maximum of working together. The objective should be that everyone should have action items to work asynchronously in their time zones by the end of that session. Those action items could be doable in one day, and then people would reassemble again tomorrow or in a few days, depending on the meetup cadence. I prefer daily check-ins because that cadence ensures support while allowing people to work at their own preferred time. Another advantage of having an overlap is that it helps people stay connected while working remotely.

Lessons learned

  • Remote work is a big time-saver since you don’t need to commute, but using that time effectively can be a challenge for many people. It takes discipline and planning to schedule activities during the day to make the most of your day. I prefer waking up at the same time every day, having coffee, and getting to my desk -- all at the same time. The routine helps me focus better; it gives me direction and rhythm to be more productive.
  • Of all things, collaboration suffers most in the remote setting. This is particularly true for the planning and ideation phase, where people make the most of their creativity by bouncing their ideas off in real-time. But many other aspects of collaboration can be worked around with a solid plan and reliable tools. Understanding what works best for your organization is key to overcoming remote work challenges.

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