The importance of proper processes and tooling in remote teams.
6 December, 2017
At one of my previous companies, we didn't start out with a remote work culture, but ended up moving slowly towards it. This meant we had to learn about building an effective remote team.
We decided to modify our existing processes to work with remote employees and to set up new processes and adopt new tools for remote work when necessary. When everyone was at the same office we used to have a daily check-in. When we moved towards hiring more remote employees, we wanted to make sure that we didn't get rid of this just because it is harder to do with a remote team. As a result, we set up a daily check-in on Google Hangouts at a time that fitted into everyone's schedule. With people in various time zones (the Bay area, Chicago, Japan) it wasn't easy but turned out to be really useful for everyone. Another important change was to encourage more conversations over Slack. There is a tendency to have in-person conversations with people near you, which can work well if everyone is working in the same office. However, when some people are working remotely, you may end up excluding them from critical conversations, especially if a random discussion evolves into something more meaningful. We worked on encouraging people to move important discussions to Slack and to include relevant people before any decisions are made. This took some getting used to, but became increasingly easier as the company brought on more people who worked remotely. Finally: tooling. Tools go hand-in-hand with processes, and finding the right tools for efficient remote work will have a huge impact on overall productivity of the remote team. We used Slack for most of the communication. For times when typing was not the right medium, we would also set up calls on Google Hangouts. We also used some screen sharing tools to share mockups, and help debug code.
Communication is critical. Finding ways to ensure that all your employees, even ones working remotely, are kept in the loop ensures your teams work efficiently and stay motivated.
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