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Working Effectively In a Remote Environment

Remote

28 July, 2020

Pascal Rodriguez
Pascal Rodriguez

Director of Product Engineering at ZF Group

Pascal Rodriguez, Director of Product Engineering at ZF group, shares how his company created a supportive environment for remote work by introducing a self-service and asynchronous mindset rules.

Problem

Over the years remote work was taking over and the Covid-19 pandemic just accelerated the inevitable. The industry today predominantly operates remotely and the pace and prospects of remote work in post-Covid-19 world will only grow with time.

While many companies were all set for the abrupt transition to remote work earlier this year as they have been working with remote teams distributed across different geographies for a longer while, many are still struggling to enable their organizations for efficient remote work. I am glad that years of my prior remote work and good practices I established helped us continue with business as usual during these turbulent times.

Actions taken

We started off by defining communication guidelines focusing on two key elements:

  1. The self-service mindset

The self-service mindset included that I should be able to find the information I needed to complete my tasks without being dependent on my colleagues. To do so, I would have to rely on good documentation. Information is constantly changing and expanding as it follows the company’s evolution, and the documentation has to be groomed consistently. Everyone is equally responsible to ensure that information would stay organized and up to date.
Good documentation implies: improved productivity with fewer interruptions from others, the ability to find the right information at the right time and faster on-boarding of newcomers.

2.Asynchronous mindset
The asynchronous mindset relied on the use of tools that enable remote collaboration and encourage work in an asynchronous mode. That included being explicit that some meetings could be emails or that other communication tools could be used instead. As a consequence, we had to adjust not to expect an answer within the next few minutes. If something is really urgent and requires an immediate response, we would call a person.
Providing your colleagues with the choice of reading before/later to either prepare themselves or be informed, would impact the quality of their input. This means that supporting material should be distributed in writing prior to meetings to increase their participation and contribution. In addition, writing itself will help to better prepare meetings, come up with more to-the-point questions and also is a prerequisite for people to find all the information relating to meetings (self-service). Finally, you would be able to easily inform people of all new developments by sharing the documentation with the targeted audience.

Lessons learned

  • While we were working remotely (part of the team) before the Covid-19 pandemic and obviously followed some set of rules, the Covid-19 pandemic allowed us to make these rules explicit.
  • The self-service mindset allowed us to onboard two new team members without spending as much time onboarding as we would if we had to onboard them synchronously (we had everything in place for them to start remotely).
  • Being asynchronous means minimizing distractions and most of our meetings become very effective and more importantly, it allows us to keep track of all the decisions and have a paper trail to refer to.
  • We tend to distract our contributors much less as the information can be found without taking their time in meetings.

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