We are a small team of five people. And we’ve always worked fully remotely. Well, almost fully. From time to time, we get together for a strategic meeting or a bonding dinner. Remote working is a great advantage in the current situation caused by the Coronavirus. We can be self-isolated, while fully operating at the same time. We are sharing some good practices for all teams trying to start working remotely.
We use Slack for day to day communication. Important projects are separated by channels, so it is easy to follow what is going on (or to catch up). Slack integrates well with a bunch of other services, so you can get all important notifications.
Asana is a task and project management tool. We used to use Trello, but Asana fits our needs better. Use it to divide tasks by project, determine due dates, add a description, and assign tasks to each individual. Then switch to a calendar view to get a time perspective on your workload. The Premium version comes with rule templates, milestones and a bunch of other useful functions.
Cloud (G drive, OneNote, Dropbox)
Cloud has two great advantages:
• everyone gets the latest version of everything,
• multiple people at multiple locations can edit the same doc at the same time.
Slack, Skype, Hangouts, Zoom, Messenger … You name it. We love Hangouts. If you want to record a meeting we recommend Zoom. All of the mentioned services have a screen share function that officially saves lives :-).
It is a free screen recording tool. Use it when you need to explain something to someone and it is too complicated (or too long) for an email or Slack. And as a bonus, you get a notification once the video you created is watched.
This tool serves us as a digital whiteboard for brainstorming sessions and other creative processes. You can ad wireframes, images, links, you can even record a video in OneNote. We typically use it to visualize digital marketing campaigns. It offers a great overview of user experience and at the same time enables us to comment even on the smallest details.
As a marketing team, we overview multiple campaigns for multiple clients. It is hard to stay on top of everything. We also understand how important it is to visualize things. Most people have problems reading numbers, so a clear green or red line on a chart helps them picture them better. We use Data Studio reports for day to day campaign performance monitoring.
It is an app that tracks your time. It works great with Asana. At the end of the day, week or month, you get a report on how many hours you spent on different tasks. Useful when you need to bill your hours or prove your work to the boss. Also, a great tool for self-reflection and productivity boosting.
How to tackle (mental) issues people may face when working remotely
Following online communities on Coronavirus and remote work, I got the impression most people believe remote work is above all a technical issue. But the reality is, this is more of a company culture issue. Your team probably feels endangered by the Coronavirus. They are also worried for their close ones. At the same time, their social life is in ruins, they have to #stayhome in isolation from everyone. On top of that, you are introducing remote work, which is another major change in their life. At this point, I want to say I’m no expert on the topic. Just someone with experience of building a remote team. Here is some advice on how to set up a remote team in this crisis situation.
Put things into perspective
Create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their fears. Try to understand the situations they are in. Who is alone? Who has to take care of kids (schools are closed) or (grand)parents? If you haven’t yet, explain remote work is for everyone’s safety, and that this is temporary and (hopefully) things will get back to normal by summer.
Try to replicate your normal day
Lots of people’s to-dos are canceled. No need to take kids to school, you don’t have to drive to work and so on. So there will be the “I have so much time” illusion. People will stay in bed longer, have a slow breakfast and before they realize it’ll be lunchtime. So if you can, try to replicate your normal workday – at least in the first few weeks. If you normally had team meetings at 9 am, now have online team meetings at 9 am and instead of writing tasks on a big whiteboard write the tasks in Asana. Your goal here is to help people create good habits in a new working environment. The first 2 weeks are crucial for that!
Create a community
Humans are social beings. We need human interaction. Try to recreate an online version of the office vibe. Promote a dedicated Hangouts link that everyone can join while working. The purpose of that channel is not to have a meeting, but to be in touch with others while working. So when people get stuck they can ask others for ideas, if someone wants to make a joke they can do that and so on. Create Slack channels for non-work related topics where team members can share good practices on things to do while being self-isolated, or top movies to watch etc.
Encourage physical exercise
In these circumstances, bad mood, depression, and anxiety are real threats. Physical exercise is known as one of the best ways to battle all of the mentioned. Create a weight loss or six-pack challenge. Pay your employees memberships in one of many fitness apps and create a competition. Turn it into a joke but also be the first one participating in it. Share daily results and if you can, prepare weekly rewards for top performers.
Uncle sam will need you to pay taxes
The Coronavirus is here. And it is time to act responsibly and be part of the solution not part of the problem. Self-isolation, quarantine, and social distancing are now a reality. The virus is not just crushing our social lives, we are also facing a new economic crisis. When the virus is gone, we will have to do what we know best as entrepreneurs. Business and then some more. This and only this will provide jobs for people and probably much needed tax money for the government. So if you are choosing between closing down or doing at least some things remotely, go remote.