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Remote work in the age of coronavirus

5 things you need to know — from tools to policy.


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Tealfeed Guest Blog

3 years ago | 4 min read

Coronavirus (COVID–19) has swept across the globe as a forewarned yet surprising pandemic. While some countries are in complete lockdown, only allowing citizens out for groceries, emergencies, and medicine, other countries remain obliviously skeptical regarding the true impact of this virus.

People are already taking measures in the States and abroad to change people’s daily behaviors. One of those behaviors is something that many companies have been slowly changing for some time now– and that’s the everyday habit of going to work. According to the American Psychology Association,

When it’s done right, telework can improve employee productivity, creativity and morale, psychologists’ research finds…

It’s no wonder that huge companies like Google and Twitter, as well as startups all over the world, have been moving in this direction for years. The only difference between a few months ago and now (with coronavirus in full swing,) is companies that haven’t even thought of remote work as feasible now find themselves forced into it, in order to protect employee and societal health. And the companies that have been building up to remote work in baby-steps are finding that they’re much more prepared.

As the sole designer at a small tech startup with a developer team officed in India, I’ve learned a lot about remote work. I’ve developed a list of recommendations on tools and policies to set your company up for success if you’re new to remote work.

Remote work starter list

1. Get Slacked up

Whether you’re using Microsoft Teams, Slack, or even Facebook’s Workplace you need to get your team on an internal communication platform. No, email hasn’t died, but you’re going to quickly regret the 5 million emails piling up from the tiny communication chatter that normally takes place in an in-person environment unless you get your organization hooked onto channels and slidin’ into those DMs.

Trust me. You’ll love your life more when you can have a quick chat as simply as texting your friend in a safe, professional environment– one that allows you to share quick documents and create channels for certain teams, projects, or discussions.

2. Try a Trello board

It’s free. Trello is a simple but powerful product management tool. If you need to assign tasks, monitor progress, and collaborate on ongoing projects, this is the tool to do it with.

With Trello you can create boards for teams or projects and different lists within boards. Onboard your team members, order cards by priority, color code them (and even shape code for the colorblind!), and assign tasks to individuals. It’s incredibly easy to learn and even allows you to pick unique background colors and images for each board. There are many other product management tools out there, so if Trello isn’t your jam, you’re not out of luck!

3. Conference calls

Nobody loves meetings, but we actually need them sometimes. We need them even more (but not more frequently!) when we’re working remotely. There are many free conference call applications to choose from– Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Uber Conference, etc. etc. Get your team hooked up on one of these and schedule regular check-ins. Most of these programs make it easy for you to share presentations and documents while you’re on the call.

To borrow from the agile methodology, a daily check-in in the morning with your team asking the following three questions can really align everyone’s course:

  1. What did you accomplish yesterday?
  2. What are you going to do today?
  3. What’s blocking you?

4. Get high with a drive in the cloud

Most of us are probably already using some kind of cloud storage in 2020, but you’d be surprised how many organizations still don’t have an organized, single-source of truth for all of the documents stored in a single, accessible place! Google Drive, people! Get with the program!

With the ability to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and store everything in organized folders that are either private or shareable, there’s no reason to look much further than Google Drive. It’s like Microsoft Office meets your desktop’s hard drive, but less clunky and in the cloud.

5. Policy

Policy is the most important point on this list. Tools don’t make remote work a success, people do. It’s imperative to set the right cultural tone with your policy. You want to strike a balance between trust and efficiency.

If your policy doesn’t allow your team to feel trusted, or if it becomes cumbersome to their workflow, the company will suffer for it. On the other hand, if the policy is too lax, you won’t know if your people are getting their jobs done. My advice is to base your policy on deliverables and deadlines because these provide productivity measurement which is a key component of solid remote work policy. Let your employees dictate the rest– because if they’re doing their job and doing it well, all the while controlling the choices that make them most comfortable and efficient, everyone wins.

If you start creating arbitrary rules to hold onto some concept of control, you’re missing the point. A policy that is strict with rules that don’t speak to the use-cases of remote work will ultimately fail the team members and the company’s bottom line.

This article was originally published by Steven Winkelstein on medium.

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