Working from home has become one of the most common practices in the past months. Remote work helps us to keep a life-work balance and enjoy more of our time. Working from home is not an easy task, even if you have the right practices for virtual meetings, maintaining good communication and engagement between members can be challenging for all teams, no matter what.
One important topic that we need to take into consideration when we are talking about distributing or remote teams is Virtual environment.
On-site officers used to have a desk, a computer, a chair, and so on. Well, for remote workers also need their own tools and space to keep working in a collaborative way.
A safe virtual environment is:
Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done. For remote team members, ‘environment’ covers everything from the technical and physical infrastructure, the collaboration tools they have available, as well as access to appropriate support. Source
Now that we know that the virtual environment is not just about video conference and some chat groups, let’s talk about some must-have to improve your remote environment with your team.
1. Minimal barriers:
Having your peers working side by side allows them to interact with the right information and understand the same terms. With remote work is not the same. You need to create a space with fewer possible impediments.
How to do that? Having the minimal barrier that allows your team:
To have access to all the important information they need to perform. All the important information in one place so people feel safe to go back and check. This goes a long way to avoid barriers and misunderstandings.
Be available for your team: It is not like your team can go to your office and ask for some help. So you need to be open and explain the time (it is better than staying all day on the computer) that you are available and make them feel comfortable to ask.
All kind of practices that help your team to maintain good communication and a collaborative environment is essential to avoid that your members feel isolated and disconnected.
For remote teams, tools are a must-have. Tools allow them to interact, share and keep track of information, speak, have fun, and even making friends*. So you need to be sure that you have tools for all the activities that an in-site team could do, these include:
Audio, video conferencing: You need to set up space where your team members can have their meetings and gather with the team. These tools are also important to bring casual conversation. You can also take advantage of this space to make some informal meetings to bring more confidence and fun to your team.
Instant messaging: As the name says, this part of your virtual environment helps the team to have quick answers without interrupting your teammates, share some pictures, have some casual groups, interact with other members and maintain the transparency with some general messages to the teams and ensure everyone has the same information.
Structured information: As we explain in the “minimal barriers” paragraph share information is essential to ensure an informed performance, that’s why having a structured space where the team can check and upload the important information is essential for your remote team.
All the collaboration tools that bring value and transparency with your team are essential, just try to not to have a lot of different tools, many tools can create confusion and lost information.
Communication is not like we usually do it, it implies more effort and the right tools. Some tips that could help your team to have better communication and improve your virtual environment are:
Instant messages: Have in mind that instant messages can be used in different approaches but all of them generate confidence and increase the collaboration.
Continuous status: To have the possibility to maintain the group aware of our status can be very helpful to avoid interruption and loss of time. Try to encourage this habit with your team and avoid problems with productivity and interruption on deep work.
Face-to-face meetings: One excellent practice that you should be doing with your teams is 1:1 meetings. This will help a lot your team to increase good, deep, and active communication. It is also excellent to maintain your team’s updates more effectively and getting to know your teammates.
High-frequency interactive collaboration: Try to maintain casual meetings at least once per week, remote workers don’t have the opportunity to interact during breaks and lunch as it could be with on-site teams. Try to organize some virtual breakfast or just a regular meeting with the purpose to talk and share about day to day, avoiding work topics.
Flexibility is a feature that characterized the virtual environment. It is easier when you define with your team all the flexibility they have during work and chose the ways that are better for their life-balance. If there are some members that prefer to work at night or in the morning it is ok if they feel the company supports the performance and productivity can increase notoriously.
Make all the team know about the company policies, all members need to understand their rights and obligations to ensure a better performance. Also, it will help to create more safety and reliability environment, making your team to feel more comfortable
6. Data security:
This is an important topic that should be defined in depth by your team's IT team. Making sure everyone in your team follows your company's policies is key for your business success. Although it may sound like a difficult task, the heavy lifting is most likely already taken care of and team members only need to follow a few additional steps while working.
7. Establish rituals:
This topic not just can help you to new members to adapt quickly to their new work style, it also helps all the team to be more productive and organize better their time. Establishing some rituals with your member will help to accustom quickly to remote work.
It is not necessary that you establish a schedule for every activity. There is always going to be some sudden activities, it is better if you establish with your team regular activities like sprint planning meeting, standup, retrospectives meetings, stakeholders meeting every Tuesday, things like that. Any meeting that no matter what, it will necessary to have it.
If you have people working in different time zones and it is very difficult to overlap the schedule, try to establish that maybe once per week your team is going to work later o earlier. This kind of ritual will help your team to create work habits helping them to be more productive and establish a better life-work balance.
8. Make adjustments
Go back and inspect the way the things are working is essential for continuous improvement, the best way to do it is with feedback and retrospectives. Give some time to your team to check the things they are doing right and the thing they need to improve. Continuous improvement and inspection will create a safe comfortable environment for your team.
If you have some problems with doing it remotely check out our tool Agile Retrospectives, the best way to continuous improvement for remote teams.
To finish don’t forget about:
To avoid isolated time working: It could be really hard to work remotely if you don’t feel support from your team. Make some parings or short teams that could help each other and interact frequently.
Schedule some rest time: Work from home can be perceived as work all day. Talk with your members, and establish rightly the way they can take rest and schedule the time rest.
Having a safe virtual environment as all activities need practice. Try and fail anytime you could, talk with your team, and always be on an improvement mindset. With the right practices and support your remote team will feel comfortable and engagement with their work.
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