It has also become clear that enabling remote work means deeper changes for the team culture. You can’t just send your team home and hope for the best. Planning is different, team communication is a lot different, feedback cycles are different, etc. All these changes need proactive support from the highest levels in any company.
I’ll share some of the tricks we have learned along the way:
1. Be relaxed. This may be the biggest change for the team manager. You can’t visually control people. You have no idea if they’re actually working or having fun on Facebook. So, you’d need to relax, trust your team, and focus on the actual results.
2. You can’t micromanage. This is true especially with people in a different timezone. As people are not sitting beside you, then it’s quite hard to bother them all the time with small annoyances. It forces you to plan better and use the communication time more efficiently.
3. Metrics, metrics, metrics. People need fast feedback cycles. We have found out that almost anything can be quantified. It’s very advisable to have 3–4 key metrics with 3-month targets for each member of your team. This gives a very strong message from the management on what is important, and also brings the whole team on the same page. If the metrics are automatically updated, then your team can adjust their behaviour even before you notice any problems.
4. Be careful with chat overload. Remote teams become very text-heavy. Most of the communication flows through team chatrooms, and believe me, it can become very noisy in there. It’s advisable to set some rules to cut down the noise. Direct talkative people to specially assigned random chat channels, and try to keep work-related channels strictly business.
5. Never leave people alone. Nobody should work alone in a remote environment. Everybody should have at least one team member (who is not a boss) with whom to communicate on a regular basis. It can become lonely if your team is scattered all over the world, and we have seen that people can become demotivated very quickly if they have no-one to talk to.
So, we have become huge fans of remote work. This is a definite way to go forward for us. What are your experiences?
By Alari Aho