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04
Tips to help remote workers increase productivity
04. 
Tips to help remote workers increase productivity

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    How to manage remote employees
    04

    Tips to help remote workers increase productivity

    Over-communication is better than less communication

    Communication is the key to organizing remote work. But this is also a big challenge for everyone on the team. Misunderstandings can escalate very quickly and destroy team relationships. Every member of the team should care about this and feel responsible for it. However, being the leader, you should always continue to highlight the importance of communication and give people the possibility to speak their minds. At Scalac we work in different time zones, when one team takes over, the other says goodbye. So, the key thing is to find time to exchange information, set new tasks and confirm priorities.

    Choose tools that are most convenient for the team. At Scalac, every team can choose their own optimal solution. The most common are:

    • Slack – to communicate effectively,
    • Email – to communicate, exchange documents and newsletters,
    • Jira – to manage tasks and handle communication around specific tasks and projects,
    • Zoom – to handle calls, especially those with a larger number of participants
    • Google Hangouts Meet – again handling calls, the easiest way for those who own Gmail accounts and GSuite like we do.
    • Confluence – to exchange knowledge, procedures, experience and store project requirements (Wiki-like platform) 

    Start by defining clear communication rules and work tools. When do we use chats? Why do we write emails? At what point do we pick up the phone? These answers should be a joint effort and one that is reflective of the team’s efforts as opposed to that of one person.

    Give people space and let them carry out their tasks. This is a good first step. Our example shows that they will keep to the deadlines themselves.

    Slack - organize your virtual office

    To communicate on a daily basis we use Slack and we definitely recommend it to all. How can you use it effectively for remote communication?

    “Try to keep the “Slack office” as clean as possible. Even though Slack is a great communication tool, it can also become a distraction.

    Channel management is necessary. This means that you should be careful to  organize  channels and remove those which are unnecessary. 

    Organize your company’s work via dedicated channels. Match these to your company’s needs and processes. We will share some of ours to inspire you:

    #general important and/or strategic announcements, people coming/leaving, etc.
    #random different posts – from gossip, events to employee issues
    #improvements “company culture” and related stuff
    #recruitment communication between Scalac recruiters, recruitment discussions
    #scala/#frontend/#qa  “technical” channels if you want to broaden your knowledge and/or share your thoughts and ideas                        
    #[client] channels discussing projects
    #programming Discuss, ask questions and learn
    #sanfrancisco/#nyc/#tricity/#rzeszow/#warsaw/#cracow and others to communicate across locations
    #holidays reporting days off
    #mems funny photos and graphics, because we all need to share some fun as a team

    #kudos giving kudos for being a great teammate and doing a great job

    Become a guide and coach. Remember that remote work requires a much bigger commitment to building relationships in a team, taking care of employee involvement.  You should be a guide on this journey, especially at the beginning . People will need you. Find time for people. For example, you could try the daily standup method  (15 minute meeting per day) or weekly summaries. 

    Take care of your teamwork hygiene”

    We recommend you don’t check Slack constantly. Messages can interrupt work. People should know that you don’t expect them to reply to every message within a few seconds. If you want them to be able to focus properly, you have to show them trust. 

    Let them know about using statuses like “I’m busy”, “away” to let people know.
    There’s also a very useful option to set reminders, for example, to remember to reply to a message when you have the time. 

    Want to get an answer on the channel?
    Using @here and @channel might lead to people muting/ignoring those channels, so we recommend you mention specific people. 

    Sometimes it might be a bit annoying to respond to never-ending questions from employees, but remember, in the case of remote work, it’s better to over-communicate than to lack communication. 

    Have a backup plan also, in case Slack is down – a good manager always has a plan B. 

    Create a guidebook on how to work from home like a boss

    Set rules for everyone – about tools and channels of communication which are appropriate for every situation.

    You can use some of our rules as guidelines – you can find them in our “How to work from home like a boss” article.

    Management, task delivery, working hours, holidays

    Management

    Avoid micromanagement. Concentrate on supporting the team with planning and prioritizing instead of controlling them. Choose appropriate tools.  At Scalac, we use several. Thanks to Jira, Confluence, Trello or ASANA we can manage tasks and projects, share knowledge about our projects. 

    Working remotely: when and where?

    Let people work from where they want (either home office or a co-working space if they need it) and choose the best working hours (eg. regarding their day clock preferences). We routinely ask our team to put their preferences on a Slack profile such as early bird, flex, night owl).

    Tell your team that you respect individual preferences but expect them to be transparent. This means mostly lots of communication and participation in meetings.

    In general, we don’t use employee monitoring. The time reporting process is connected with reports for our clients. To do this effectively, we have implemented Clockify. If you are just starting to work remotely with your team and you want to have a preview of the detailed schedule of your employees, you can also try Toggl.

    How do we organize holidays? We have a #holidays channel on Slack. Anyone planning a day off publishes this information on this channel. Before this happens, the vacation time must be accepted by both the client and the Project Manager. After placing the information, one of the so-called Slack bots reminds you to place the vacation information in the “Holidays” file developed in Google Sheets. This file counts holidays, development days, and sick days automatically. On this basis,  human resources team specialists can prepare their necessary reports.

    Online Meetings

    Effective organization of meetings is a challenge, not only for remote teams. Poorly organized meetings can be a nightmare regardless of industry or specialization. Here are some tips that our team has found helpful when organizing online meetings:

    • Take part in all important meetings. 
    • Always start with the agenda (you can put it in the meeting time slot description) and to focus, keep notes during the meeting . 
    • Be on time on the other side of the screen.
    • Do a short summary just after the meeting to highlight any key points. You can also create mind maps to understand the subject of the meeting better. 
    • During calls, turn on your video. It’s good to see friends and, of course, having visual contact is helpful (you should ask your colleagues if they feel comfortable with that though). Be flexible and turn off the video in the case of a poor internet connection (to save bandwidth). 
    • When you organize meetings of several participants it is worth remembering that all participants should join from their laptops. This really helps with the audio quality. And of course, a good microphone is always a nice solution. 
    • You can recommend that your team mute themselves initially and switch themselves on when it is their turn to talk. This may sound strange, but more than once I have encountered a situation where a participant thought he had been heard by the rest of his colleagues but then had to repeat his words. You can also remind your team members to use a headset with a separate microphone. 
    • Use threads to organize the discussion.  
    • Be ready to hop on a quick online call during your working day.
    • At Scalac, we have different types of meetings, such as  daily standups, retrospectives, weekly summary meetings, kick-off meetings with customers and onsite meetings with customers. 
    • Remember to respect all participants in these kinds of  meetings. Especially when you have ‘mixed’ participants – some in the office and some working remotely.

    Be sure that your team members have the necessary equipment

    It’s important to check if your remote employees have comfortable conditions for remote work, starting with a good internet connection. You can recommend a wired connection because radio connections are unstable. We also recommend phones as a backup. There will be situations when without any backup you’ll be lost. 

     

    At Scalac, we take care of the work equipment by providing a laptop and other necessary equipment from the very beginning. Our employees also have the possibility to get additional equipment if they need it.  For this purpose, any interested person may place his/her needs in a dedicated Excel file. The link to this database is located in the appropriate chapters of the Scalac Handbook and we additionally inform new employees about this onboarding process. Every cost should be checked with the Talent Team and, of course, we have to adapt all purchases to the company’s capabilities. At the same time, we try to make sure that none of the requests remain unaddressed. 

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