June 20, 2020

Vishal Tiwari

The World is Everybody’s Playground. Side effects of Covid-19

Pre-Covid, like John Snow, most people knew nothing about the impact remote work would have on quality of work product, team dynamics, collaboration, and modus operandi in general. We didn’t want to take the risk to find out, stakes were usually too high and time was limited to identify, pilot, and learn.

The worldwide COVID work from home situation forced us to participate in that experiment and most of us now have 9 months of QED on how to be successful and effective when remote.

The experiment also proved that remote can be anywhere in the world, for any period of time, as long as we have access to internet and a reasonably soundproof way to take calls, even video call backgrounds can be digitized to a variety of options.

Work product quality was and will always remain king. Pre- or post-Covid, in office, or remote there is no getting away from having to deliver work products that meet or exceed KPIs and SLAs. Now we know how. We’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t and now most of us know how to collaborate in a 100% remote setup.

This opened the stage for a global playing field. People can live and work from anywhere in the world; they can be just as efficient, save on travel time and costs. When we emerge from the pandemic (and we will, hopefully very soon), we will find a new playing field with new rules and new players. We will find teams with head starts and playbooks in the new paradigm.

But we've seen that somethings have worked and some haven't. At Attain we've been "remote" for our clients with some of our team members working outside of our offices so transitioning to all-remote happened in less than a day. For other companies, it may have been harder.  

Here's what we've seen works:

Over communication is key

The number one challenge is how to communicate effectively. When you're in an office, you have plenty of opportunities to quickly chat be it before meetings, in the break room, or in planned discussions. Communication in the remote world depends on deliberate programming and scheduling with thought out actions and results. But getting responses for each small question is more difficult remotely and that's why tools for asynchronous communication like slack, daily stand ups, and messenger services are key.

Virtual Social Bonding

We build trust when we create bonds, collaborate, and communicate with others. Without physical social interactions, this slows down a lot. While Happy Hours and other office events were the primary medium for social bonding,"Zoom Happy Hours" have turned out to be trickier. What works seems to be scheduled virtual chats, ice-breakers, and shared experiences that employees can partake in together. For example, a group cooking class, team trivia nights, and one-on-one video sessions for just talking and catching up.

Remote Work Policy

Many companies needed to go remote fast without fully being able to flesh out documentation for it. A Remote Work Policy is a HR agreement between the company and an employee on when are how they can work outside the office. It's also a checklist of expectations and guidelines. It also includes best practices and can be temporary and permanent.

The contents of the policy should help make it clear what expectations there are for both employee and employer.  While the document is there to protect both sides legally, it should also help in the smooth operation of the business and help the employee to understand how remote working might differ from them doing their role in office. It contains things such as:

  • Working hours
  • Legal rights
  • Insurance
  • Cybersecurity requirements
  • Tools
  • Expenses (if applicable)
  • Strategies
  • Termination

In a great article by Macy Bayern of TechRepublic she outlines 10 rules for your remote work policy:

  1. Eligibility
  2. Availability
  3. Responsiveness
  4. Productivity measurements
  5. Productivity measurements
  6. Tech support
  7. Rightful termination
  8. Physical environment
  9. Security
  10. Client confidentiality

Helpful Tools

Project management: At Attain, we use Asana for project management. It's easy to use and a very effective way to plot and track projects. There's also Trello which is a great (free) way to plan your projects, and collaborate together.

Communication: At Attain, we use Slack for most of our internal communication. Slack is an online chatroom that works as a great platform for brainstorming, sharing files, and comparing notes and much more. Conversations can be organized by channels which keeps things neat and clean.

Video: Video is the backbone of effective remote work. We principally use Zoom for our all hands meetings and Whereby for quicker small team conversations or sales call. There are pros and cons for each of these, but choosing the best tool for your team depends on your company’s specific communication needs.

Virtual Stand-ups: A written daily check-in first thing allows employees to plan their day better. Asynchronous written updates are better than video/phone because you can add links and look back on what’s happened. Tools like Range make these updates easy.

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