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Yevheniy Hloba, Delivery Manager at Infopulse, shared his experience in organizing remote teamwork, ways to boost motivation, and the importance of trust and informal communication.
Being a sociable person who enjoys office environment, I found it challenging to adapt to the remote work model. To help my team and myself shift to a new approach to work, I implemented a number of methods that have proven to be successful.
To begin with, I believe that a well-equipped workspace is essential for work quality. It contributes to the working atmosphere, keeps work and personal life separate, and creates comfortable working conditions. As we talk about a long-term remote working mode, people may find it difficult working productively while at the dining table or on a couch. Movies and TV shows give us an idea of a nice country house with a studio as a perfect detached place for working remotely. In reality, many people don’t have an option to make a comfortable working space in a separate room.
The best way to address this issue would be to organize a comfortable workplace with what’s at hand. For instance, Infopulse experts were able to enhance their home setup with additional monitors taken from the office, which allowed for a more comfortable work than working with a single laptop display. You should also consider buying a quality chair and a powerful Wi-Fi router. The stability of the Internet connection should not influence your performance.
Remote Team Workflow
Currently, our team consists of ten people, and some were already working remotely even before the company shifted to working from home. However, it was necessary for me, as a manager, to establish an efficient workflow that would meet the needs of every member of the team, both familiar and new to the remote work model. I pay great attention to timeframes and shared responsibility on the project to ensure that we meet the needs of the customers and complete our scope of work in time. The team efficiency, in my opinion, should be evaluated in general, based on the team effort. That is because the team is a single entity, and each member of the team plays an important role. Thus, not meeting the timeframe would be the mistake of the entire team. Each and every one contributes to our mutual success, and we need to help those struggling with their parts of work.
It is impossible to overestimate the significance of an established schedule and certain rituals that help tune to work and build up a working routine. It simplifies communication, as the team knows when their colleagues are available and can plan their work. It also helps to stay within the working hours and prevents unnecessary overtime efforts, which are so common among the freelance workers.
For instance, I dedicate my mornings to synchronizing with the team: check my mail, receive the latest news from the team, look through messengers, and task statuses. To mark the beginning and end of my working day, I turn on and off a desk lamp. This simple method helps me stay focused during the day and distinguish between working and non-working hours.
Tools and Techniques for Remote Work
To help organize work and make it more efficient, we rely on certain applications and programs.
As a manager, I always have to be in touch with my team to be able to assist them if necessary. At the same time, the entire team have established productive continuous communication. To make cooperation efficient and convenient for all team members, we utilize a whole range of tools and solutions, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Telegram – each serving its own purpose. We adopted the habit of notifying our colleagues of whether we are “at work” by sending a greeting message to the chat in the morning and marking the lunch break via Slack status, a message in the chat, or by booking this time in the calendar. We also found Pomodoro Timer particularly useful to help avoid distractions by breaking work into periods adjusted to your needs: you dedicate 25 minutes to work, then switch to mail for the next 5 minutes, and so on. To plan our workload, we selected Jira, where we can monitor task statuses and the amount of time spent on each of them.
Besides work-related communication, it is crucial to create a friendly space for informal conversations. While at the office, people do not limit their interaction with colleagues to discussing tasks and deadlines only. To compensate for the lack of informal communication, our team has organized a half-an-hour video meeting for a quick cup of coffee at midday. I see it as an alternative to meeting someone in a coffee shop or in the streets, where people can talk about anything. Initially, these meetings didn’t perform that great, as people didn’t understand the real purpose of them. Some even considered it to be yet another formal meeting to report the ongoing tasks. However, later it turned into a friendly environment where we communicate, discuss news, and share recommendations about books and films. We might even continue this tradition of virtual coffee breaks after we return to the office, as some of the team members work remotely on a permanent basis. Such meetings allow us to be a more tight-knit team.
Moreover, we created a similar meeting in our department at 8-00 a.m. Anyone can join this meeting to communicate with any other person present online. It is a great way to maintain relationships not only in a team but also in a broader social network. Isolating in the team or isolating the team itself seems unreasonable, as local offices of Infopulse include up to 2,000 people, and more than 24000 globally with TietoEVRY, our parent company. By communicating with colleagues from all around the world, you understand that you are part of something greater than a team of ten people.
During this month, we also organized two business breakfasts with team leaders and, in a brain-storm-like manner, discussed rules and limitations of the remote work, shared useful tools for efficient cooperation and work, and ways to deal with critical situations.
Responsibility, Motivation, and Trust
While working remotely, you should be especially attentive to details. It is worth taking into account your family circumstances to organize work properly and take some precautions. For example, children can easily invade your working room and disrupt an important meeting.
For younger team members, who don’t have a family of their own yet, it is easier to organize work and operations. However, they may face another challenge – lack of communication. The manager has to address this issue, providing feedback to their team members and creating a comfortable and supportive atmosphere.
If talking about junior specialists, they still require mentorship. Every other day a mentor should contact them directly to enquire about the task status/readiness or offer help if necessary. They can also advise on the sources of useful information to find or to read.
It is also essential to keep the team motivated and encouraged while working remotely as lack of direct interaction may have a negative impact on work attitude. One of the keys to great motivation would be establishing an individual approach. The manager should combine the global project goals with personal goals for every specialist and give them a chance to develop in the field and area they find most interesting. The team can be encouraged by declaring the results they can achieve and depicting the growth prospects of the project. Inviting budget owners and heads of departments can help underline the significance of the team’s contribution and the importance and value of it for customers.
Trust is another essential element for excellent cooperation. I think that overcontrol and constant inspection of your employees would only bring negative results. Some degree of freedom will help each team member find the most convenient and appropriate work pace. As previously mentioned, effective team interaction can be ensured by status notifications. Such an approach contributes to team morale, engagement, and readiness to deliver the best result.
However, overlapping working schedules can lead to confusion when one feels obliged to answer an email that comes at 10 in the evening. To avoid such misunderstanding, we agreed that if somebody sends a late email or an inquiry, this means they do not expect an immediate answer.
The most difficult thing in today’s #stayathome initiative is that we do not work from home as freelancers with the ability to meet our friends or spend some quality time out. We have to stay continuously at the same location. In addition, every time we decide to go out, we have to be extremely careful and take all the precautions: wear masks, glasses, and gloves to protect our families and ourselves.
With these and many other additional stress factors, it is crucial to eliminate possible negative effects of remote work and create productive and effective workflow even at home.
Are you looking to moving your business to the remote work model? Infopulse has successfully transitioned our 2,000 specialists to work from home. We would be happy to assist you in establishing all the necessary processes for your business. Contact us for expert assistance on how to bring your business to remote work!