Enabling your team to work from home and expect nothing else to change is a recipe for disaster. And frankly, one of the best arguments supporting the return to the office.
Remote work is about how you do the work. You cannot get the same effects, if you’re missing some of the crucial tools in your process. We work great together as teams, because we collaborate, we brainstorm, we spontaneously discuss ideas. And a lot of us are used to doing those things face to face. Taking away those opportunities by allowing people to work from different locations will hinder your progress.
This is why is much more important to adapt to new tools, methods, and work styles in general when deciding to go remote. You still need to brainstorm, spontaneously discuss ideas, build relations and work together, but you need to realize that you don’t have a shared office to facilitate those things for you.
- Create a virtual space you are all present in. I mean really present, that you can know who’s online at any given moment, and that you can approach them without a hassle. And I’m not talking about Slack here. I’ve used discord voice channels, where the presence is more exposed, and you’re always a click away from getting your team’s attention. Gather is an interesting solution, if you’re into this kind of thing. Just remember that it’s about principles, not tools: it’s to fill the gap of a shared, real-time collaboration space that your office was responsible for.
- Remote work is predominantly asynchronous. Decisions are not made in meetings, behind closed doors. Instead of gathering the team in one place at one time, create a shared space for collaboration: documents, wikis, or even slack channels. Let the work happen over a longer period of time, so more people have an easier way to participate. The added benefit is that the results will be self-documenting, including both the journey, and the destination you’ll arrive to.
- Asynchronous works best with flexible hours. Since there are fewer incentives to gather at the same time, it’s a great opportunity to adapt everyone’s work schedule to what fits them the most. That explicitly does not mean that you need to prohibit meetings: it’s that the amount of synchronous work decreases rapidly.
- In a creative environment, a lot of ideas are born spontaneously, but need a catalyst to happen. Facilitate it. Allow for serendipity that comes from people bumping into each other. They won’t do it in office hallways or kitchens, simulate that in a virtual space. The Donut slack bot does a great job at that
- One of the common arguments is that remote work is more effective, because you waste less time on office chats, hanging out in the kitchen, going out for a meal or in a playroom. It’s true, but they are team bonding activities, and it’s best to keep some of them to build relationships. Consider spending some time in your dailies for casual talk, or set up a separate, optional meeting around lunchtime to chat about non-work related things.
Long story short: allowing people to work from different places, without realizing that you need to account for the lost opportunities is a dead end. Remote is not about the location, is about your work culture.