How we organize remote work

We normally discourage remote work. It’s not because we don’t know how to do it, but because we believe sharing time together is an important part of our culture.

We are actually quite experts in remote work, that’s how all our dedicated teams work with our clients, and we’ve been doing that quite well.

The objective of this post is to share our experience for those that want to start with remote work. Mostly, given the fact that COVID-19 is generating a global crisis that requires changes on how we work for some time.

This post is based on our engineering department’s remote work guidelines, so credits to them and their leaders.

You should use this guideline as what it is, a guideline. It might require some changes to adapt to your business.

Communication

First, let’s start by defining what communication tools we’ll be using.

  • Slack: We use slack channels to segment the communication and avoid notifying everyone about everything. For each team we use a channel named #team-XXX, where XXX is the team name.
  • Google Meet: We use it for video conferencing. You could use slack for that too, but we have the free version only. Since we use GSuite to host our corporate email, this is a great option.

Important

When you are working remote, it’s crucial NOT TO ASSUME ANYTHING. Don’t assume the other one understood what you said, don’t assume the other person will consider some task important, don’t assume everyone knows what to do. Ask and explain again, even the obvious.

Slack channels

We suggest setting up public and private channels for every team.

  • #team-XXX: This channel is public and is useful when team outsiders want to communicate with the team. We also use it for “Hi and Goodbye”.
  • #team-XXX-internal: Only team members belong to the team. Used for general team communication.
  • #team-XXX-YYY: Used for team communication for members of team XXX that work on project/client YYY. Useful when a team works on more than one project/client.

Video conferencing

For all meetings we strongly recommend the use of a webcam. It will help you better understand how everyone feels, making use of non-verbal communication. It also strengthens bonding.

Meetings are scheduled in google calendar and a conferencing link is automatically sent. If you want to start a meeting that’s not scheduled, simply go to Google Meet (https://meet.google.com/), make one and share the link.

Tools to develop your work

Asana

Asana (https://www.asana.com) is our preferred tool to organize everything we do at Qualabs, since it allows us to work in a transparent and collaborative way. It has a free version for teams of up-to 15 members if you want to try it.

We use teams, projects and tasks. Tasks have one (and only one) assignee, a description and a deadline. You can collaborate with others through comments and attachments (cloud files are integrated). You will thank me the next time you don’t have to search thousands of emails so find someone’s comment.

Software projects were our first use of asana. We organize product backlog, client management (typically kanban) and also development sprints.

But we also use it for other business areas. Here are some examples:

  • HR: talent acquisition, on-boarding and performance evaluation processes.
  • Marketing: social network management, design needs and event organization.
  • Admin: invoicing, accounts payable and purchasing.
  • Management: strategic planning, meeting minutes and new business projects.

Google Drive

Google Drive (https://drive.google.com) provides a series of tools to work with in text documents (docs), spreadsheets (sheets) and presentations (slides).

About a year ago, google added backwards compatibility edition of Microsoft Office files, like Word, Excel and Powerpoint presentations. If you still use them and need to switch to the cloud, this might be a great feature.

Things we love about these tools:

  • Collaboration: more than one person can work on the same file at the same time.
  • Cloud-based: no need to download the files to work on them.
  • Automatic version control: need not to save “file vXX” any more.

Of course we also use many software development tools for remote work, but those require a separate post.

Hi and Goodbye!

When you are doing remote, your team members don’t know when you are working or not. To keep your personal time for yourself, we suggest you check-in and check-out from work.

In channel #team-XXX we check-in with a short description on what we are working on and if I need someone’s assistance.

Template

*Hi - 03/16/2020* 
I’m working on ZZZ task. I’ll need to coordinate with @john.

It’s convenient that we report some time before we leave. We send a “goodbye” message in #team-XXX about 30 minutes before we disconnect. If someone has a last-minute question, they know it’s time to ask.

Template

*Goodbye - 03/16/2020* 
I’ll disconnect in about 30 min. Any question, ask @here

Do not disturb

We use the emoji
to notify we are focused and we expect not to be interrupted. Ideally we set our slack status with the icon when we are on flow. You can also answer someone with
and kindly let them know you are focused and not just ignoring them.

Daily Meetings

Daily meetings with the team are encouraged. They allow you to sync work, easily report progress and detect blockers. We suggest you schedule them everyday at the same time. 15 minutes should be more than enough for this.

Remember these meetings are for sync. If a topic requires specific handling, make an ad-hoc meeting to address it or continue the discussion on slack after the meeting.

The emotional check-in

Above everything, remember that when you are working remote, it’s more important than ever to emotionally check-in with your team.

Ask them how they feel, tell them what you did last day or weekend. The fact we are working remotely doesn’t mean we don’t have to take care of the relationship. On the contrary, it’s when it might be more important.

Hope this guideline is of help! If you liked it, please share! If you have any improvements or comments, please send me an email, it’s published in our website.

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