For the first time in modern history, most of us have to learn how to work remotely and collaborate online to continue with business as usual and not close down the business just because we close down the office. This is a huge experiment and we should look at it as an opportunity to adapt and learn how to handle the unexpected.
We need to explore how can we run our business just as before, or even better. How can we make people feel like we are sitting and working together with our peers and teammates and do what we usually do to get stuff done, focus, enjoy our workday, have fun and deliver together?
Don’t forget, to get started quickly, try something out and improve from that is way much better than making the perfect plan, and never get started. Just make it good enough for now, and safe enough to try.
Here are some tips on how to do just that based on learnings from the Dandy People-team.
Top 5 Digital Tools that get you started Working Remotely
When making big changes in your ways of working and context it is wise to shorten the feedback loops and focus on making smaller improvements more often. Support your teams in whatever they might need and give them access to tools and coaching in the beginning, but let it be up to them to decide HOW to do the work. If you prioritize feedback and improvements you minimize the risk of disturbing the pace and quality of work and you can more easily adjust to what is happening.
- Free video conference tool that works hassle-free – Zoom
Since face-to-face communication is the absolute best way to communicate without misunderstanding each other we have to use a video conference tool. Video will also help to make it feel more like business as usual. One of the most popular ones is called Zoom. It is popular because it works everywhere across the globe, it is free to use and it has really great features such as a chat, “beautify filter” and cool backdrops. So if you don’t feel like putting on makeup or cleaning your home office there is no need to worry, Zoom will fix that for you. It also has add ons for real webinars and huge meetings with recording if you would like to use it across the organization and you can call in by phone too. Zoom is something we use both internally at Dandy, as well as with people we collaborate with across the globe and for remote presentations as well as running big webinars.
- Free digital planning tool – Trello
Knowing what to do, what others are doing and helping each other is a big deal when working remotely, just as it is when sitting next to each other. A great free digital tool for remote planning is Trello. In Trello you just create a board and invite your team and invite to your first online planning meeting and add your work and you are all set to facilitate the planning and delivery of the team’s work. In the Trello-cards, you can add links, pictures and other details to facilitate sharing of content and building your backlog of work as you go along. You can also pull work from the Trello list by adding your name to a card and you can let someone know you want their feedback on something by just using a @name in the card and they get a notification and can answer you right away – or get to it when they have time. Trello works on your phone as well on the computer. At Dandy we use Trello for most all our different processes that need collaboration or takes some time to finish, such as onboarding new Dandys, for delivering innovation and improvements together and for recruiting. A good start could be to set up columns for “Unprioritized”, “To do”, “Doing” and “Done”, or to simply add the specific steps in your process that you are working in. You can use Mural for this too, but with a bit less features.
- Building your team, facilitating team events, collaboration, and improvement – Mural – 30-day trial
Start your day with the team with a check-in using a check-in template, or run a Lean Coffee session together with a remote video 3 O’clock “fika” (traditional Swedish social event with coffee and cake). Mural is an amazing digital tool for online facilitation of most any kind of activity. You can do anything from daily standups (short daily meetings on todays work), strategy work, planning the roadmap and running user story mapping, to ideation and problem solving, to check-ins and improvement meetings (retrospective). I fell in love with Mural years ago facilitating user-centered research work for Agile teams with customer journeys and personas. The templates make it so easy to set up any type of collaboration even as a newbie, but you can also add your own backgrounds to facilitate any kind of session. Invite your team and share one big canvas, with several different areas to get an easy start and save your spaces and use them for continuous collaboration, delivery, and improvement.
- Instant chat with the team and organization instead of individual communication – Slack
Having a great digital chat-tool is helping teams collaborate a lot. Slack is one of the most popular ones because it is free to use, super easy to set up and it makes communication instant and fun with easy to use features to structure conversations in different channels and supporting collaboration and fun at work. At Dandy we use Slack as our primary communication channel every day and on both our phones and on desktop. This is where everyone check-in every morning in our #checkin-channel letting everyone know how we are feeling and what we will be up to during the day. This is by far the most important practice we have at Dandy if you ask me. In the #help-bring-it-to-the-team-channel anyone can ask for help from anyone and for each customer we have a separate customer channel to collaborate and inform everyone working with that client, or if you just want to stay up to date. For formal company information, we have a slack channel called #Dandy-company-information supporting everyone with a shared understanding of company information.
- Engage the team and customers with interactive polls – Mentimeter
This is a perhaps nice-to-have tool, but it can make any data hunting and presentation fun in no-time. Mentimeter is also a free tool that you can start using really easily. Test and see how your team is feeling today by providing the daily stress-test, or engage your customers in giving feedback on your team on a regular basis. Lots of different type of visualizations that look good too.
Top 5 Tips on how to Build that Social Glue in your Remote Collaborations
- Be kind and listen to each other
When having remote meetings you have to be a bit more gentle and kind to each other to make people relax, especially if you don’t know each other since before. Always start by using your own video, and ask others to do so too so that you see each other’s faces, but make sure you mute your mic when not speaking, otherwise it gets really messy. Ask people to speak one and one and to listen in to each other. It can be wise to use a digital tool to simulate sticky notes (Mural) to get everyone’s ideas and views on things. This makes the team much better at solving problems not just having the one person saying things out loud.
- Take a quick round Robin so that everyone gets to speak up
and say something during the first 5 minutes of the meeting. It helps everyone join in the conversation during the meeting. Using an ice breaker or check-in can be a great way to get you started (Mural has some cool ones you can try) or it can be as easy as to say your own names just to check the sound.
- Socialize over video with your team, or one and one.
Have a coffee or a cup of tea, talk about something else than work. Take a lunch over video with the team, just like you would do at the office. Sitting all by yourself the whole day doesn’t make you more effective as a team, social glue does.
- Pair up and work two and two.
Take on a piece of work from your list of stuff to do (from the Trello board) and deliver it together. It is often much easier to pair-work digitally than IRL since we can work in the same document, on different pieces of a text – “if you start at the top I start at the end” – and we can discuss and watch each other over video. The beauty of pair-work is not just that it is more fun, it is also much more efficient because we can focus and deliver quickly with better quality.
- Prioritize short feedback loops and improvement.
End your day by asking everyone what was great today that we can do more of? And 1-3 things that we should improve tomorrow. By doing that you keep what your team thinks is working and bring energy in to always improve and make it better. End by asking the team to take on and share the work to improve. Mural has great canvases to use for this too.
I hope these tips will get you started and that you will enjoy working remote and find cool new ways to unleash the brainpower in your teams and organization
Do you need help to start working remotely?
If you need coaching for your team or organization, just let us now, we are here to help just as always. Ping us at info (at) dandypeople.com and we’ll get right back to you.