Many believe the future of work is truly digital. To us, the future of work is already here. The way we work has radically changed over the past ten years, as the ability to work remotely has been democratised by the internet. Today majority of companies, big and small, have remote teams or team members.
At Holvi, we are an international team that is constantly on the move. Events, meetups and customer meetings keep us busy as we reshape the landscape of banking across Europe. We have invested time and effort to build the systems and procedures for creating functional and efficient teams that can successfully work remotely. In this post, we share our experience on how to make use of digital tools and make teleworking teams as efficient as possible.
Key benefits of remote work
The main advantage of telework for companies is that it allows you to have access to the world’s best and brightest people, without geographical limitations. For many employees, one of the obvious benefits of working remotely is that you can work from any place that has a reliable internet connection. You can relocate whenever you want or even work while travelling.
We are a digital company, so our mantra for operations has always been that you can work from wherever you need to be. Be it the busy airport or the backstage of a tech conference — working should be limitless.
Many remote team members work from the comfort of their own home. The biggest benefit of it is reduced commuting times. Not having to spend your mornings in traffic jams allows for a much better use of time. Also, working from home reduces the amount of distractions, and helps you keep better focus at work. And often also results in better creativity.
Of course, remote work is not all perfect, and it’s very important to take into consideration the challenges that come with distributed teams before setting up a team like that. Probably one of the biggest challenges is that it’s more difficult to build and maintain a company culture with remote workers as opposed to having everyone in the same office.
Remote work increases the risk of miscommunication, especially if communication mostly happens in written format. For example, context, mood or importance given to a topic by the person on the other side is not as clear as face to face.
For those who telework, it can be difficult to not have a continuous contact with other team members. For some, working from home makes it harder to balance work and life as people tend to overwork. It can also be challenging to make remote team members feel involved in the team’s decisions if they are not physically present at the office. Although current video systems are very good, they don’t completely replace seeing people ”in real”.
How to make telework work?
Start by building facilities and procedures for teleworking whether you already have remote team members or not. As remote work is getting more ubiquitous, your next employee can come from any part of the world!
Build the right culture
The core of any well functioning team is the people. At Holvi, we have the right chemistry between people, so it makes it easier to overcome challenges and misunderstandings when being dependent on written communication. Teleworking requires the right tools for communication and everyone’s involvement and acceptance of the setup.
We believe that for distributed teams to work well you need the right culture as much as the right technology. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of encouraging an open discussion environment where people feel confident about raising issues and giving feedback. You need foster trust and respect. Also make sure everyone has clear roles and responsibilities; alignment and accountability are very important.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
With the teleworking setup, you need to put more effort into keeping all messages unambiguous and make sure that everyone is always on the same page. A good rule of thumb is to overcommunicate than the other way around. Also, make sure you design a structure for individual regular feedback. You can never have too much feedback.
Make sure you sync your team regularly and frequently. We spend 10 minutes every morning to sync the whole team: we use the format of the daily scrum where everyone updates on what they did yesterday, what they’re planning to do today and if there are any blockers. We also have weekly meetings that allow the whole team to stay up to date with what’s been achieved and the plans for the coming weeks. In general, all meetings should be planned beforehand, but in teleworking it is essential. Send a draft of the meeting agenda beforehand to everyone.
Get the right tools
Find the right channels and tools for team communication. We have almost eliminated team communication via email due to its inefficiency; instead we use Slack for team chat, which has become one of the essentials in our comms toolbox. We use Google Hangouts and talky.io for conference calls and Trello, Google Docs, Github and Dropbox to collaborate.
Bring the team together
Of course, face to face communication is very important for building relationships among people. Get the whole team together for a couple of days every 3-4 months to work together, do workshops, strategy sessions and simply to socialise.
And the last piece of advice – don’t save on the speed of the internet connection!
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