How to manage remote teams and work remotely.
Here is a quick guideline for working remotely, being productive and produce results.
Follow the same routine as if you were going to an office. Replace your commute time with investing time in yourself. If you were commuting a total of two hours per day. Then invest those two hours in yourself by exercising, meditating, or learning something that can help your career growth in the future.
- Wake up
- Invest time in your growth
- Follow your normal morning routine: Shower, breakfast, family.
- Go to work
- Go to lunch (home or outside)
- Go to work
- Finish work (8-hr day)
- Follow your normal evening routine: Family, dinner
- Invest time in your growth
Productive Home Office Environment
You need a comfortable chair where you will spending 8 hours a day, minus the breaks and lunch time. The most ergonomic chair is the aeron chair. It will cost you around $500 used.
The standing desk is overhyped and it will cost too much. Also standing for long periods isn’t good either. Better taking short breaks, standing up, walking around.
Invest in dual monitors or one long curvy monitor. Ergonomic mouse. Wrist support for keyboard. Either flat keyboard or mechanical keyboard. Invest in a headset for video calls and music headphones. They don’t need to be wireless.
Lobby for the best computer they can give you at work. You will use this computer for 8 hours and most likely you will not turn it off.
Other gadgets: HD external webcam, cooling fan for laptop, power surge, other cables to connect all your equipment
Most importantly. A home office with a door you can close.
Productive Personal Growth
Invest in a course platform like Linkedin Learning. It’s a cheap monthly cost with a large catalog of courses. Or go the Youtube way if you can put up with the ads.
If you aren’t currently pursuing a degree. Try pursuing a certification. Follow a course to prepare, invest hours day and night, make a plan to achieve the certification by a due date.
You can also make a goal of reading X number of books per month. They can be of any genre. If you wish to read all Harry Potter books. Then challenge yourself to finish by some date.
You can try other things for personal growth, like exercising, meditating, etc.
Productive Work Hours
Here are tips for being productive at work.
Block your calendar before and after work hours so they don’t add you to meetings.
Set a recurring date Monday to Friday and block your calendar to have lunch.
Use your calendar like a scrum board. Plan your day and week. Make 30 min appointments to block your calendar to do tasks. You can extend those to 60-min tasks if they take longer. Move the “tasks” around the calendar if you can’t complete them. Break down the tasks to the smallest thing that takes at least 15 minutes (set to 30 min appointments). These are example of tasks:
- Read emails
- Update CRM
- Call Homer
- Call Bart
- Read long email from Bart
- Prepare presentation Part1
You can use the description of the calendar appointment to put a few more details.
For example for task “Update CRM”, the description could be “Update the pipeline for Project1”, or simply make the description the task name.
Take a shower, get dressed, have breakfast, be ready.
It’s important to follow a normal routine as if you were going to an office.
Wake Up Earlier To Learn Better
It’s easier to do the hardest thing in the morning when your brain is ready to take on a new day. Start your day by investing in yourself. Don’t go to work unless you learned something new. This will push you to wake up earlier.
Keep Track of Your Work and Goals
If your work uses software to track your work, then use it. If they have a CRM, then use it. If they have tools that are available, even if they are not used by your team, use them.
If you don’t have any software tools. Then track work with Excel. Divide your work into projects and tasks. Keep track of tasks being done, past due, priorities.
Keep track of your quarterly goals if you have performance reviews. You must be able to defend your work and your results.
Attend Productive Work Meetings
Attend work meetings that affect your quarterly goals. Attend work meetings that affect your projects and tasks. Other meetings might not be as important and you don’t have to attend meetings all day. This is counter productive.
Use the calendar to block times to do uninterrupted work.
Managing Remote Teams
Here is a quick guideline for managing remote teams, being productive and produce results.
- Trust but verify
- Use software tools to track projects, goals, tasks, and results
- Create self-service training
- Use agile or light agile
- Set a weekly team meeting
- Keep an “open-door” policy
Trust but verify
The typical comment from managers that don’t believe in remote teams is not being able to see the associate in an office all day to see they are working.
However, even before Covid, teams are distributed, as well as vendors, and customers. How do you trust that a vendor will send your products, if they are located in another city? You have an agreement and you expect they commit to it.
In the past I managed remote teams located in many countries and now I work with associates, managers, hiring teams, and partners who are all over the US and in another country.
Trust that they will do their work but verify…
Use software tools to track projects, goals, tasks, and results
Verify their work using software to track results.
Software can be a project management tool or a CRM or at the worst case Excel. A software can help with automating things which will save you a lot of time and reduce a lot of repetitive tasks.
Keep track of reports: usage reports, project reports, goals, tasks due, and results.
Provide transparency to the team by sending weekly reports or setting up a self-service dashboard that is updated weekly. That way team members can see their contribution and achievement towards the goals. Everyone can see who is running behind and you can enable an environment where team members help each other.
Create self-service training
Training takes a long time. Invest in an automated self-service platform. This can be as easily as making a table of contents with the material and making short 5-min video tutorial for each chapter. Then upload this to the cloud (MS Teams or Google Docs) for everyone in the team to see. If anyone has questions, point them to the tutorials. You can also enable a chat channel for the team. If anyone has question, other team members can answer, and you are not the only point of contact.
A more automated way could be using automated marketing software. You can setup a thread of emails as team members go through each content and it keeps track of every user action.
Use agile or light agile
After getting the certification for scrum master and attending a few sprint projects I realized that agile still has a lot of counter productive processes. You can use the agile process as it is established. Or try “light agile”.
Light agile can be a first meeting on Monday for planning and a final meeting on Thursdays or Friday morning for results. Each meeting is less than 1 hour. There might not be a need for daily meetings that don’t add to much progress. Unless the project changes constantly, which might be the case for software engineering.
Direct team members to the self-service training, team chat channel, and using the software to keep track of work.
Set a weekly team meeting
Those were the meetings. Planning meeting. Results meeting. Done. No more meetings.
Keep an open door policy
In addition to all the tools to help team members being productive. Enable your calendar to keep office hours every day where team members can join your video chat for 30 minutes and ask anything. Also schedule and commit to 1-1 with your reports weekly or every two weeks. Commit to performance planning and review results every month.