Remote working is all about the people

by David Reiss on 30/03/2020 12:00

David Reiss Remote working is all about the people

This article is republished from my original Remote working is all about the people​ post in LinkedIn.

Given that most of New Zealand is being forced to work in completely new ways, I wanted to share with you some of our insights and things that we have learned about remote working. We have had staff remote working for years; but have had to make some changes because now the whole business is doing it at the same time.

Successful remote working is all about the people. 

Our worldview is all about People over Process over Platform/technology. This new environment we are in now is a great example that it’s not about the tools – but why and how you use them. 

Some of the things we are doing are:

  1. Daily stand-ups to simulate arriving at work. These sessions are fairly casual, a chance to check-in and have everyone feel like they have started work. It’s important to have psychological boundaries between “home” and “work” – especially when they are the same physical location.

  2. Encouraging mindfulness and good home-working practices. There’s a big difference between occasionally working from home and being based there permanently. Our COO and Administration Manager have been working remotely for the last couple of years and have highlighted the importance for having a schedule - and getting natural light and exercise, amongst other things. We are about to start guided meditation sessions over video conference, too.

  3. Weekly Co-CEO “Ask Us Anything” sessions. There is a lot of uncertainty and disruption because of COVID-19 so we have a huge priority on communication. To keep these “AUA” sessions flowing smoothly, questions are sent throughout the day to a facilitator – who is also checking Instant Messages during the session to then ask Deane and I, in an interview-style fashion.

  4. Frequent check-ins and chances for feedback. We have a call-tree that we use for regular person-to-person communications, as a chance for coaching, knowledge sharing and conversation instead of just sending an email for important topics. We also have our admin team making weekly check-in calls to make sure that everyone feels connected to the team. Finally, we run quick online surveys and sentiment analysis (with HumbleDot and Qubie) to make sure we get regular feedback as well.

  5. Weekly virtual-drinks and technology-sharing sessions via Video Conference. This is something we have been doing in the office for a while – sharing things that we learn in a social setting. It’s a chance to talk about the things we’re proud of and some that might have gone wrong, while also being great for team building. It has worked surprisingly well over Microsoft Teams last couple of Fridays.

  6. Managing and visualising our work using Azure DevOps. Visibility of what everyone is doing is vital when we’re not sharing a space, so we have moved our physical Kanban boards into Azure DevOps for everything – not just what the developers are working on. We also use it for transparency to the business; with everyone able to see our strategic initiatives and COVID-19 response work updated in real-time.

  7. Using Teams to enhance collaboration. We have stepped up our use of Microsoft Teams – and it’s doing a great job of keeping us connected. Video Conferencing has replaced the meeting room, channel posts have replaced ad-hoc conversations and chat has replaced the quick personal conversations. We’ve refreshed our Teams training to make sure everyone knows about some of the more advanced functionality to get the most out of this free solution.

  8. Deploying cloud-based Virtual Desktops for remote workers. Windows Virtual Desktops in Azure are a great way for staff to access all of their applications and data from anywhere in the world. Staff who don’t have laptops, such as those with high-performance desktop requirements like developers, can still work from home. Also, if a remote worker has a laptop failure, their work environment can be available as a Virtual Desktop much quicker than a replacement can be provided.

I hope that some of our insights and ideas are useful to you in some way. If you have anything that you have been doing successfully in the last week, I’d be really interested to hear that also. Please let me know in the comments.

Some of my team are also writing blogs on various topics as they become front-of-mind. You may be interested in these ones, which have been published in the last week:

David Reiss is one of Equinox IT's Co-CEOs and is based in Auckland. 

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