Steve Works, Vice President of Technology Product at Works, has a wealth of experience managing remote product and engineering teams, and offers invaluable insight into how to maximize the productivity of distributed employees. He outlines four effective strategies for addressing the common challenges associated with remote work and establishing highly efficient engineering teams.
It may seem counterintuitive to encourage collaboration among team members by having them work remotely rather than gathering in a conference room. However, this is increasingly becoming the norm in the modern business world due to the rise of virtual teams. To ensure that your staff works together more harmoniously, we suggest that you forgo traditional onsite meetings and instead opt for virtual meetings with team members working from their own offices.
When it can be difficult to feel confident in a virtual setting, especially when everyone else is gathered around a physical table, Works’ Vice President of Technology Product, whose specialty is helping businesses expand their distributed engineering teams, understands the impact of feeling disconnected. As they point out, “You miss out on the small-talk, the jokes, and the laughter that naturally occurs when people are in the same physical space.” Though we may be physically separated, when we are all looking into the camera at the same time, we are able to make the connection we need to build common ground.
Works has developed a comprehensive system for enhancing the effectiveness of remote working environments, which has been adopted by more than 1,000 engineers in Asia and 150 firms across the world. According to Works, the key to making this system successful is fostering honest and open conversations in which everyone on the team is given an equal voice. To further explore Works’ expert advice on how to achieve this, consider the following:
Keep everyone up to date.
When collaborating on a project that involves employees from various departments, it is important to consider the most efficient means of communication. Rather than having individual conversations at each person’s workstation, it is recommended to start a conversation on a platform such as Slack, to ensure all parties are informed at the same time. It is important to note, however, that face-to-face communication should not be discontinued; if conversations take place away from desks, be sure to relay the information to your coworkers when returning to your workspace.
Cultivate practices that allow you to operate independently of others.
Rather than expending valuable time in meetings with superfluous updates and misguided brainstorming, it may be beneficial to consider alternative methods of collaboration. For example, “we could utilise a Google Doc instead of scheduling a meeting to go through a new project,” he suggested. In this manner, each team member could read the document, provide feedback, or ask questions whenever it is most convenient for them. By the time I wake up the following day, I would be able to access everyone’s comments and inquiries. This approach promotes an open and transparent dialogue, which is especially useful for teams that are dispersed across different time zones, as well as those with various working and learning styles.
Hold regular one-on-one video chats with subordinates.
It may prove to be a challenge to identify any potential roadblocks that team members are facing when working remotely. Therefore, it is essential to have regular, frequent, and honest one-on-one conversations. Building trust with your team members so that they feel comfortable enough to share their concerns may require some skill, but it is necessary. A poll of 500 engineering managers in the United States found that those managing dispersed teams are more than twice as likely to hold weekly one-on-one meetings with their team members than those with no remote workers.
At least once a year, get everyone together.
Email, Slack, Google Docs, and videoconferencing are all effective tools for accomplishing tasks, however they cannot substitute being physically present with colleagues. Though recognising that bringing everyone together at least once a year could be complicated and expensive, it is believed to be highly beneficial. Through unplanned conversations in the workplace or at dinner, one can discover fascinating aspects of the people they work with. When individuals share their experiences and laugh together, it helps to create and strengthen relationships even after the gathering is over. Furthermore, we found that it is possible to maintain and expand relationships remotely. However, if the foundation of the partnership was established in person, it is much easier to build upon it.
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