More and more people are wanting to remote work. As a manager how can you say yes and be confident that your team will be successful?

My checklist below will help you decided.

Are you Ready for Remote? checklist:

  1. Do you trust your team to complete their work in an unsupervised environment?
  2. Do you already allow for work from home days?
  3. Does your team spend 80%-90% of their time mediating their work through a screen?
  4. Do you use a digital collaboration tool as your primary mechanism for coordinating work?
  5. Does your team have clarity about the work they need to complete on a daily/weekly basis?

Do you trust your team to complete their work in an unsupervised environment?

Without trust remote working doesn’t work. If you don’t trust your team then you’re doomed to failure because you’ll end up interrupting them just to reassure yourself they’re working.

If you do trust your team then you’re one step closer to saying yes and enabling your team to remote work.

Do you already allow for work from home days?

Working from home and remote working aren’t the same thing; the goals are different.

Working from home gives a team member temporary leave of absence from the office. If the setup isn’t right then the risk of an employee missing out on key pieces of information, or being unproductive is limited. Typically they are back in the office in a couple of days and any issues can be resolved relatively quickly.

Remote working gives a team member the ability to work away from the office for weeks or months at a time. Any issues with the setup can cause problems if they aren’t resolved quickly, seriously impacting on productivity and undermining the success of any remote working initiative.

If you are able to support working from home then you should have some of the building blocks in place to enable remote working.

Does your team spend 80%-90% of their time mediating their work through a screen?

This is a no brainer, if your team spends most of their time completing their work digitally, then they are already prime candidates for remote working.

There are two thing likely to stop your team from making a success of remote working, they are:

  • What they spend the rest of their time doing, and if those tasks can be moved to a digital channel.
  • What external access is there to the tools/systems they need to do their job.

Remaining time

If your team spends most of the rest of their time in meetings then you should ask yourself if they can be conducted via a video conference using Skype for Business or Hangouts? 

Most people are used to telephone conference but modern video conference tools can provide a much better remote meeting experience.

If your team spends the rest of their time in design/code reviews, can this be achieved digitally with tools such as Invision, GitHub or Visual Studio online etc.

You’ll be surprised what tools are available to replicate day to day activities digitally. 

With some common-sense guidelines such as ensuring the tool use SAML for integrating with your authentication directory. You can be sure that you’re still in control of your companies data.

Access to tools

If there is no external access to the tools and systems the team needs to do their jobs, then remote working may not be possible without lots of workarounds.

Whilst it’s possible to email yourself all the files you need this is a sure-fire route to becoming unproductive, and can have significant security implications.

At the very least a VPN will be required to allow access to internal file servers and tools. However, given most people’s experience of using a corporate VPN you’ll want to give serious consideration to using a secure file syncing tools such as OneDrive, or DropBox. These tools make it much easier to access documents without annoying colleagues to send you the most recent versions.

Do you use a digital collaboration tool as your primary mechanism for coordinating work?

This is critical, if you’re already using a collaboration tools as the bedrock for coordinating your team’s work then you’re 95% there.

A remote worker needs confidence that when they’re not in the office they are still ‘involved’ in the project, and are not being left out of key conversations.

If you are not using these tools already then this is the first step. It seems strange at first to use a collaboration tool to talk to a colleague you’re sat next too, but it’s essential for creating transparency and clarity which is a fundamental principles of remote working.

At its simplest all you need is a chat client with persistent groups (group chats that don’t expire). Invite your project team and, use that for all future team and project discussions. 

When I first started remote working, I used Skype with a couple of named groups to run a team of 6 UX designers for 6 months.

When setting up your collaboration tool, it’s typical for most conversations to happen in private chat sessions. This should be avoided, all conversations should be in open channels unless privacy is absolutely critical, such as when discussing project financing, team performance etc.

To make this openness bearable everyone should change their notification setting to only notify when they are @mentioned or @channel mentioned. The onus is on the person posting the message to notify the right people when they want to draw their attention to a message.

Using open channels for communications has the secondary benefit of helping everyone become more aware of what’s happening across the whole team. It also ensures that the team is more likely to offer help and support each other which becomes even more import in a remote working environment.

Will email work?

Yes, but…..

One of the key drawbacks of using email is that conversations happen in private channels. Unless you included everyone which as everyone knows from bitter experience can get very frustrating.

It’s also very difficult to ensure you have the most up-to-date view of a project, as conversation tend to go off at tangents and sub-conversation are created without all participants knowing they exist.

Does your team have clarity about the work they need to complete on a daily/weekly basis?

When people work remotely they need absolute clarity on what you want them to achieve, and by when.

Make use of project management tools, such as Trello, to detail the ‘in progress’ work and ensure that the team keeps the board up to date. That way you’ll all have a clear idea about whats being worked on and what’s up next.

If you can answer yes to all points above then you should feel confident that you can run a successful remote working experiment.

If not then hopefully you’ve been able to take away some tips to help you create an environment for remote working to flourish.