A Primer for Working Remotely

I’ve been managing fully remote and mixed on-shore off-scope teams for a decade now. Here are few best practices for teams who are suddenly at home working

I’ve been managing fully remote and mixed on-shore off-scope teams for a decade now. Here are few best practices for teams who are suddenly at home working due to changing company policies for mitigating the spread of COVID-19, as well as for for any team wanting to foster a more remote culture in their workplace. This should get your team started:

Telecommunications Tools

Set up teleconferencing technology that your whole team has access to, and a messaging platform your can both direct message your colleagues, and hold group chats within. I recommend using Slack for messaging, and Zoom, or Google Hangouts for Video/Teleconferencing.

Conference Calls

Only schedule calls that are necessary, everything else can probably be discussed on slack in a channel or a DM thread. You will probably notice you send WAY less emails. When you do have calls, be efficient. All calls must have an agenda. Calls are only scheduled with the right people in them. If you are not necessary, you should not be on the invite. Working calls are also appropriate with small groups, just make sure you have only the necessary folks in attendance. Use the video conference features, especially if you are a team new to working remotely.

Focused Conversations

Use Slack (or other messaging app) to create project specific channels and team specific channels. This will help ensure you have focused spaces for focused conversation. Keep the operational talk in the proper operations channel and don’t clutter project channels with non-project business. This slows your project teams down by distracting them. Keep your team focused and moving quickly.

Team Availability

Have your team set their availability on their calendar. Working hours, hours off, hours away from the office (or keyboard). Then operate with the assumption that everyones calendar is up to date. This will allow teams to grab time when it is available, even if you are in different time zones, as well as know when they can try to reach you on slack or otherwise. Practice healthy work life boundaries by setting your snooze and do not disturb notification hours on Slack.

Daily Standup

Adopt a Daily Scrum Standup Meeting for your critical projects and initiatives. This is useful for client or customer projects as well as departmental initiatives (IT department, Marketing Department). This practice is a useful tool for all teams, even those that are not working to deliver AGILE software projects. How to do it: Every day at the same time in the morning your team gets on a 15-30 minute call (Project Team or Operational Team) to review status, updates and most importantly identify blockers quickly. Each member gives a ~1 minute update on what they did yesterday, what they will do today, and what blockers they have. Then you connect folks who can unblock this person for off-line follow up directly after the standup (on slack or on a 1x1 call with those people). This way no one is sit-in around waiting for other people who don’t know they are a blocker. Added bonus -your team will have efficiently had all group discussions early on, and will not spend all day chasing each other around to get answers while someone is out to lunch or in a another meeting etc…

Keep Your Culture

Set up a channel for ‘water-coolor talk’. This channel's purpose is for team members to engage like humans, share funny memes, and banter, share articles. This keeps your team communicating as humans outside of their professionalism, allows a space for humor, culture, and to stay in touch with each other.

Move for Your Health

Get up! Standup! Walk around! Go outside at least once a day for at least half an hour and if you can for longer than that. It's easy to stay in your house all day when you work from home. This isn't optimal for your mental or physical health. Do yourself a favor and mandate that a lunch break is AWAY from your desk. Yoga while conference calling, anyone?

Stay safe and WASH YOUR HANDS! ;) … oh, and sanitize your phone. :)

I hope you found this helpful. I'm happy to discuss your teams' specific needs or remote work challenges in more depth with you.

Here at Kunai we are a remote-first Product Development Company serving Fortune 100 Clients and Startups in Financial Services industry, and others in the US and internationally. We have offices in Oakland and NY. We know how to work with you remotely.

Contact us if you want to keep your projects moving forward. We can help. info@kun.ai

Article republished with permission, original article written and published on Linkedin, here.



Sandeep: Tell me a bit about the early part of your career.

Tom: I spent a decade helping to build start-ups focused on application and database software. This was where I learned how to sell and do business development. I was fortunate to be part of one company going public and another being sold to IBM.

Sandeep: What is something you learned during this time that helped you with consulting?

Tom: I began to appreciate how different customers achieved varying levels of success with the same foundational technology. This made me understand just how critical getting your team and process right can be.

Sandeep: This is something I only came to appreciate years into consulting, especially after the sale of my first consultancy to Capital One.I saw teams in different parts of the company trying to solve challenges like real-time messaging. Same corporate culture, same technology, same internal support mechanisms. Night and day outcomes.

Tom: We saw a lot of the same thing after selling our practice to EMC (sold to Dell in 2015). This is probably the thing I'm most proud of when it comes to the teams I've helped to build: the ability to perform well in a variety of contexts, sometimes in ways that inspires the client team to up their game as well.

Sandeep: Yes. It's particularly cool to see your team succeed in individual ways after an acquisition...consulting skills definitely translate into the corporate environment.

Tom: Totally. We have people who've stayed on at Dell and risen up the ranks, while others took the opportunity to become successful executives at other Fortune 100 companies....or to start their own agencies and startups.

Sandeep: We've both been around a while. My first consulting project was a Y2K thing for Cisco back in 1998. You've been around a little longer than that :). How do you think consulting has changed most during the past five years?

Tom: I think because there is so much infrastructure available now, consulting has become more delivery and outcome-oriented. A better blend of strategic and tactical. Public Cloud has also enabled velocity to increase at a pace unfathomable 5 years ago.

Sandeep: What has stayed the same?

Tom: It's still mostly about people. People who thrive on change and are focused on their personal and professional development. I love that this has not and will not change...it's what I love about consulting.

Sandeep: I know you're adjusting your work style to COVID. You're still a dude who clearly prefers to drive an hour for a socially-distanced hike or outdoor meeting over Zoom any day of the week :) But personal styles aside, what is specifically compelling about a remote agency during the era of COVID?

Tom: Kunai has been remote for years, which gives them an inherent advantage. There is something about the communication and management styles that just works in a way that other organizations are still figuring out.

Sandeep: Yeah, I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that remote work isn't just office work over Zoom. it's an entirely new paradigm. There needs to be an understanding for asynchronous efficiency...and this just takes time and effort to develop. How do you approach remote work and family? What are you learning about separating work and personal time?

Tom: No matter what the form of interaction, Focus. Be present. Quality over quantity. The best weeks are the weeks where I proactively schedule work and personal time. Neil (Kunai's Head of Delivery) shared a great quote with me "With discipline comes freedom." When I am proactively addressing the majority of my professional and personal commitments, I find I earn a little flexibility. A little freedom.

Sandeep: Tell us about a business hero of yours that I may not have heard of before.

Tom: Paul O'Neill is someone you may not know. His work in both the public and the private sector created a profound impact

Sandeep: We are both over forty years old :). How have you learned how to work smarter during the past decade or so? What do you wish you knew about consulting when you were 25 that you know now?

Tom: Consultants want to make lasting change. Lasting change is often not the act of a single person. Today I work much harder bringing others along on the journey.

Sandeep: Last question. What are you doing here? :) Why join a small consulting company this late in your career when you could have a cushy job somewhere else?

Tom: I love a good challenge personally and professionally. When I turned 40, I decided I would run a 10K every Thanksgiving weekend and try to have my finishing time be less than my age. With the exception of one year where I did not run due to a health issue, I have met the goal. I also recently completed the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race. So, I guess I'm here because I'm a glutton for punishment :) Jokes aside, our customers have a job to do and I intend to put Kunai in a position to execute flawlessly on their behalf. I love committing jointly to audacious goals for our customers and our business.

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