Remote working. Whether for the employer or the employee, this word can be frightening, as much as it can make one dream. Some are fond of it, others shun it. One thing is certain: this year, we haven’t really had a choice: teleworking has become a necessity. Almost all of us have had to face it... and for several months on end! To be honest with you, I wasn't worried about the idea of teleworking. My team and I are comfortable with digital platforms, which represent our core business. We already formed a cohesive team, and we work in agile mode with a lot of tools like JIRA, Klaxoon and Teams. So everything was in place to ensure that the transition to 100% teleworking went smoothly.
Remote working and boosting team dynamics
A little background: we are a team of six people who manage several knowledge bases within an internal company platform, which receives tens of thousands of visits per month. At the same time, we dialogue with different business lines: Product Owner, Technician, Knowledge Manager or Service Delivery Manager, etc. This represents a great many players with whom we must interact, as they are a potential new source of content. The biggest challenge for my team is to succeed in capturing these sources through various exchanges, then capitalise on this knowledge. The goal is to make quality content available on the platform.
After nearly a year of working almost 100% from home, I have to admit that this is not all that easy. As Scrum Master, I quickly realised that I would have to redouble my efforts to avoid losing the dynamics and agile maturity that we had managed to achieve, both within the team and with our various contacts.
In fact, over the last few months, a question has been coming back to me every day: how can I keep a good dynamic within my team, while remaining in remote mode?
Agile method and remote work
First of all, you should know that Agile is a very flexible working method. We work with cards placed in a virtual board to easily follow the progress of our actions; we have many team meetings that allow the different members to dialogue together.
I realised very quickly that it was not the working method that was going to pose a problem, but rather the transition to working remotely.
What to do with all the habits we had developed with the team? The coffee breaks, the discussions in the office, the lunches… A lot of things that contributed to the smooth running of the team and which are unfortunately “not possible” at a distance.
I have identified several aspects which, in my view, can help a team to make the physical-to-remote transition more easily.
1. Adapt while staying on course
With agile methods, meetings are omnipresent: dailys, refinements or retrospectives are all very important. Very quickly, they become key elements, encouraging exchanges with your team.
However, during the teleworking period, the context is somewhat different, implying different “rules”. Interruptions, connection problems, the presence of children, are all factors that must now be taken into account.
This is why it is necessary to adapt the way of working according to the needs of each person. It can be useful to discuss with the team members with a view to defining the new working rules: tools (see the third point), schedules, meetings, etc.
Please note that the aim is not to fill diaries with meetings, but rather to rework the format so as to avoid wasting time.
Let’s take the example of my team. The first step was to reduce meeting duration, even if it meant adding one or two meetings: it is easier to be a driving force in two one-hour meetings than in one long two-hour meeting.
Sometimes we assign roles to participants: a person in charge of writing up the minutes, a facilitator, a timekeeper (to limit the time spent on reviewing the cards). Participants play a different role at each meeting, allowing them to feel more involved.
2. Keep communication informal
I think we sometimes underestimate the importance of the informal exchanges we have. It took me a while to realise this, but not having them hindered some projects. Even at a distance, this dynamic must be maintained: if you used to talk for 30 minutes a day with a colleague, schedule a daily 30-minute meeting with that person, then adjust the time/frequency. Even if these exchanges are not work-related, they should not be neglected. But be careful not to get too involved in some colleagues’ private lives!
3. Break the routine of meetings
Try to be less formal in your meetings. The aim is to break the rhythm of the usual meetings. Whenever possible, avoid JIRA, Trello or long PowerPoint presentations.
Instead, try a nice Klaxoon board or a Whiteboard (Microsoft) with interactions to be carried out by all the people attending the meeting. Need to present a product or feature? Do a demo to make the meeting more fun (this may not be innovative, but I think it needed mentioning).
These different actions should be implemented during face-to-face meetings, to make them more dynamic. But they make even more sense at a distance! You need to realise that it is important to devote time to preparing these meetings, to boost their impact.
If your team is game, you can start your meetings with a little Icebreaker. Icebreaker is an animation, usually a short one, that lets you initiate a dialogue between the different team members. In recent months, many companies have set up great games to be played in groups and remotely, like the Escape Game created by Happy Kits (tested and approved).
To wrap up
There is no magic bullet to ensure that your team can successfully work remotely. You have to create this new working environment together. In this article, I share my own experience to show that often the most important things are the ones we pay the least attention to in everyday life. I think this period should be seen as a time to question yourself. All the improvement work you do at a distance will have an impact on the way you work and communicate with your colleagues.