In this article, I’ll talk about the steps to follow in order for you to work effectively and efficiently with a remote team. These guidelines are based on my experience working remotely and that of colleagues who have worked successfully over distance. I hope they will be helpful when it comes to using your time wisely while collaborating with remote teams.
Keep in mind that all examples here are taken from real projects I’ve been a part of or other companies around the world. This is not intended to serve as an exhaustive guide.
How Often Should You Communicate?
Communication is essential in any project, but particularly so in collaborative tasks like software development and testing. If there isn’t enough communication between people and their respective roles, then there’s no way to know which bugs need fixing first or even where those bugs lie. As a result, everyone becomes frustrated and ineffective.
The best thing to do would be to set up regular meetings during which all members of the team discuss progress and status updates. If you’re already working on an Agile workflow, then you should already be accustomed to regular meetings.
What Tools/Methodologies Should You Use To Help Collaborate Effectively?
There are many ways to approach collaboration online. One of the most effective methods is to employ various forms of synchronous communication such as teleconferencing or video-calling apps. However, depending upon your budget and available resources, you may want to consider asynchronous options instead.
Whatever method you choose, try to find one that works well for your particular needs. Examples include email threads, wikis, discussion forums, etc. While I found video calling to be incredibly helpful because it allows us to see facial expressions and body language more clearly than text alone.
On the flip side, however, it makes it harder to get through long emails without getting buried by unread messages. So, just keep experimenting until you figure out what suits your particular circumstances best.
Should Your Remote Team Meet Face-to-Face?
This depends entirely on your goals. In cases where you’re trying to develop new features together, having someone physically present can definitely speed things along. But sometimes it’s better to focus exclusively on developing code. In those instances, it’s usually easier to work productively remotely.
It’s possible to conduct certain types of design sessions via conference calls, too. And since physical proximity doesn’t always matter much, you could simply ask your teammates to send you documents directly whenever necessary.
How Will You Manage Changes When They Occur?
As mentioned above, collaborating over distance requires constant communication. That means that every change made to your shared files must be discussed immediately. Even minor edits require approval and discussion.
Some teams prefer to create a “canary” version of the file containing only major modifications. Once these canaries have passed tests and been approved, the original version can be replaced. Of course, if you feel comfortable doing so, you can always edit the live copy directly. Either way, ensure that you document everything thoroughly beforehand.
Can You Share Screenshots Easily?
It’s easy to forget about this point when working remotely. While it takes less effort to take screen captures using desktop applications, mobile devices offer yet another option. I recommend using the Snap & Sketch app that Windows itself offers. However, there’s Snagit or Screenflow that also works really well.
They’re both free, open-source programs that anyone can download and install themselves. Both let developers quickly capture images and videos from within iOS and Android apps, respectively. You’ll probably want to save the image locally before sharing it somewhere else, though.
Do You Need Special Permissions To View Others’ Files?
Depending upon the nature of your relationship with the person whose files you want to inspect, you may need permission to look inside his or her private folders. If not, then there should never be any problems in terms of viewing other people’s files. The same goes for making backups — unless you know otherwise, assume that everyone has access to everything.
What Happens When Something Breaks?
If you don’t already have an incident response plan in place, then now might be a good time to start thinking about how you’d handle a problem like this. Remote workers often rely heavily on cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or SkyDrive.
These tools allow users to store their data across multiple computers at once. When something goes wrong, all members of the group automatically receive notifications letting them know exactly which files were affected. The corresponding updates are applied as soon as things return to normal, and everything returns to its previous state.
Are There Legal Issues Involved When Working Remotely?
Depending upon the type of business you run, some jurisdictions do impose stricter rules regarding privacy concerns. For instance, Canada prohibits employees from accessing personal information belonging to customers without prior consent.
Other countries may also have strict laws governing who you can hire, fire, promote, demote, etc. Be sure to check beforehand whether you’re legally allowed to operate your company remotely under local regulations.
Is It Safe to Work Outside of Office Hours?
Some companies frown upon working during nonstandard times. Others may not mind but expect you to be available. It depends entirely upon your team culture.
Don’t forget that many offices still use cameras to record visitors and events happening beyond their walls. This includes video-conferencing rooms where meetings occur. Also, keep in mind that most businesses will likely monitor employee activity through keyloggers and similar monitoring software.
Finally, consider that remote workers could potentially become targets of cyberattacks. Always follow best practices and stay vigilant!
How Much Supervision Does Each Member Get?
Most organizations provide one or more managers dedicated specifically to overseeing remote workers. However, others choose to assign general supervisors responsible for delegating tasks throughout the day. Regardless, I recommend having someone available 24/7 just in case anything comes up.
In addition, you’ll almost certainly want to establish regular meeting schedules among colleagues regardless of location. Team leaders should strive to meet face to face whenever possible. After all, nothing beats seeing someone’s reaction right away when they realize what happened. And sometimes you just want to talk out loud about whatever’s bothering you.
Does the Entire Organization Support Remote Collaboration?
First off, think about how flexible your job actually is. Some workplaces are well suited to working remotely; others aren’t. Would you really enjoy spending four days straight buried deep into a spreadsheet trying to figure out why some numbers don’t add up? Or would you rather spend those minutes discussing strategy instead?
Next, take stock of any existing policies pertaining to telecommuting within your workplace. Do these apply only to certain positions or departments? If so, ask if you qualify for an exemption before taking matters further.
Finally, remember that every person has different needs. You may find that working remotely isn’t ideal for everyone on your team. Just because somebody else likes working away from the office doesn’t mean you necessarily need to feel the same way.
Remember: Nobody wants to lose their job over something silly that probably won’t happen anyway. So let people know right away if you’ve got reservations about working remotely.
How Will My Work Get Done?
It might seem like it takes forever to do things from across town. But trust me when I tell you this: It can be accomplished with surprisingly efficiency. Remote teams tend to rely heavily upon tools such as Google Docs and Slack. These software programs allow users to collaborate simultaneously without ever needing to visit each other’s offices physically.
Of course, not everybody uses these types of platforms. Some prefer email and phone calls. Others use instant messaging apps. Whatever method works best for you, make sure to communicate clearly and frequently! This makes them perfect for keeping track of projects while also providing access to files stored locally or remotely.
Otherwise, confusion could arise regarding which task belongs where. By contrast, when you sit next to someone, everything becomes crystal clear. Don’t forget to set aside time during your daily meetings to review important project updates.
For example, you could send a quick message to a colleague who missed part of yesterday’s discussion. Likewise, after reviewing recent status reports, invite team members to discuss issues together. Then schedule weekly conference calls for ongoing discussions.
In this article, there’s a lot of information about working remotely with IT Specialists. Hopefully, I was able to answer some of the questions you might have had about the topic. Remote work is new, but that doesn’t mean that we should dismiss its issues. That’s why if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.