In light of the recent outbreak of COVID-19 and the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic, we have decided to shut down our office and to work from home. This is ahead of any kind of official recommendation as we want to be vigilant, to set the right tone, and do what is right for our team and their families. So far, we have taken all possible precautions in the office, including chemical disinfection of the ventilation system, air and all indoor surfaces of the building. But ultimately we want to ensure the wellbeing of everyone around us, and the best way we can do that is by social distancing and lowering the risk of exposure by enabling remote working for the whole company.
We are lucky that we are in a digital industry, producing digital products, so we can continue to thrive working only online, but that also comes with challenges. Social interaction and face-to-face engagement is part of our everyday working life and Nordeus culture, it is also incredibly important to how we collaborate and communicate with one another. So, what are we doing?
TESTING, TESTING… 1, 2, 3
Yesterday (March 12), we did a test run of the whole company working from home to make sure our IT infrastructure and team dynamics still ran smoothly. Over 160 people in different locations, with a number of different teams working on multiple projects, all of which have different types of meetings, stand-ups, workshops, and collaboration. We kept the day as it would be if we were all in the office, all meetings were to go ahead, and video calls were set up… including an All-Hands with every single member of the team. The test run also allowed us to see what people felt they were missing at home so we could see what we needed to provide; from extra monitors, to office chairs, equipment, or even their desk if they wanted to take it back to set-up a workstation.
WORKING TOGETHER, APART
Collaboration is key to creativity, and we do so much of that through brainstorms, workshops, conversations, and meetings. So how can you keep this up when you’re all out of the office? Virtually impossible right? No. In fact, the use of our video conferencing system has never been more relevant. It’s what is keeping us visually connected to one another, and by simultaneously using other collaborative software such as G Suite, we continue to work on things together and bring them to life on virtual whiteboards, with virtual sticky notes… made even better by the fact they’re far easier to clean up after.
YOU GOT THIS!
Individual motivation and engagement is a tricky one, and we’re no psychologists, or at least not all of us. How do you motivate 160+ individuals, how do you lead and maintain productivity? If someone has the answer, please let us know!
Internal comms has taken on even more significance, from bringing valuable engagement, to ensuring alignment. Taking our creativity and know-how, we are transferring our plans into online versions, while keeping the momentum of news and info will mean that the internal comms contribution is even more important than ever. Add to that the role of your managers and leaders who need to switch their mindset – while everyone is working remotely, the focus needs to move away from presence, and to be solely on their team’s engagement, motivation, and completion of deliverables on time.
Keep up the norm as much as possible. We have Power Stretching in the office… now we have it on Zoom!
Have an independent channel for all, and managers, that is sharing tips on how to deal with remote working – share challenges and opportunities.
Create fun, digital engagement tools, like an internal Heroic competition, with leaderboards on Slack to keep social engagement and keep up that winning mentality.
Encourage fun with software, keep people engaged with the tools they’re using and their surroundings. This is a vital part of human interaction, so embrace it in a virtual world.
WHAT WE’RE USING:
There are loads of tools out there, and most people will have their own preference. But this is what we use everyday, and continue to do so in these unusual circumstances. What we are learning:
Written Communication: Slack & Gmail
We have actually found we are more proactively chatting on Slack group chats as it replaces day-to-day conversations in the office. But counter to that, it means we are having more info to take in. So consider focussed tagging of individuals more frequently rather than ‘all’, alongside asking for acknowledgement of important information.
TIP FROM THE TEAM: if you have two or more people talking about a subject on Slack, do not use direct messages. Use a message thread in an already existing channel (to avoid spamming all members), or create a specific private channel, since you can afterwards add people to it (in direct messages you cannot).
Collaboration Documents: G Suite & Confluence Cloud
We’re documenting everything more robustly, so eliminating process loss later down the line.
TIP: If you don’t already, create meeting notes in collaboration tools such as Google Docs in advance, giving people access prior to meetings so you can work on everything together straight away.
Meetings, Workshops, Webinars: Zoom
We’ve seen a more interactive side to meetings with people more comfortable to ask questions in large all hand meetings, we’ve seen a more intimate and human side to people.
TIP: Let people have fun with it, from creative backgrounds, to unexpected visits from pets and family. It helps aid engagement while at home. But make sure you and people around you are aware of whether or not you are on mute!
Brainstorming: Google Jamboard
Replacing interaction on a whiteboard, showcasing high level what is going on and then can breakdown smaller tasks.
TIP: Have one facilitator who owns the movement and updates the board so you don’t have multiple people changing things at the same time.
Task & Project Management: JIRA
We use this alot, but not 100% across the business, so we are ensuring everyone is up to speed to help project management. Sync it in with Confluence Cloud for true alignment and awareness across the business.
TIP: Clear and concise information in Epics, Projects, Tasks will help reduce information loss.
There are some things you may need to consider, we don’t have the answers to all of these, but that’s why it is so important to test and check out what you have available to you and your team.
Does everyone have a good, stable internet?
Do people have web cameras integrated into their computers, and is the quality good enough?
What hardware is everyone using, and do you have laptop backups for those working on desktops in the office?
Does everyone have the relevant software required to work remotely?
Are you considering your wider team not on location? If you are working with, or rely on support agencies, are they able to work remotely? It’s not just about your direct team. Have you provided them advice and assistance on how your collaboration will continue to work?
Do a test run, sooner rather than later.
Check in on your teams, don’t let them feel isolated.
Try not to cancel plans. Find online ways to continue to do things and keep the connection and engagement between people.
Communicate more frequently than normal and more widely visible (less 1 on 1 chats), so everyone is on the same page, written and verbal.
Document everything. It helps with collaboration when working remotely, but also to eliminate process loss.
We’re not know-it-alls, and we are reading up on what others are doing and learning from them also. Some great reads we have found so far:
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