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The Practical Guide to Working from Home as a Team

Last Updated Apr 2020
The Practical Guide to Working from Home as a Team

Many of us had to unexpectedly embrace the concept of working from home recently owing to the current crisis. Though for some of us, it had already become a standard way of working even before COVID-19 changed our lives.

Working from home sounds fairly easy, but the challenges are many when you actually practice it.

Some teams have been doing this productively for years. For them, it’s just another way to work. It can be as or more productive than on-site work and collaboration.

As the world had to suddenly shift towards #WFH, we put this guide together to give you practical tips and tools on how to stay productive as a team when you work remotely. It is an effort towards helping you understand how you can make this an opportunity to create a working culture that is more transparent, motivating and empowering.

Use a Limited Set of Good, Integrated Tools

Use a Limited Set of Good, Integrated Tools

Use a limited set of tools to work and collaborate with. It’s better if everything is integrated.

While there are multiple tools to choose from, rely on one tool for each purpose. Creately’s choice stack includes,

  • Slack: this is a great tool for instant messaging. Plus you can have separate channels for different teams
  • Zoom: with its grid view, it makes the perfect tool for video conferencing with your team
  • Google Drive: lets you organize and manage permission to all your files and folders from one single tool
  • Creately: serves as a visual workspace whenever you want to collaborate on brainstorming, planning, developing processes, etc. using visuals and diagrams
  • Calamari: helps you track attendance, working hours, leaves, etc. in a convenient manner
  • Favro: works great for any team. Can be used to manage and collaborate on project planning, objective tracking, etc.

As a best practice, have some ground rules stating when and how to use each of these tools.

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Stay Organized to Stay Truly Productive

Stay Organized to Stay Truly Productive

Just like with any other team, a team that works from home needs to stay organized to stay productive and for better collaboration.

  • Set ground rules and norms stating the expected general behavior
  • Create a clear team structure highlighting the roles and responsibilities
  • Regularly engage and share what you are working on with each other
  • Practice transparency when planning projects and assigning clear objectives and deliverables for everyone involved
  • Have frequent, planned video calls in smaller teams
  • Always leave a few minutes at the start of each meeting to socialize and break the ice

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Prioritize Building Trust and Teamwork

Prioritize Building Trust and Teamwork

Trust is an essential building block in any successful team. And it’s directly linked to transparency and accountability.

A few simple, but effective steps you can take here are,

  • Sharing information regularly, Share work schedules, task status, project progress, etc. frequently on your chat platform
  • Providing extra context when interacting with each other. For example, if you are stepping away for a moment, notify others that you won’t be available for a while and why
  • Building relationships that extend beyond work among team members. Have a separate Slack channel or Facebook Group to chat about non-work related topics
  • Having sufficient face-to-face interactions with the team via video calls
  • Overcommunicating. Leave no chance for confusion or assumptions. Provide extra details (i.e. a process map, UI Mockup, etc.) when you are explaining your idea
  • Being dependable by saying what you do and doing what you say and by committing to meeting deadlines and achieving your deliverables in a timely manner

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Maintain Good Communications Best Practices

Maintain Good Communications Best Practices

All teams working from home must have good communication strategies in place to survive and thrive. It’s key to avoid misinterpretations, confusion and failed relationships.

Some best practices you and your team can use,

  • Set up communications guidelines explaining when and how to use the communications tools
  • Use a limited set of communications tools. Give each one a specific purpose and use it primarily for that
  • Always incorporate visuals when you are explaining something. Want to elaborate on your idea? Use a mind map to do so
  • Put documents, files, resources, and assets in a common place in a good organizational structure
  • Keep all communications public by sharing your message on a public channel everyone has access to
  • Be mindful of your tone when writing your message. Provide more context to avoid miscommunicating something and use plenty of emojis

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Set Clear Expectations for Your WFH Team

Set Clear Expectations for Your WFH Team

Setting clear expectations is crucial to managing a team that works from home. It plays a part in their personal growth and in guiding them in the right direction.

  • Document and share the roles and responsibilities of each team member
  • Whether for the week, month or quarter set clear goals or assign tasks for everyone
  • Clearly establish team expectations within the team by openly communicating them. At the same time, it’s important to encourage individuals to share their personal expectations for the team as well
  • Conduct one-on-one feedback sessions on a weekly or monthly basis to discuss performance and areas for improvement

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Create a Productive Work from Home Culture

Create a Productive Work from Home Culture

Building a positive team culture when everyone is scattered across the continent might sound difficult, but it’s not unachievable. Here are some tips you can rely on to do this successfully.

  • Define your culture by clearly explaining the values the company upholds. Document these and keep them accessible to everyone
  • Have a solid set of tools, whether for communication or collaboration, that can foster the culture you are trying to build
  • Maintain a variety of ways for your team to keep in touch. Tools for video calls, phone calls, chat, task management, etc.
  • Allocate time to have fun during the workday as a team. There are plenty of team-building activities that you can do onlin
  • Create a mentorship program. A mentor can help new or less experienced team members quickly get familiar with the cultural and social norms within the company

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Protect Yourself from Loneliness, Isolation, and Distractions

Protect Yourself from Loneliness, Isolation, and Distractions

Working from home comes with many benefits, but it also has considerable challenges. Loneliness, isolation and too many distractions are some of the disadvantages that can’t be easily dismissed.

Here’s what you can do here.

  • Have a dedicated space to work in. It can help you psychologically if that space is solely devoted to working
  • Maintain a schedule for work with planned breaks in between. Start and end your day around the same time every day and be mindful to notify others when you are away
  • Schedule regular team meetings to stay connected with your team
  • Take regular computer-free breaks to re-energize yourself
  • Consider a coworking space. Get together with your colleagues or other friends who are working remotely from time to time

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Online Brainstorming Best Practices

Online Brainstorming Best Practices

An online brainstorming session works just like a one you would conduct on-site. Except everything happens online. Here’s what you need to do to keep things truly effective.

  • Use an online whiteboard. These help everyone collaborate on one shared space. Creately offers pre-made templates for different brainstorming methods, like mind maps, 5 whys analysis, idea boards, etc. Once the session starts everyone can make edits in real-time
  • Send an introductory email that contains details on the purpose of the meeting, links to resources or tools you’ll be using, the meeting agenda, etc.
  • Clarify any guidelines the team needs to follow before the activity begins
  • Use different brainstorming methods such as cause and effect analysis, affinity diagram, lotus diagram, mind mapping, etc.

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Conducting Remote Interviews

Conducting Successful Remote Interviews

The entire HR department working from home doesn’t mean you cannot expand your team.

Team Creately has hired 5 new employees over the last month alone and we’ve learned a few things along the way to streamline the process of interviewing and hiring new team members.

Here are some of the steps we can recommend for you;

  • Set clear expectations on what the candidate is supposed to do during the interview in advance, via an email
  • Make sure the devices you will be using during the interview are properly working and are charged. And that you have installed and logged into all the software/ apps
  • Have your interview questions ready beforehand. This will help you save time and have a meaningful conversation with the candidate
  • Have a backup plan in case there’s an emergency. Have alternate contact details of the candidate so you can reconnect with them if you lose access to the internet
  • Use the correct tools to streamline the steps. For example, you can rely on an online appointment scheduling software to allocate a time for the interview with the candidate and an e-signature service to send and sign contracts

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