In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many companies have unexpectedly shifted to a fully remote workforce. In a survey by Seyfarth, 67% of businesses were taking steps to allow employees to work from home that normally don’t do so. But these employees are still largely unprepared for the challenges of working as a distributed team.

That’s why we’ve asked professionals that have experience working with remote teams to share tips for collaborating and remaining productive while working from home. This comes down to adopting the right culture, processes, technology and mindset to work effectively through a global pandemic and beyond.

The Right Culture

“Especially during the initial transition,” said Jack Naglieri, founder and CEO of Panther Labs, Inc., “managers and C-level execs should make themselves available to colleagues to chat about non-work topics.” By checking in with colleagues outside of business priorities, they’ll be more comfortable bringing up challenges they’re having while working remote as they arise. “Be flexible in accommodating people as they may need adjustments to work schedules,” he continued. Most people aren’t accustomed to working remotely every single day, so showing some empathy for their unique struggles could help ease the transition.

“We’re finding that the culture we’ve created in a physical environment is translating into a virtual one,” said Andres Angelani, CEO of Cognizant Softvision, “where we guarantee our clients community, communication, engagement and security.” That’s because they had already been fostering community over the individual, results over time, and communication over physical location. “We have intentionally designed our infrastructure for an agile environment,” Angelani explained, “leveraging new technologies and platforms that inspire collaboration while keeping everyone informed in real time.”

The Right Processes

Jacob Wedderburn-Day, CEO of Stasher, believes daily online conference calls are critical. “Each team has a team wide video conference to catch up and discuss the tasks at hand for the day,” he said. Then, they use Slack throughout the day to communicate what they’ve accomplished before they log off. They’ve even introduced a virtual happy hour to give employees a way to socialize outside of work.

Naglieri agreed, “Schedule daily and weekly standup 'video' calls across various teams and departments.” That way everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and can be held accountable. In addition, he continued, “Add new non-work focused channels on your internal chat system, e.g. #random, #fun, etc. and encourage the team to share and have fun in those channels.” Companies should continue to foster strong relationships among teams through non-work related interactions.

Learning Opportunities

The Right Tools

“As far as best practices go for tools,” said Naglieri, “leveraging readily available cloud tools and product suites like Google, Dropbox, Zoom, Github, etc. are all great ways to get your team up and collaborating immediately.” The tools that work best for each organization, and even specific teams, will vary though.

“We use Trello to assign tasks and stay organized, and then Slack is our day-to-day go-to for all internal conversations,” Wedderburn-Day explained, “whether that's individual messaging to other employees or group channels, from 'departments' to ‘celebrations’ to 'bug reporting.'” He believes Slack is a critical tool for staying connected in real-time, but Google Hangouts and Zoom have replaced face-to-face meetings while still retaining a sense of normalcy. “I think these technologies are great at keeping things efficient,” he continued, “sticking to quick agenda points and fast paced decision-making (especially with functionalities like screen sharing).” 

“Facebook Workplace has been a doorway and a window for us to display and share thought leadership,” said Angelani. He believes the tool has enabled the organization to connect employees with the same aspiration and passions, which has helped them overcome the unique challenges they’re facing. Facebook workplace does so by fostering collaboration among a global and diverse workforce.

The Right Outlook

For some organizations, the transition will be difficult. That’s why employees need to have a positive outlook and focus on their mental well-being. “Each day presents new challenges,” Naglieri said, “but bringing a positive attitude to work goes a long way.” He stresses the importance of having a routine that promotes the mindset necessary to stay focused and productive, which could include exercise, actually getting dressed for work, and other good habits.

That’s why Naglieri tries to promote these sanity habits across the company, so every employee feels like they have the time to take care of themselves. “At the end of the day, healthy and happy people are way more productive than the opposite,” he concluded, “even (or especially) during a global pandemic!”