How to manage teams that work from home. Take-aways from a digital product company.

Until COVID-19 is contained, more companies are advising their employees to work from home. To help you effectively lead your product teams, here are a few tips on managing WFH teams.

Before we start, remember that remote working has been around the tech scene for a long while now. Most of the tech & product companies working from offices already have procedures that can easily translate into a home environment. All it takes is an extra mile walk into making sure that your team has a clear sense of collaboration and productivity.

Respect office hours.“For remote workers, the erosion of the boundaries between when you should be working vs when you should be taking time for yourself becomes even more prevalent because your entire relationship with your job is digital.” According to Buffer, most of the people that work remotely have reported struggling with unplugging after office hours end.

Make sure your teams manage to unplug at the end of every working day. It is crucial for their long time efficiency.

Maintain a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Remote or non-remote; this principle is crucial when it comes to managing digital product teams and not only. If we take a realistic look at how a digital product development team looks like, you would have the stakeholders and the product team proactively working towards accomplishing a goal.

Most probably, your team already has well-assigned roles and changing their office with their home won’t affect that. If you happen to kick-start a project with WFH teams, make sure they have a clear sense of ownership and responsibility.

Now, more than ever, make use of project management software. Most of the digital product development companies out there are already familiarised with working with tools like Jira, Trello, Todoits, Asana and Airtable because they do it on a daily bases, regardless if they are in the office or working remotely.

The cool thing is that most tools allow you to comment on tasks, reassign them, set deadlines, and attach documents or content. We’ve seen how a lot of important details can slip when trying to coordinate a project over email. Make sure your team has a habit of continually updating their ticketing system.

At RebelDot, for example, we use Jira for most of our projects, and Trello for a few of them. Both tools are efficient, collaborative and provide a transparent overview of task progress for both stakeholders and product teams.

Get used to video conferencing platforms, always video conference. Honestly, we could not imagine remote working without video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Cisco and Google. In our day to day activity of building digital products and collaborating with teams, product owners and stakeholders all over the globe, video conferencing plays a massive part as it gives our collaborations the human touch they would probably lack otherwise.

If you want the people working at home to have a sense of community and teamwork, make sure that all online meeting is with the camera turned on.

No agenda, no meeting. Any meeting without an agenda, minutes and followups distributed might be counterproductive for your team, especially when working from home, where asynchronous communication prevails. Make sure you preselect a facilitator, a timekeeper and someone to document the discussion afterwards.

Know when to move away from email and build communication habits. While in an office, most of the communication happens synchronously (here and now), when it comes to remote working most of the conversation is done asynchronously. This means that there is a delay between the question and the response. Many companies out there consider synchronous communication to be the most effective, but when it comes to remote working, this can quickly become counterproductive. If you find an email thread going back and forth more than three times, move away from email, and hold an impromptu call.

Keep having your regular 1:1 meetings. One-on-one meetings are crucial, even when it comes to working from an office space that is shared with the entire team. When it comes to your WFH employees, making sure they have a strong sense of culture, feedback and support requires walking an extra mile. Make sure you set regular one-on-ones with all team members and that you make time for chit-chat on the side.

Final Words

Working and managing teams that work from home can be a challenge, especially for those who are used to working from an office. Let’s remember that companies like Buffer have been remote-first since 2012, which means that done right, working remotely might have some of its own advantages.

Stay at home, and lead from home. It’s good for you, and it’s good for everyone. Plan your agenda, stick to a routine, stay calm and make use of all the fantastic tools that are out there to keep your teams connected and efficiently working.

New to working from home?

If you are new to working from, we found some interesting resources that might help you out.

DESK Magazine on how to work well from home this week -so you can next week, too.

Basecamp has a really good communication guideline we advise you check out.

Charles Patterson, the senior designer at InVision, wrote a useful guide on  working from home.

Stay Safe!