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Creating a remote work culture: Part 3 — Let’s get visible

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Many of us are trying to find ways to adjust to what is now becoming our biggest work-from-home experiment. Whether your organisation has adopted a sweeping remote work policy, or you collaborate with global team members or clients who have done so, many now find themselves in a new, potentially confusing environment. 

The circumstances surrounding the coronavirus, and its effects on teamwork, motivated us to dig a bit deeper into what works, and what doesn't, when 'work from home' is the new norm.

Part three of this series is all about visibility—being seen by your team, and having the ability to see others. Many view this as the most difficult obstacle to overcome when working remotely, but truthfully, it doesn’t have to be.

Coordination is key

Whether your work is specialised (very few can perform each task) or general (almost anyone can do it), when your team grows, so does the complexity of coordinating. Dealing with deadlines, timelines and priorities is especially challenging, and remote work can make this process even messier.

For managers and leaders, this is a tall order. Imagine trying to understand what every team member is doing, aligning goals and alleviating struggles, all at once, with no one in the same room together.

If you are working in the same location, you can simply walk over to someone’s desk and ask what they’re up to. Remotely, this isn’t an option, and eventually people will encounter frequent interruptions in their work, usually caused by long, unproductive status meetings. We talk a bit more about this in part 2 of this series.

So what’s the quick fix? 

Well, there are several tools at your disposal, but visual management is a concept that can be extra helpful here. Simply making information visible to your team leads to less effort and time spent coordinating, and less disturbance.

Task management tools can organise work and give visibility in this way, leading to quick planning and even quicker reactions, and a good task management tool works using virtual boards. These simulate a physical canvas, and offer everyone the ability to indicate what they’re working on, and keep team members synchronised in terms of scheduling and status. 

The defining quality of a good board is its flexibility. It should be split into sessions, columns or buckets that you can mould to your own workflow and team setup. This flexibility paves the way for a quick feedback loop.

Trying different virtual boards is key, there’s no simple choice that will work for every team. But, if you work to find the right option you’ll find that information seems to magically become more accessible, and team cohesion improves.

Cards (or tickets) can further increase visibility of work when using virtual boards. Every card represents a single unit of work, and provides concise information related to that work. A useful card should also have comment functionality.

Having a broad view of these cards allows managers to better understand the overall capacity of their team. Rather than assuming how busy everyone is, the information is right out in the open. If work is accumulating in some particular place, or good or bad habits are forming, managers can take action quickly in response to these trends.

Ultimately, relying on universally visible tools is going to boost responsibility and accountability. Assigning a task doesn’t need to be a difficult process just because teams are working remotely. When it comes to work loads, team members may not even have to ask for help, as everyone can visibly see when someone is overwhelmed with tasks. The result? Less pressure, higher morale, happier teams!

Keep an eye on our blog for part four in this series, focusing on remote team rituals and routines.