Due to the current coronavirus situation, remote work will be the new norm for some time. Succeeding in this requires more than just the right set of tools – it’s also about building systems and company culture around them. Here’s how we do it.

Coronavirus has forced many companies to close their offices and work from home. This is a huge shift for most work communities and one that requires some adjusting. But when done right, it can be just as productive. In fact, it even has its own significant benefits.

At Taiste, remote work has been part of our weekly routine since day one: keeping our Helsinki & Turku teams close, offering our people the freedom of choosing to work from wherever they want and operating with our clients from all over the country.

We are firm believers in the possibilities that remote work offers. In this article, we’d like to share some of the best practices and tools that we’ve learned to utilise over the years. Hopefully, some of it will prove useful to you too.

Daily communication is the foundation for success

Pick an instant messaging platform. In successful remote work, there’s nothing more important than how you set up and maintain daily communication. From project-related discussion to cat pictures, a work community simply cannot function without it. We use Slack as our main hub for all communication and would recommend it to just about anyone.

In successful remote work, there’s nothing more important than how you set up and maintain daily communication.

Create guidelines for online communication. It is incredibly important to create a protocol for online messaging that everyone involved promises to live by. For us, the most important principles are: always reply ASAP when someone messages you or tags you (during business hours, that is). If you are busy, let them know and get back to them when you can. Try your very best to not stray away from the topic of the channel. Be nice.

Video calls are different from IRL meetings. Whichever video meeting tool you end up using (our choice is a combination of Slack’s video calls and Whereby), there are a few things to remember. Mute your microphone whenever you are not speaking and encourage people not to interrupt each other. Keep your video on if possible, but try disabling it if you’re experiencing technical hiccups.

Choose your project tools wisely

Don’t use more tools than you need to. From project management to code collaboration and version control, there are tons of digital tools for just about everything. However, a team using a bazillion services simultaneously will likely not be a very effective one. Our suggestion? Experiment with different tools to find the best ones for you, but try not to have too many in active use at once.

Our most used cloud tools that keep the magic happening, wherever we are.

For reference, here is our current project tool stack:

  • Trello is a great, simple virtual post-it wall. We use it for keeping track of overall project statuses – the user interface is well suited for Kanban-style workflow.
  • Clubhouse is a software project management tool. It’s especially great for software project task management since we have integrated it with GitLab.
  • GitLab is our virtual headquarters for developer collaboration in all our projects. It’s an integral part of our daily workflow and source code management.
  • Figma is an online collaboration platform for designers: several people can work on the same project simultaneously in real-time. It will almost certainly increase any design team’s efficiency.
  • For file and content sharing, we use Dropbox. Its selective sync feature makes it easy to prioritise which work folders you need to have on your computer.
  • Harvest is a time tracking tool that looks deceptively minimalistic. In reality, it’s a powerhouse of tracking working hours and creating reports of them to the clients.

Keeping the social culture alive

One of the most immediate downsides of working remotely is being separated from your colleagues. While nothing can completely replace those refreshing coffee break conversations, there’s a lot you can and should do to make each other feel less isolated.

Don’t stop talking about non-work stuff. Keep those movie discussions and inside jokes alive on dedicated channels. It’s vital to give value to the fact that these social interactions are a big reason why we feel motivated to get up each morning. So try your best to keep up those relationships as you normally would, but this time in an online environment.

Our Slack channels are not just for work-related topics: we have a great number of active social channels, from pet photos to video games that inspire and tie people together.

Extra-curricular activities can be remote, too. Our board game group has already planned to have a remote RPG night, and the good folks of our DJ club are planning to stream sets to each other. Point being, there are many ways to spend some quality time together even when we’re apart.

Let’s build systems that outlive the epidemic

In these trying times, being able to keep both the work and the office culture going from home can make a world of difference.

Building systems and principles for remote work does not happen overnight. But it is definitely worth the effort and takes your working community to a whole new level of flexibility – one that is going to be highly beneficial in the long run, even after the current global crisis is over.

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