Agile working is all about moving quickly, empowering colleagues to make decisions and learning together. Face to face interactions are a huge part of making it work, so how do you stay Agile remotely? SOARIZON's Scrum Master, Brij Soni, shares his top tips.
The SOARIZON team has all been working remotely from home, like much of the country, for around four weeks now. Though our office is based in Crawley, as a team we are dispersed across the country.
Though we do tend to work flexibly outside of lockdown, with much of the team doing at least a day a week from home, keeping the entire team running virtually has its challenges.
We are all missing the simple one to one interactions that we take for granted in our office lives. Our new daily challenge is to find a way of working productively whilst struggling to entertain or home-school the kids, or just simply trying to stay sane when the only time you can leave the house is for a bit of exercise or to hunt down some bread, eggs or loo roll - all whilst keeping a safe 2 metre distance.
Working in an agile world can bring a bit of order to it all. We've learned that some 'nice-to-haves' can be dispensed with, and which things become even more important. Here are some of our tips for keeping productivity up within your remote team:
1. The right tools. Slack and Microsoft teams are both great collaboration tools – make sure all tools are set up and the team know how to use all the main collaboration features. We host all of our meetings through MS teams video chats.
2. Keep the drum beat going. We still do our daily stand ups, getting the whole team together in the morning to discuss work completed the previous day, and what's on the agenda for today. We still run through our planning and retro sessions as if we were in the office. Now, more than ever, communication is the main thing that keeps people motivated so always over-communicate rather than risk people feeling isolated.
3. Keep meetings short. Avoid long meetings. We struggle with long meetings face to face, so why would this be any different in a virtual world, where tech and internet connections can be unreliable? Stick to sessions that last no more than an hour, and follow up later if necessary.
4. Narrow your focus. Keep meetings focused on one topic, as you will lose the focus of people who are less involved. Meetings should be focused on one pre-agreed subject or outcome.
5. Take a break. take regular breaks between meetings, whether that's going for a walk or keeping the kids entertained (OK, maybe that's not so much of a break!) We found we were really missing the simple act of having a chat with our friends and colleagues, so we set up a virtual 'Tea Break' channel to catch up on non-work related life.
6. Don’t be afraid to be honest. Everyone's time is at a premium, so if you are not going to add value in a session be honest and drop off, there isn’t much point sticking around just to be seen and not heard.
7. Keep your video on. Seeing people’s faces will help keep your attention. Our tendency is to try and pick up a phone or read emails while in a meeting. Not only is this hugely distracting for you, it's not polite to the person running the meeting. Plus, having video chats can provide the motivation people need to get dressed and presentable, and in a work mentality.
8. Mute when not talking. Even with modern technology, background noise can be a real distraction, so mute your microphone if you are not talking.
9. Be understanding and flexible. Full time home working will mean different things to people across the team. While some people might cope well and seem more productive, some may be struggling while trying to home-school or care for their children, others might be facing an extended period of total isolation. Understanding those situations and acknowledging that everyone is doing their best will go a long way to keep up morale.
These are just a few things that we've found to be a real help in keeping our entire team motivated and productive from home.
We're looking forward to all being back together again soon but, in the meantime, it's businesses as usual for us, building new features and providing a great service to our customers.