Sustain Performance While Working Remotely

Gimena Aguerreberry
September 3, 2021

According to a survey conducted by human resources consulting firm Mercer, 94% of employees said productivity was the same or higher than it was before working from home due to Covid-19 restrictions.

With the right policies, leadership can combine the strengths of agile teams, such as self-motivation and the ability to shift course, with the new productivity potential of working remotely.

Work experience can tell that agile teams that have worked remotely from the start are as effective as co-located teams, but the sudden transition to a fully remote approach might reduce cohesion and increase inefficiency. For many people, working from home means more distractions, fewer ways to interact with teammates, and more social isolation — which can lead to a decrease in productivity.

To overcome these challenges, organizations, especially leaders, should look for new ways to remotely collaborate and manage their teams while enabling more ways in which they can interact with each other.

How to sustain performance while working remotely?

Remote working is the future. Research shows that 50% of the US workforce will soon switch to remote. What is more, the majority of companies that already offer flexible work state that they noticed an increase in their profits and productivity.

Creating an Effective Working Environment

Principle 5 of the Agile Manifesto states: "Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done."

For remote team members, ‘environment’ covers everything from the technical and physical infrastructure, the tooling they have available as well as access to appropriate support.

The following recommendations can act as a checklist to ensure this is in place.

Infrastructure

The organization must ensure that all individuals have the necessary infrastructure which typically includes:

  • High bandwidth connection for audio and video communication.

  • Adequate computer hardware including webcams and headsets.

  • Access to files via a remotely accessible storage solution.

Although these considerations are fairly obvious, organizations need to pay attention to how they can provide these accommodations when an employee is working from home.

Tooling

Organizations use a variety of tooling in line with their requirements, but regardless of the specific tools chosen, some of them are critical to Agile teams with remote team members:

  • Audio/video conferencing: you’ll need a tool that’s quick and easy to access, with support for both on demand and planned interactions.

  • Instant Messaging: the chosen tool should support asynchronous information where team members can post questions ready for those who are currently offline to process when they come into the office, as well as maintaining a record of these conversations. The ability to create ‘channels’ and ‘threads’ on specific topics enhances collaboration further. Slack is a great tool and is in fact the one we use at SOPHiLABS.

  • Structured Information: Remote team members also require the alignment provided by more structured sources of information, like a Wiki or intranet site.

Replicate agile rituals while working remotely

Regardless of the environment, agile teams should stick to foundational agile rituals, such as sprint retrospectives and daily stand-ups, to prevent their work environment from hindering their effectiveness and to assist with engaging employees.

Cultivate bonding and morale

Team members should encourage one another to introduce their pets and family members and to show any meaningful items in their working space. Working remotely, teams need to make a more conscious effort to be social, polite, precise, and tactful—to ensure everyone feels just as safe contributing remotely as they did in person.

For many teams working remotely, some approaches to cohesion and comradery have grown quickly familiar. At one bank in the United States, for example, one agile team established virtual happy hours. Squad members join a video conference call for a half-hour every week, sharing the beverage of their choice and talking about whatever comes up—other than work.

Final Thoughts

The Covid-19 outbreak brought many changes and challenges for businesses. Some companies, for the first time ever, were forced to work remotely, dreading the outcome. However, in many industries, working from home proved to be not only successful but also a new way of becoming more flexible. It was an opportunity to assess where the organization is heading and how to further adapt to the new ways of working.

It is possible to retain a high performance within teams, even when they are dispersed. Here, frequent communication and building a trusting environment are crucial. Agile rituals come especially handy to create connections and a supportive community. Leaders should lead with purpose in mind, set expectations while remaining flexible, and encourage vulnerability.

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A software design and development agency that helps companies build and grow products by delivering high-quality software through agile practices and perfectionist teams.

"Sustain Performance While Working Remotely" by Gimena Aguerreberry is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Sigmund.

Categorized under agile / software development.