We have been a remote-first company since Day 1 at DVELP, some 5 years ago. When our CEO Tom established DVELP, he knew that the company would have access to a much bigger talent pool with more diverse views and experiences, and would also be more resilient to certain types of emergencies. The company has grown a great deal since, and we have accumulated a significant level of experience in making remote work successful.
The greater opportunities and variety offered by remote-first aside, there are certain occasions - like snow storms that last for days or the COVID-19 reaching pandemic level - when it ensures business continuity and gives companies a productivity edge over their competition.
In this article we have collected our experiences and resources to aid a quicker and more efficient transition to remote work when it is needed.
In a hurry? Scroll to the bottom for links to our top resources.
Remote work rests on a technological foundation. There are a few useful (and often free!) software solutions that level up team communication and collaboration beyond email and video conferencing.
Google Drive enables us to share files across the team and collaborate in real-time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. All team members’ Google Calendars are fully visible to each other to help coordinate meetings across time zones. A Google Hangout link is added by default to all meetings.
Trello is an easy-to-master collaboration tool that allows us to set up straightforward progress-tracking. It uses ‘cards’ that we use to detail tasks, statuses and owners.
Github is not only great to store our code base, but we also use it to share our Cookbook: our organisational documentation and manifesto.
Slack is our preferred internal communication channel because it conveniently integrates all of our tools via built-in modules. For us Slack is more than just an instant messenger. This is a communal space with channels for team communication, both for work and for water-cooler conversations. We invite our clients to the project channels to improve collaboration with them.
Create a social environment
It is hard to replace a morning conversation at the coffee machine. That's why we have our 15 minute morning stand-up where everybody briefs the team about their work on the day. This is also the time to catch-up with personal news. We’re lucky to share a great sense of humour in our team and this keeps spirits high from the get-go. For the same reason we allow a couple of minutes at the beginning of each meeting to have an informal natter before jumping into the topic of the meeting. This helps us keep engaged with each other between social events in person.
Make remote-first democratic
It is difficult to prescribe a one-size-fits-all working schedule. We let our team members decide when they want to work remotely and when they want to work from the shared space. If everyone gets comfortable with working remotely on their own terms, it’s much easier to make the shift to fully remote when events call for it.
Setting objectives and measuring success
Remote working requires a significant cultural change. Instead of defining tasks in working hours, the team needs to arrange work around agreed deadlines and priorities. It is important that all our team members have visibility of who is working on what, how long it will take and what the outcome will be. Of course emergencies happen and you might need to ask a colleague to work on something else instead. In this case it is your responsibility to prove that the requested task is more urgent than the one they work on. Otherwise they have a good reason to push back, and they should.
It is a good habit to arrange retros on a regular basis. We meet every other week to review what we have achieved in the previous two weeks, what went well and what should be improved. That is an extremely efficient way to praise good efforts and give actionable feedback on things that need to be improved.