Our “new normal” doesn’t feel very “normal.”  While teams across the globe are transitioning to the #WFH life, it’s more critical than ever that we're equipped with the tools that we need to do our jobs — wherever we're working.

In our new remote work reality; “water cooler talk” is non-existent, Zoom meetings look like the Brady Bunch intro, and our kitchen tables double as home offices. The way we work has changed overnight, paving the way for new standards of social connectivity without physical closeness. Companies without remote work policies already in place are rushing to ramp up and compensate. Now is the time to get your remote workforces up to speed and prepared for a functional future as a distributed team. 

At Guru, we’ve been enabling remote teams since 2015, and have been fortunate enough to see first-hand how they best work together. If you or your organization are scrambling to get on the same page, we’ve put together a quick guide on what tools you need to transition to remote work with minimal interruption. 

Communication is key to bolster efficiency across remote teams. When face-to-face communication isn’t possible, your tools need to facilitate the same benefits, such as; quick response times, informal language, non-verbal cues, and spontaneity, in a way that feels natural to our workflows.

“Collaboration and communication” was listed as the #1 struggle that came with working remotely in Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work. Up from #3 in 2019.

What should be in your remote work tech stack?

We believe a simple and effective tech stack consists of three key elements; quality video conferencing, real-time messaging communication, and unifying knowledge management.

 

1. Video conferencing (ex. Zoom)  

When in-person meetings aren’t an option, real-time video chat is the next best alternative. Adopting a webcam-on policy will make remote meetings feel more engaged and personal. With the cameras on, it’s a lot harder to zone out or get distracted, and a lot easier to feel a sense of togetherness and normalcy.

 A few tips to help video conferencing go smoothly:

  • Keep yourself on mute when you’re not speaking. This will cut down on background noise and keep your meetings running smoothly. 
  • Make it social! Have virtual lunches or happy hours with your team and office friends so that you don’t miss out on those interpersonal conversations that used to happen around snack breaks.
  • Establish company-wide norms for video communication. This could include “raising your hand” when you’re ready to speak, utilizing your tool’s chat feature, etc.

Tip: Create a Card with org-wide virtual meeting etiquette standards to keep everyone on the same page.

2. Team communication and messaging (ex. Slack) 

When hallway catch-ups aren’t possible, your teams will need a new mode of quick and efficient communication. Without a central chat hub; your teams will go rogue. Different departments communicating in silos (be it email, texting, G Chat etc.) leaves key stakeholders unaware. Internally, employees may start using other channels to communicate. Adding to their workday disruption and their already overloaded tech stack. 

Establishing one, company-wide chat tool eliminates confusion and repetition and provides your leadership team with a space to efficiently communicate to your entire organization in a time of constant change.

 How to make the most of your messaging  tool: 

  • Establish a format for channel and group chat titles. For example, at Guru, project-based Slack channels have the prefix “#project-”. This helps self-organize your sidebar and is especially useful if you’re spinning up several new channels in the coming weeks.
  • Use all the features! Slack allows you to set a status, snooze notifications, integrate with productivity apps like Clockwise, and more. These features can help your chat tool feel like a more integrated part of your workflow and less of a distraction. 
  • Thread your responses. Channels get noisy and conversations get lost in the shuffle. Be sure to respond in-thread to keep things organized and maintain sanity.

3. Knowledge management (ex. Guru) 

Perhaps one of the biggest shocks with a sudden shift to remote work is realizing how much we depend on shoulder tapping our coworkers to get the information we need to do our jobs. While literal shoulder taps are off the table, that doesn’t mean your team’s subject matter experts (SMEs) won’t be getting hit up with one-off, repeated questions from a distance. Probably more so than before. That’s why establishing a single source of truth on company FAQs, policies, product questions, etc. is a top priority for remote teams. Centralizing your company’s internal information will support SME productivity (and sanity), team confidence, and org-wide alignment. 

 Ways to make the most of your knowledge management tool: 

  • Bring knowledge management  into all of your team’s existing workflows. Our Slack integration, Chrome extension, and G Suite Add-On are all designed to bring your team the knowledge they need, wherever they’re working. This helps productivity and saves precious tab space. 
  • Document everything, even temporary policies and procedures. It’s important that everyone sees your KM tool as the source of truth on all company knowledge. Especially during times of rapid policy or procedural change. A verified knowledge base is a great place to provide your team with information in a way they trust to be timely, dependable, and dynamic.
  • Make knowledge a collaborative effort! It might seem overwhelming to build out a knowledge base from the ground up. Assign leads to contribute team-specific content and set up a knowledge governance team to build out structure and keep knowledge up to date and organized. Making knowledge management a shared responsibility will not only make the lift much lighter, but will also set you up for ongoing success. 

The next step is ensuring that the three pillars of your remote tech stack work together cohesively. Here are a few tips to combine the capabilities of these tools: 

  • Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 12.58.52 PMIf you find yourself in a circular, extended conversation over Slack, hop on a quick Zoom call to discuss in real-time. Utilize the Zoom integration in Slack to start a call immediately, without having to navigate to your calendar tool and formally schedule a meeting. 
  • Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 12.57.08 PMBuild habits around knowledge sharing by demonstrating what’s available in Slack. If a teammate asks a question in a channel, use the Guru integration to answer directly with a Card — without leaving the app. This not only gives your colleague the answer to their question, but encourages folks to look to Guru first the next time they have an ask. 
  • Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 12.59.56 PMOn both internal and external-facing calls, questions come up that you can’t answer on the fly. Rather than wasting valuable time or committing to following-up later, quickly find answers in real-time using Guru. Digestible bite-sized information on hand will help you answer those one-off questions with confidence. 

And that’s just the start. As people get comfortable with the tools that comprise your remote work tech stack these practices will become second-nature and you’ll find even more ways to work efficiently with a varied tech stack. But, managing the change and rollout of new tools comes with its speed bumps. 

Rolling out new tools can be tedious especially when your team is already experiencing an unprecedented interruption to their daily lives. The emphasis should be placed on improving — not further complicating — their workflow. Introducing a new tool to remote workforces needs to be intuitive, simple, and serve as an indisputable enhancement to current processes. Be sure to demonstrate the value-add right off the bat. Using a recording tool such as Loom will speed up the ramp process and encourage adoption. Growing pains are inevitable but by practicing strong change management you’ll be able to build new habits swiftly. 

By adopting new tools to support our “new normal” you will come out on the other side as a stronger team of well-aligned communicators — even after your remote-period comes to an end.

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