Author: Iqbal Abdullah , CEO of remote company Xoxzo
Welcome to our development diaries for Project Plum. We’re a building a work management software for remote workers and we’ll be sharing details of the development process with our community. If you want to know how it all started, just check these blogposts before you move forward:
Introduction: We’re Building a Tool For Remote Workers
Plum Development Diaries, Episode 01: Why Build This Tool?
Plum Development Diaries, Episode 02: Do’s and Don’ts
One very important aspect of 100% remote working is that as a general rule everyone works in their own time. Not only can your co-workers be in different time zones from you, they might also be traveling and only check in for work early morning before a day of sightseeing, or they might be going in and out of work as they deal with other aspects of life such as preparing and sending their kids to school.
Coordinating work is a challenge
Having everyone working in different physical locations and time zones will mean one thing: Coordinating work will be a significant challenge. People take breaks at any time, and every so often life gets in the way in between. This is a given for a 100% remote work environment. Instead of fighting against this, we instead believe to work with it and accommodate our process to it.
To do that, there are a few things we needed to keep in mind for our workflow and how we do our work.
Setup everyone so they can hit the ground running
Complex tasks which require multiple input from different people will have long back and forth discussions. Most of the time, only a handful of people in these discussions are needed to make decisions, but everyone needs to know what is happening. These long discussions can be a nightmare to shift through and figure out what decisions was made and why if you’ve been away for a few days. So transparency on when, how and why a certain decision is made is utmost important.
Our workflow requires us to have an easy way to mark key questions and decisions taken during the course of a discussion.
A criteria for a workflow that will work for us is when a team member who have been away for a week can come back and skim through the questions and decisions of a discussion and within twenty minutes would have an idea of what and why something needs to be done.
Work progresses differently for different people
When you work remotely, the physical restrictions no longer apply to you when you work and in this the new normal you will work alongside your lives instead of making your life fit around your work.
Prioritization between life and work becomes much more important, and you’d need to juggle between multiple tasks within a day as your life and work progresses. This means that what we call progress will be different for every member of the team. It is important for us to acknowledge this and work with it.
A manager’s natural impulse is to look at all tasks as important and they need to be done now, but we’ve learned that unless there is a fire in your kitchen, the fact is that very little things in this world are of such importance that you need to decide on it right now.
There are exceptions of course but as a rule we write things down in full sentences document, link it to related tasks as supplementary documentation and allow it to simmer for a few days or a week for feedback before we finalize a way forward. Obviously this will slow the speed of progress, but it will give a chance for your co-workers to acknowledge, catch-up and most importantly give opinions. As an added advantage, this process makes the team more inclusive.
So, to sum up
What works for us, as a fully remote team: Tagging discussions to easily identify significant questions and decisions and having thoughts and ideas as the base for tasks written down and shared for input is important to allow co-workers to just “jump in” and hit the ground running on their own pace.