How to Keep Your IT Team Connected and Ensure High Quality While Working from Home

13 April, 2020 Jennifer Warren

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— Suddenly the entire world seems to be working from home. From Google, Facebook to almost all employees from various companies find themselves working from home. 

But then, the decision was taken cold turkey by almost all companies as there was no other way to do it. Yes, it’s unprecedented. With contagious COVID 19 sweeping the world, the IT sector had to make a quick decision to allow its employees to work from home to shield them from being infected with this virus, known for its human-to-human transmission. 

Now, given that such a situation hasn’t arisen before, for companies, it won’t have been an easy decision. One or two was just fine, but here it was a question of managing and monitoring hundreds and even thousands of employees at one go. Given a choice, companies wouldn’t have opted for it. Never ever. However, this is not the time to get disappointed over things that you don’t have any control over. 

With umpteen strategies and productivity software in place, businesses could easily keep track of their employees’ day to day activities and even measure their productivity on a day-to-day basis. 

Here’s a list of strategies that would ensure that your team is as productive as they were while working from the office and, more importantly, delivers high-quality jobs.

10 tips to boost team productivity while working at home

# Meet Device Expectations

If you are part of the IT industry, in all likelihood, you’ll have a PC at home, if not a laptop. But then, you could never take things for granted. If your employees are not locals and have traveled from far off places to be part of your company, then you need to be sensitive to their device requirement needs. Lend them your office PCs or laptops for the time being. 

Also, ensure they have good internet connections and a regular microphone. This will ensure that whenever you are trying to reach them through SKYPE or Google Hangout, they’d be able to answer your calls.     

# Meet Flexibility Expectations

Working from home is synonymous with flexibility. 

So, rather than forcing employees to do certain things your way, ask them what they would be comfortable doing.

For example, if they aren’t comfortable attending 10.00 pm meetings every evening, or being present on Skype or Slack, every hour of the day, don’t force them. You need to take into account their convenience as much as possible. 

Always work out a middle ground that works for both parties. 

It’s essential to know your employees’ expectations first and then come up with a tailor-made schedule that’s in keeping with their expectations. This is important because it will motivate them to stay on your team longer. 

# Go Overboard in terms of Communication 

Yes, you need to err on the side of over-communication. Under communication will never do you any good; however, over communication will ensure that you’re drumming on the key points again and again, which makes things understandable to the team. This will ensure that no team member misses out on any of the crucial aspects. 

Keeping this point in mind, specifically during the early days of your engagement, is essential. One Scrum meeting probably won’t be enough to get work done. You may have to have a one-on-one meeting more often to ensure that things get developed in the required time-frame.

# Use Software like Desktime to Track Productivity

Talking from experience, productivity software like Desktime will keep employees on their toes all the time. How? In addition to the arrival time and left time, the software also has an “idle time” feature that gets highlighted in the productivity bar whenever the employee moves away from the PC. This means the employees need to be tied to their PC all the time. And working. In case, they check their social media pages or are indulging in any other unproductive activity, during office hours, it will automatically reduce their efficiency level. Not just that, it will also send screenshots of their activities to the authorities concerned. Further, it has Desktime, Productive Time, Time At Work, among many other features. 

Get such software installed in your employees’ PC’s, and you will never regret them working from home. 

# Trust your Developers to do the Right Job 

It’s generally observed that managers with a developer background find it hard to let things go out of their hands.

Put another way, they like to micromanage. No matter how talented their team is, these developer-cum-managers want to have a say in big things and small. Rather than giving a free hand to developers, they prefer to rack their brains and find solutions to problems. This means all that a developer does is code according to the directions of the manager.  

This is a lousy practice, according to experts. 

Developers love to prove their skills and would be disappointed otherwise. They might even feel undervalued. Given that developers spent a lot of time problem solving and given that they are trained to do so, by not letting them solve problems, you are depriving them of the very thing that they may have grown to be good at. If such a thing happens, they may lose interest in their work. 

So the managers should resist putting their fingers in every pie and letting their developers be. If not, you will be stifling their innovation.

# Engage in Loads of Video Time

Skype or Slack meetings on the phone are fine. But switching over to videos has a charm of its own. It adds a human element that aids team building and real relationships with employees. 

Video, most importantly, highlights an employee’s mood. It’s of importance to make sure the whole team is happy and functions as one unit. Also, you could speak to them about their personal lives and not just about the projects they are working on.  

Try video conferencing via Zoom. Or even Google Hangout is worth giving a try. 

# Never Hide Business Details

Sure, in case of specific projects, certain information could be sensitive, and so project managers won’t be comfortable sharing all details with the developers.  

Nevertheless, we bet, the more open you are with your developers, the more effective they will be in their tasks. They might even help solve issues toward the fly. In the end, what matters is the developer’s productivity.

# Work Around Time Zones

If your team is remotely located globally, it may become difficult to communicate. One way out is to look out for golden hours. Golden hours or overlapping hours are where you and your remotely located team could come together for a specified time and compare notes.  

For instance, if you are in the US and your team is in Poland, there’s a 6-hour difference. Now if you are working for 8 hours, and you start your day at around 10 am, then in Poland it will be about 4 pm. So, you have at least 2 hours in common every day for at least 5 days a week to talk and sort out things. For you, it could be from 10 am to 12 pm, for them it could be 4 pm to 6 pm. To find golden hours, try using tools such as EveryTimeZone and TimeAndDate.

But then, “golden hours” are rare. For instance, if you are in the UK and your team is located somewhere in the Philippines, then you may have no ‘golden hours.” In such cases, you can rely on daily written reports. Come up with a simple template and file your reports there daily. 

Further, in case of issues, you could think of an emergency communication channel. 

# Define ‘Done’ in a way that everyone understands

This is yet another crucial aspect that remote teams need to think about: that is how to define “done” in a way that both the development team and product team look at it in the same way. 

 In an office environment, the done word may not make much of a difference because there you get umpteen opportunities to sit together and clear out the confusion.

However, this is not the case when your team is working from home. 

While working from home, more or less, it all boils down to targets and whether they have been met or not. There’s nothing like an in-between situation. Zero emotions involved. 

Here’s how the perspective on ‘done’ differs from team to team:

  • For development managers done could mean code review is done and dusted, or maybe QA is over, or DEMO is ready for consumption by the product owner and so on. 
  • For development teams, it could mean committed and pushed code. 
  • For product teams means, it may mean: in production and perfectly working.   

As you can see, different teams will have different ideas on the concept of “done.” And, if you are planning to hire a new developer, he will bring his ideas on board. 

So, before the confusion escalates and takes a hit at your project, go ahead and define “Done” in the most straightforward and most precise terms possible. 

To cut a long story short, define done by taking into account the requirements of the development and product team. Plus, receive continuous feedback and undertake selective editing so that the definition sits perfectly with the expectations of all sides. 

About fram^: Founded in 2013, fram^ is a digital consulting and development company with over 130 employees across offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang (Vietnam) and Stockholm (Sweden). fram^ provides a full range of IT-development managed services from Digital Consulting to Software Development and DevOps services.

Author Bio: I am Jennifer Warren, a Content Crafter with  GoodFirms , a research and review platform for service and software companies. The company provides a curated list of top mobile app development companies, top writing service companies among many others.


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