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Adjusting to being a remote business

Lynda Harvey

• 5 min read

As Jonny stated in last week’s post, It’s not business as usual, like many other businesses, we have had to adjust overnight to becoming a fully remote business. I want to expand on that a bit.

Every day it feels like we’re dealing with, what we would have considered previously to be, several month’s worth of change. 10 Degrees has always very much been an office-based business, we really value the strength of team communication and social interactions that being in an office together brings.

That said, we have always offered the flexibility for working from home and many members of the team have regular home-working days. But it is ad hoc, and no-one is permanently home-based. At least they weren’t, until a week ago.

We recognise how fortunate we are that during this current global crisis we have the ability to run 10 Degrees remotely, pretty seamlessly.

Here’s how we’ve had to adjust.

Client communication

The biggest change here, like every other business, is the switch from in-person meetings to all being done via video calls. Slack is our go-to tool for this. But we also engage with clients via BlueJeans or Zoom.

Although it took us a day or two to get it implemented across multiple team members, our landlines are managed remotely using a VOIP softphone app. This should seem to any client like they are calling the office as before.

We have always used Zendesk for managing our client support requests and tickets, so there has been no change there.

From a client perspective, they really shouldn’t be experiencing any difference in their interaction with us or our ability to deliver our service.

The biggest impact is on how we interact as a team.

Team Communication

Like many agencies, our working day starts with a team standup. As well as being an effective way of managing projects, it’s a nice social way to kick start our days.  Now, our standup meetings are run by Slack video calls.

The biggest change we’ve noticed with this is that they now take a lot longer. Instead of being around 15 minutes long, they now average 30-40 minutes. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, the use of technology just makes the handover from person to person a little longer, waiting for everyone to mute / unmute. Secondly, the world is changing so rapidly every day that it feels like Jonny or I have to do a small Boris-style daily update of important news. Finally, and probably most importantly, it’s good to talk! People need that social interaction with teammates, we are also encouraging everyone to talk about their home life situation and how they are feeling about the COVID-19 nightmare. So it is time well spent at the start of each day.

Remote working

In the office, we finish the standup by walking over to the large whiteboard on the wall and talk through project statuses and priorities. Feeling like we still need that visual representation, the whiteboard is now virtualised in Confluence. (Although, we keep forgetting to go to it at the end of the virtual standup!)

As of this week, we are also going to be introducing a second standup in the afternoon. This is as much as to ensure that we are all aware of how work is progressing as it is making sure we are checking in with all team members, so they are not feeling too isolated.

We’re also having to adjust communicating more asynchronously, as working patterns change and using Slack messaging for that. Getting used to not just looking over to the office to see if someone is free to talk to us is quite change. As is reducing the expectation of getting immediate responses from people.

We are also utilising the Slack statuses to help with that; e.g I’m having lunch, be back at 1pm. I’m walking the dog, be back at 3pm.

Social interaction

This is a big one.

I’ve already mentioned about introducing a second standup in the day to introduce a second touch point for all team communication.

Our ‘Random’ channel in Slack is getting more populated with “what’s everyone having for lunch?” type conversations, to replicate the type of banter we would normally be having in the office.

But we’re a very social team. And that is something we are going to painfully feel during this time of social distancing.

On Friday, one team member set up a ‘virtual pub’ for after work drinks (a video call with BYO). This is the kind of interaction that we need to maintain as a team and think creatively about how we retain those team bonds.

We were due to be having a team away day at the end of March, which obviously we’ve had to cancel. However all is not lost, as we have managed to replace it with a fully virtual ‘away day’ via Wildgoose – a team building event that we can all take part in from our own homes, and with the kids too (let’s face it, most of us are also adjusting to working from home with children off school too – I’ll talk about that another day).

Obviously this is not going to be the kind of day we were hoping for, but it is so important that we still have something fun in the diary for us all to look forward to. I’ll report back after the event and let you know how it goes!

What’s next?

One thing is certain in this very uncertain phase that we are in, we all need to get used to new ways of working and that so many more of our interactions (social and professional) are going to be online or virtual. Many businesses are now looking at how they can move their products or services to be provided online. Or looking at re-purposing their service offering to suit the immediate needs of the community. And we’re working with our clients to find ways we can help them achieve that.

I’m sure there’s a heap more change to come.

The Author

Lynda Harvey

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