Remote Work and Agility: How To Have Both Under the Same Roof?
Agility is the way of living for organizations. With a shift in remote work, do you think remote work and agility can co-exist? Find out here.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
The global pandemic has pushed the world to work remotely regardless of the industry type. Even though remote work existed long before the outbreak occurred, it became the new norm or the way of life only after the mandated lockdown. There are umpteen benefits that remote work offers, starting from a better work-life balance to increased levels of productivity.
However, it’s not all rosy. Leaders have and are facing several challenges while leading a distributed team. Communication, the essence of remote work and agility, is one of the major ones. Agility is all about being resilient, adaptive to change and encouraging innovations to boost team efficiency. Fostering an agile environment is difficult in a virtual work set-up, unlike in co-located spaces.
Developing a remote workplace strategy to maintain an agile environment is vital to enhance operational efficiency. This blog illustrates important takeaway tips that you can leverage to have remote work and agility under the same roof.
Let’s begin by understanding the communication challenges of remote work,
As mentioned previously, communication is the hallmark of an agile environment. However, with team members dispersed across geographical boundaries, working from varying timezones, and many other reasons can be hurdles to effective communication.
Here is the detailed description of the major communication challenges:
I. Varying Time Zones
Different time zones can often lead to delayed and ineffective communication. For instance, if you are to arrange a meeting with the team, you need to consider a common time to ensure that everyone is available to be a part of it. Not just that, if you want a critical piece of information from an overseas colleague and he/she isn’t available, it will cause delays in projects.
Thus, the varying time zones are merciless on remote workers and can lead to inefficiencies in communication. A buffer study states that being in a different time zone from your teammates is a problem for 8% of workers.
II. Availability Issues
Remote work gives you the liberty to be flexible with your schedules. Mostly, leaders focus on getting things done rather than the log-in hours. As pleasing as it sounds, it can hinder communication.
For example, suppose your colleague is addressing his/her personal appointments at a particular hour and you need to collaborate with them to complete an important task. In that case, chances are they won’t be available. There are many other instances similar to this one that can be a challenge.
III. Technical Glitches
The connectivity issue is one of the most daunting and frustrating challenges of remote work. Imagine you are in an important meeting talking to a client or a stakeholder, and your meeting just shuts down due to poor connectivity. Frustrating, isn’t it? Your client may get annoyed, and you can even miss out on crucial information during your team meetings.
Thus technical glitches like unstable internet connectivity, poor performing tools, and power failure in some cases can disrupt communication.
IV. Incomplete Information
Collaborating remotely is not a piece of cake. You have to ensure that all your database is accessible to the concerned team members so that it does not affect the workflow. However, chances are either you or other colleagues have missed out on sharing their data on your collaboration platform. This can cause unnecessary delays and even lead to team conflicts affecting communication within the team.
One of the major reasons we face these challenges is the lack of resilience. When we are not ready to adapt to sudden transitions, we will eventually face a lot of hurdles along the way.
Below is the list of some tried and tested ways to adapt to change and foster agility:
How Can You Adapt To the Changes and Practice Agility?
1. Invest In Tools and Technology
Communication and collaboration are key to successful remote work. It is only possible when you have the right tool inventory in place. When you are managing a remote team, you multiple roles to play, you are managing projects, teams, and tasks. Technology is the rock-solid support that simplifies these daunting tasks for you.
Thus, investing in the right tools that align with your organizational needs is mandatory to practice agility. A project management tool, resource management tool, collaboration channel, and video conferencing tool are some of the tools you can consider subscribing to.
2. Document Policies
Note that there is a thin line between being flexible and lenient towards your project goals. If the flexibility is taken for granted, it will lead to delays in submissions, and you will find yourself in an unorganized, haphazard system. Thus, to avoid this nightmare, leaders and stakeholders must focus on documenting some important policies.
These policies are a ground rule of sorts to establish a system, ensure that things are getting done, and every task is in sync with the other. It will eliminate any unnecessary discrepancies and hold the team accountable for the given responsibilities.
For example, a part of your policy includes regular check-ins to promote agility, which means employees have to show up and give updates on their progress. This will maintain the work progress, and you have the leeway to make changes at the initial stages itself.
3. Foster Your Culture
Often is the case when you see your culture fading in the remote work setup. This can directly impact your workflow, core values, and can also have detrimental effects on employee productivity. So the onus is on leaders to keep the company culture alive even during these uncertain times.
Maybe you can start by organizing weekly or monthly virtual meet-ups, virtual lunches, or even have a games night to empower team engagement. Besides, you can send out rewards for exemplary performance, boosting their motivation levels. These practices seem little but can have a profound effect on employee’s productivity and performance.
4. Conduct Daily Stand-Ups and Regular Check-Ins
It is of utmost importance to keep the team on the same page. Who is working on what, if the priorities are aligned, and if we are in-line with the goal, everything has to be dealt with. Thus leaders must make it a point to conduct daily stand-ups as soon as the day begins or whenever all your colleagues are online (in case of different time zones).
Daily stand-ups are useful in more than one way here. In case there is ad hoc high-priority work, or in case there are modifications given by clients, you can keep the team informed before it’s too late and things can be worked upon. This will keep your team agile and ready to tackle the changes proactively.
5. Embrace Retrospectives
Adaptability is the foundation of agile team management. Embracing retrospectives to make improvements is, therefore, an integral part of an agile team. You are adapting this novel set-up with your team, so there is always a learning segment present.
So managers can make it a point to take feedback and embrace retrospective at the end of each sprint or call. You can encourage your team members to share their concerns, feedback on what went right, what can be worked upon, where is the scope of improvement, etc., to enhance efficiency.
The ultimate goal here is to have a smooth virtual work system, keep the team together, and improve efficiency to impact the bottom line positively. The above-mentioned measures will help you maintain agility in your remote team successfully.
Let’s now address the elephant in the room,
How Will Agility Look In the New Norm?
Agility will become the way of living not just professionally but in our personal lives as well. A lot of businesses have resiliently picked up the change and addressed the changing customer demands to stay afloat during the economic meltdown. For instance, clothing industries have started manufacturing protection gear, and pharma industries are mass-producing sanitizers, and so on.
Taking this as a lesson, all the firms will rake the agile approach to stay future-ready for any unforeseen circumstances and have a continuity plan in place.
You probably would have heard this a million times now, ‘remote work is here to stay.’ After practicing it for months now, you must have found your way around it. This blog aimed to help you foster an agile culture to address the dynamic market demands while you are managing a remote team.
With a structured framework in place, leaders can maintain both agility and remote work culture under the same umbrella. This will future proof you against changing demands and help you build a resilient team.
What has been your experience with remote work so far?
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.