Over the past year, we've learned to rethink work.
Corona has made a big difference not only in our daily lives but also in how we work together in teams. While some of our team members already regularly worked from home before Corona and brought experience in digital team organization and the necessary technical infrastructure, it was still an unfamiliar situation to organize the whole team in a hybrid way.
Now some time has passed, and the initial new workflows are slowly becoming routine.
Last year, we asked awork users "what was the biggest hurdle for them in this transition?". One of the most common answers: team collaboration comes up short. When we look back now, what learnings can we draw from that time? How can we implement digital collaboration in teams in the long term?
Our team identified the following five key points:
Starting the week together
Since the switch to the home office, our marketing team has introduced an additional weekly kick-off and now starts the week together every Monday. In the office, the team meeting usually only happens at the end of the week.
If you work in the same place, you also exchange ideas more often during the week. That way, you get to see what everyone is working on. Spontaneous meetings for a short team update are also not uncommon. But if everyone sits at home, it's much easier to lose sight of what the others are doing during the week.
Thanks to the weekly kick-off, everyone knows directly which to-dos are pending in the team. There is also direct coordination on who does what and on which topics they work together. And of course, starting the week together is also great for the team mojo!
Introduce daily update meetings
To ensure that the other teams do not miss out on the mutual exchange of ideas, our colleagues have also experimented with short daily meetings. At the same time, our development team works according to the Scrum Method, so they also continue to meet remotely for Daily Scrum.
Since the changeover to the home office, the support team has also introduced a daily team meeting. Even if they don't work in the same place, complex topics can be discussed collectively. For the sales team, the morning check-in and evening check-out are also now part of their daily home office routine.
The daily exchange does not have to take long at all.
Just 10 to 15 minutes is enough to distribute tasks, exchange information on each other's progress, and clarify ambiguities. This is not only great for the team structure, but it also saves time. Central coordination prevents to-dos from falling by the wayside or topics from being discussed twice.
Using chats correctly
Communication is key - this is especially true for collaboration in the home office. A video call is not always necessary. We use the chat tool Slack for internal team communication. Since the changeover to the home office, certain functions have become particularly important in order to collaborate smoothly, even while remote.
Using the Slack integration, we can connect a channel directly to the respective awork project. All events in awork are thus displayed directly in the Slack channel.
We use topic-based channels for quick agreements between the teams. For example, if support asks a question in their channel, our developers are notified and can respond quickly and directly..
Even if several team members are working together on a topic, we simply set up a separate channel just for them. In this way, questions are clarified centrally, regardless that everyone is sitting at home. In addition, communication is clearly documented for everyone.
Due to the increased use of chats in the home office, this can lead you to being involved in many discussions. However, focus is also required for specific topics. To work without distractions, you should not only set your own status to Away but also temporarily pause your chat notifications.
Create more transparency with status
Transparency is key to productive collaboration in the home office. This includes knowing who is currently available and who is not. Since the switch to home office, our team has started using the status feature in Slack even more extensively.
For example, we have predefined certain statuses. So you can change your own status to "In a meeting" or "Lunch" with one click. You can easily see who is available at the moment and thus save yourself from impatiently waiting for an answer.
If someone is absent for an extended period of time due to vacation or illness, the entire team knows directly.
For even more transparency in the home office, it is also helpful to record times directly on specific tasks. Our team uses awork for this, of course! This makes it easier to estimate how time-intensive individual tasks are.
In addition, thanks to the individual time evaluations, you have an overview of who has worked on which project and for how long. Using this, the capacity of team members remains transparent, even in the home office.
Set a clear agenda for meetings
We have noticed that many of our teams have been organizing meetings differently since the changeover. In the home office, meetings are less likely to happen spontaneously, which allows for more precise planning and better preparation.
The onboarding team, for example, now gathers the topics to be discussed collectively in advance. This means that everyone can think about the topics before the meeting, allowing them to be better prepared. All the relevant information is then exchanged and discussed during the meeting.
Communication in remote meetings is more focused and goal-oriented.
Unanswered questions cannot be discussed afterward over a quick chat at the coffee machine, as is the case when at the office. For this, a new video call would have to be scheduled in the home office. A clear agenda also helps limit the meeting to the essentials and uses the time as efficiently as possible.
What comes after the home office?
Through the transition, we've learned some lessons that will help us build teamwork even better in the future.
What do we want to keep in our day-to-day office life?
- Regular team updates: The switch to a home office has made it even more apparent how important it is to have regularly scheduled exchanges within the team. Mutual coordination is not only efficient but also great for team spirit. For even more productive collaboration, team updates also remain a fixed component in the office - whether as a weekly kick-off, evening check-out, or Daily Scrum.
- Efficient communication: We will also make more use of chats after returning to the office. This way, we are less likely to be thrown off track by intervening questions. More people can participate in discussions, and agreements are documented for all to see. Another tip we've learned: When you need an environment without distractions, don't be afraid to turn off push notifications for a while. We will also continue to maintain focused communication through a clear agenda in meetings in the office.
- Even more transparency: even after the Corona crisis, everyone should know if someone is in the office, working remotely, or on vacation. We will also continue to maintain our own Slack statuses in everyday office life. We will also continue to track time on tasks to make our own capacity transparent and to better distribute to-dos within the team.
Although the home office has many advantages, we are looking forward to seeing the team back in the office every day. Regardless of whether everyone works at home or sits together in the office, one thing is sure: Teamwork makes the dream work!