The transition to working remotely due to COVID-19 has proven to be quite a challenge—including for those of us at VMware Pivotal Labs. While remotely communicating and collaborating using digital tools is not new to us, doing so in an entirely distributed environment for the foreseeable future is.
The challenges have been especially daunting when we’ve had to apply the principles of Extreme Programming (XP), namely constant communication, intense collaboration, and ongoing reflection. On top of all that, we engage with new customers on a regular basis to kick off projects multiple times throughout the course of a year. In this new normal, our practitioners must not only quickly bootstrap burgeoning relationships and get up to speed on unfamiliar domains, but build customer-based teams that feature all these new ways of working and in the process, re-define a set of previously shared norms.
There are undoubtedly more challenges left for us to face in our new, all-remote set-up. In the meantime, however, we set out to identify the most pressing problems and come up with the best possible solutions to address them. The result is a series of remote working tips that we are thrilled to share with you.
Our remote working tips cover a wide range of topics, from general considerations to specific advice for high-collaboration teams:
Building relationships – How to create virtual spaces and use them to socialize, how to be more inclusive, expressive, and kind; and how to build empathy are just some of the challenges that are heightened by a remote environment.
Easing facilitation – From setting team working agreements and ground rules to keeping participants engaged and included to making the best use of your tools, good facilitation is key to remote working success.
Leveraging physical space – How important is physical space in an all-remote working environment? More important than ever before, it turns out, which is why we offer a gallery of practitioner setups for inspiration.
Battling fatigue – Working remotely is exhausting. We suggest ways that you can create a stimulating and inspiring work environment, complete with ways to look after yourself (and others), including by setting routines.
Using the tools – Whether you’re still agreeing on the tool stack or helping your customers get up to speed on Zoom, as we’ve learned firsthand, the tools you and your team use have never had such a big impact.
At VMware Pivotal Labs, we practice what we preach. To create these tips, we assigned a balanced team—which consisted of a product manager, a designer, and an engineer—to run user research and identify current best practices along with problems and pain points. And as with every project, there were plenty of stakeholders involved. Our team collaborated with our colleagues in Services Strategy, Marketing, and Legal, to name just a few. These tips are as much theirs as they are ours—and now, yours.
Indeed, we have been using and improving on these remote tips internally, but we also recognize that the challenges we’ve faced are hardly unique. And so we wanted to share them with a wider audience. We’re confident that you’ll find something that makes your own remote working life—and that of your team—a little easier.