Remote Work Done Right In A Distributed World

Published on May 12, 2021

On the heels of our internal shift to adopt a team first model, the global Covid-19 pandemic forced us to take that team model 100% remote. While at the beginning of this transition we weren’t sure when/if we would go back to work together in person, we knew we needed to be prepared for the potential to not return to in person work together. This shift catalyzed the evolution of how we approached many aspects of how we work together.

Communication (synchronous vs asynchronous)

The obvious largest shift in worked remotely or distributed is how we communicate together. Even in person, we used various chat software platforms to communicate with customers and have a log of communication though there was still plenty of in person dialogue to fulfill whether casual or productive.

Having the precedent of this chat tool made moving remote 90% complete already. The only element which shifted wasn’t the “what” of communication, but the “when”. By shifting to remote work we discovered that we could communicate asynchronous and not be attached to having an answer or response immediately. This was a massive opportunity for our company to develop trust in new and different ways. We each grew to trust each other more by knowing that just because I may not get a response now doesn’t mean this person isn’t getting their work done.

Microsoft Teams has made our ability to communicate, in any form, vastly straightforward. Seeing who’s online and available to chat or ask questions, having all of our Power Platform tools embedded directly in Teams, launching and managing internal and external video calls which can all be recorded, Microsoft Teams is directly part of our team.

New Workflows & Metrics

While we’re grateful we’ve built trust in new and different ways, it’s true that there is an instinctual sense of progress. you get from being in person. To keep tabs on our key metrics and indicators, we built small tools to aggregate data from different platforms we already use to create data driven progress dashboards as a mirror to reflect how our collective efforts are translating to the outcomes we care about. This isn’t an effort in micro-managing, but rather a net positive score board for the whole team(s) to see where we may have taken our eye of the ball.

This was only realistic to attempt using the Power Platform by Microsoft. Sure we could have custom built it, but building and maintaining it have previously been too laborious to take on given the end value. Creating these tools with low-code services made it extremely easy to build and deploy into the right places.

Customer Experience

While we build and deploy software, those deliverables are only part of where our value lies. Creating opportunities to engage with our clients which builds on the same culture of trust and productivity has been a large focus of our when moving full time remote. While we already had a precedent for this, we can no longer invite people into our office to brain storm and plan on a white board or get feedback about how our relationship is going. We’ve found new tools (like Miro) to serve as creative white boarding as well as created progress dashboards (via Power Platform) to reflect the progress of project work as well as financial billing.

These tools, experiences and sharing of progress has encouraged our clients to know we’re doing the same great work we’ve always done. Staying in touch and keeping consistent is evident with our evolved remote setup.

Meetings vs In Person

This has been the most challenging element of this new mode of working. It hasn’t been challenging logistically, like I mentioned, Microsoft Teams has been this physical transfer as seamless as we could ask for. The challenge has been cultural as we’ve added new members of our team who have started with us in a Teams environment rather than simply shifting to it. The opportunity for bonding and connectedness during the in between moments have been severely limited. We’ve experimented with ”lunch and learn” sessions, group games in a single instance as well as tournament style format, and ultimately will continue to explore ways to create the work relationships we seek to have as if we were in person.

Our most impactful lever as a company has always been that we are more valuable than simply the sum of our parts. This group dynamic takes effort and cultivation which, being physically removed from one another, has created new challenges yet new opportunities. We’ve had the fortune to invite members from outside St. Louis to join our team yet make sure they are just as connected as anyone else living locally in St. Louis.

Not all organizations have the opportunity to take advantage of evolving remotely like we have. If this transition is still challenging for anyone, I would love to hear from you. Likewise, if anyone has made remote work an opportunity rather than a sacrifice, I’d also love to hear what that experience has been like. We’ve always held the stance of sharing best practices, this subject applies just the same.

Until next time!