Companies have shifted to long-term remote work and employees across many different industries are accepting that the pre-pandemic workplace will not come back. I call this "radical remote" since people work together that might never have been physically in one room together, or have not so since the pandemic started.
At the moment here in Europe most of the employees are in home office. To explore the current situation, we had set up open web sessions during the last year to explore with our customers how Scrum helps organizing people to work together and enhance motivation.
Right in the beginning, when home office started, teams were busy finding helpful online tools to collaborate. The insight was, that this is just the first step.
The second step was, asking the questions on how to organize people in a radical remote fashion. We found 3 keys.
3 Keys to Radical Remote Teamwork
1.) Design an Alliance
We did not have agreements on how working in a radical remote way, before lockdown started. It is crucial to design new team agreements to align with the new situation. The first decisions usually to be made are about tooling. Which video conferencing system are we going to use. Is it Zoom, MS Teams or other. Are we going to use a virtual whiteboard like Miro or Mural.
Later during the year 2020 new questions came up. How are we organizing people and teams? Is it enough to apply Kanban or are we ready to fully step into Scrum?
2.) Grow into Circumstances
While home office got extended from month to month, teams gained new skills of communication. Senses got stimulated, that were never triggered before. Sensing the mood of a team colleague through a 13-inch screen needs activation of mirror neurons. It turned out, that team members had to embrace patience for each other and develop the ability of forgiveness when all the misunderstandings came up.
3.) Keep up Engagement
Being locked down at home led to loss of structure in life for many. If conflicts in the workplace arise it is easy to escape by non engaging. People learned how to smile friendly in front of the camera while being busy with something else, or switching off the camera altogether. The Zoom happy hour arose and my teams in Switzerland invented the virtual Apero, a virtual meeting with a cocktail for everybody around 6 pm.
During the middle of January 2021 I sensed a leap, when teams realized, that home office is our new normal. They realized how crucial our social capital is for the success of our companies. We started an initiative on Radical Remote Scrum (1) and helped people using the framework to overcome their communication deficits. The daily Scrum is the place to spot conflicts. Implementing a virtual retrospective turned out being key to overcoming conflicts.
I was delighted coming across a paper written by employees of Microsoft (2), summarizing their scientific research on the topic.
We are on a long journey to finding our new ways of working in a radical remote fashion. Tools alone will not do. We have to grow our social capital along.
1.) Radical Remote Scrum Video (Language of Video is German)
2.) What a Year of WFH Has Done to Our Relationships at Work via HBR.org
3.) Radikal Remote (see German translation)