Remote, how?

19 March 2020

Olga Golonka

Marketing Manager

Piotr Fijałkowski

Research & Design Expert
Olga Golonka Piotr Fijałkowski
Remote, how?

The foundation of successful company management is always trust and efficient communication. Without them, you can not talk about team independence, necessary to efficiently achieve the goals.

Our team currently works in 8 locations in Poland (Katowice, Warsaw, Wrocław, Kraków, Łódź, Rzeszów, Stalowa Wola, Szczyrk), 2 abroad (Hoi An in Vietnam, Boston in the USA) and with clients from different time zones. Every day we face the challenges of remote cooperation because, although this model brings numerous benefits, it is also a source of many challenges that we have learned to manage effectively.

Goal management

For distributed teams, clearly defined company goals are key to efficiency.

At Mobee Dick, we use the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) method, which supports management and collaboration through a clear strategy and well-communicated priorities, putting their implementation into the hands of teams. We decided to use OKR to:

  • improve the efficiency of plans implementation,
  • increase commitment and support smooth cooperation between teams,
  • prevent the creation of silos,
  • promote the value of team cooperation.

Thanks to the OKR method, we can effectively express the company's strategy, it is clear and understandable for every member of our team. It supports transparency, which translates into greater confidence, and then – better teamwork and greater efficiency. This method allows us to keep track of progress, react quickly to changing market conditions, and immediately adapt to changes.

Monika Mikowska

CEO Mobee Dick

Knowledge and experience

Remote work is difficult, but we know from experience that it is learnable. Thanks to cooperation with Remote-How, we have gained knowledge of the theory of remote work, which we use every day. Why is that important? Skills such as time management, concise and specific communication, as well as, the ability to solve problems effectively are crucial. Remote work somehow forces us to rely only on soft skills and knowledge of reliable communication methods.

I have been working remotely for over three years, including a year I have been managing projects at Mobee Dick together with our clients. Majority of this time I worked from Vietnam, which is 6 hours ahead of Poland. When most of the teams we work with start their day, it's already early afternoon. At the same time, it is a huge advantage in cooperation with clients who also work in a different time zone.

The most important rule of remote work, which I learned thanks to Remote-how, is intentional excessive communication – over-communication. In practice, this means taking steps to actively fill the gaps that arise when you can't just approach someone and ask a face-to-face question.

Aleksandra Szapar

Project Manager at Mobee Dick

If you want to know more about how to build remote teams, download a free e-book or join the online course offered by Remote-How.

Experienced leaders

When a project is well managed, tasks are assigned, and each team member knows their responsibilities, then individual stages of the project are implemented effectively. The role of an experienced leader is, on one hand, documenting challenges in real-time, transparent prioritization, and setting DRI (Direct Responsible Individual), on the other, conflict resolution, which can be the biggest challenge in a team cooperating remotely. When the number of iterations increases or you need to obtain non-obvious data from business, even the most effective tools cannot replace soft skills.

Effective leaders are essential in every organization. They support building strong teams and ensure the effective implementation of projects. Their goal should be to increase commitment, resolve conflicts, and inspire proactive attitudes. In the case of distributed teams, apart from effective tools facilitating cooperation, soft skills are a key, which we pay special attention to during recruitment.

Karolina Śladkowska

Head of People Operations

Tools

The basic principle that we follow when choosing tools is to limit the technological stack. At Mobee Dick, we've developed our daily workflow. We are aware that it does not always fit into the infrastructure of our clients. That is why we try to be flexible and choose cooperation tools together to adapt to the capabilities and limitations of the teams we work with.

Work organization

  • We manage internal and external projects in Asana. Asana allows us to effectively plan and prioritize project work, monitor progress, and respond early to blockers or risks that appear in projects. The significant amount of video materials and tutorials available online will help you get started, gradually improve the work with this tool and adapt it to your needs and capabilities.
  • We use Toggl to measure time at work. It is a tool based on which we settle accounts with our clients and monitor project progress. Toggl also helps us monitor the work-life balance and take care of our employees.
  • We organize and store files on Google Drive.
  • We communicate on Slack, which allows us to create project channels and exchange knowledge. We treat it as a tool for informal discussions and arrangements, which we later document in Asana.
  • We use Zoom for video conferencing. During conversations we always use video (except for temporary technical problems). When we see the people we talk to, we have the opportunity to observe their body language and catch non-verbal messages. Turning on camera also helps to focus and to avoid multitasking, (e.g., hanging laundry during a conversation) and deepens communication.

Research and workshops

  • For remote workshops and creative work, we use Miro, which allows us to share the effects of work – mock-ups and visual projects, as well as consult changes, analyze information architecture, or work on diagrams and canvases. We use it also to run workshops using our Mobee Deck cards.
  • For remote testing, including usability testing, we use Lookback, Userlytics, and Zoom. We choose the tool depending on the objectives and requirements of the study.
  • We use Airtable to coordinate recruitment and data analysis, as well as for ongoing communication with the client about the progress of recruitment and research work. It's a tool that strikingly contributed to a significant reduction in the time spent on analysis.
    You can read about how we use it in everyday work in our blog post.

Designing

  • At an early stage of the project (mock-ups and prototypes), we use Axure, Axure Cloud, or InVision.
  • When we move to the visual layer, most often, we use Sketch.
  • For coordinating the file versions, we use Plant.
  • At the end of the design work, we prepare files for programmers in Zeplin, which enables us to remotely exchange information about specific elements with a team of developers.

Openness to communication mindset

Even the best tools and planned workflow will not be effective if you lack the right attitude, which we call openness to communication. What is it about? Even if our colleague is physically at the other end of Europe, we treat him as if he is sitting at the next desk.

Let's imagine this: someone comes to your desk and asks if you have 2 minutes because in this way you will quickly explain the matter and work will progress. However, you do not react, you remain silent, and the next day you approach this person and say: "Hey, thanks, I took note of your words from yesterday. Let me get back to you next week. " If you work desk-to-desk with someone, you probably won't behave this way.

As part of the cooperation that has been going on for almost 4 months, I work in the team dispersed between several cities in Europe. We communicate only through Slack. UX writer's work often involves discussing a lot of details, because the use of the right words requires verification of the smallest details and in-depth knowledge of the product.

When I ask a question on Slack, it feels like I'm approaching someone's desk. If not for a sensational client’s responsiveness, there would probably be paralysis of communication. Moreover, I never feel like I'm bothering. I think we all realize that this intensive communication saves time. We communicate quickly and directly, without the need for guesses or interpretations. As you can see, the tool is not an obstacle, what counts is openness and willingness to communicate.

Bartłomiej Sury

Content Designer at Mobee Dick

Summary

What you have to remember implementing remote working in your organization:

  • A set of principles – clear and accessible
    One of the biggest challenges we faced at the beginning while implementing the model of remote work was informing everyone about what happens in Mobee Dick and specific projects. What helped us was systematic documentation of an important process changes in a central location, in Google Drive, to minimize confusion and information gaps. We think about security issues, which is why we also use on-premise solutions as part of redundancy. We also practice the so-called self-service culture that boils down to the assumption that we are independently looking for answers to questions – we use the search engine and fill in the missing answers. We make sure to educate ourselves and expand the available set of rules.
  • Documentation – unsaved does not exist
    Remote collaboration, like no other, requires the habit of saving everything in a place accessible to all team members. We pay special attention to communicate it to new members of our team during onboarding.
  • Work in sprints – control of work progress
    Depending on the project, we work in weekly or bi-weekly sprints. Closed time units allow us to assess the progress of works, their pace and dynamics, and correct planned activities on an ongoing basis and whenever it is needed.
  • Daily – daily status
    To improve communication and stimulate a mutual exchange of information about the current status, we practice a daily, 15-minute call in all teams (or if you prefer agile nomenclature, tribes). We also invite representatives of our clients with whom we form one project team. Daily's main goal is to equalize knowledge and identify and solve potential problems. When something blocks us, other team members can help us solve the problem we are facing.
  • Availability – definition of the so-called rush hours
    Inside the team, we practice the principle of mutual access from 10 am to 4.
  • Safety – clear, written procedures
    Remote work, more than any other, is at risk of losing confidential information. We work with organizations such as banks and financial institutions, for which security is a key aspect when deciding to cooperate. Based on previous experience, we have developed several procedures that ensure the security of company data and our clients.

These few rules will help you organize remote work effectively. If you need support in the proper arrangement of a new workflow for your organization, you can count on our knowledge, experience, and openness to communication.

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