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WFH: Tools for Remote Teams

Margo Anderson
min read •
Published on
March 31, 2020

While working from home (WFH) is an adjustment for some, it’s a joy for others. In the midst of these unprecedented times, distance has the opportunity to lead to increased productivity and clarity. Founders, VP’s, engineers, designers, and web users have already been working from home successfully for years and they’re productive and happy. So what’s the trick? How can you be productive and effective when working from home as a distributed team?

As a software cloud rendering company, we’ve compiled a list of what we’ve learned from working remotely as a team, along with our most used tools for effectiveness and productivity.

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Maintain regular hours.

Create a routine for yourself. Get up, have breakfast, coffee, and whatever else gets you going, and get comfortable at your desk. Start a rhythm for your day that’s unique to you and that helps to set you up for a good work mode.

Take breaks. Go outside, get fresh air, and give your eyes a break from the screen. Fit in a run if you can. Make a smoothie. Give yourself time to focus on your health and energy levels before diving back in to work.

Get involved in the work. Show up to meetings and contribute. Ask questions, make recommendations, and offer solutions. Think about the challenges the team needs to solve and consider how your expertise will be most helpful and most effective.

Tools are Important. It’s challenging to have fun at anything if you are ill equipped, so discovering tools for online collaboration and efficiency are essential. Here are a few of our must have WFH tools:

Slack is essential. It’s the most well-thought out chat software available, and is vital to keeping everyone up to date and on the same page. From group channel chats, to direct messages, to gifs, links, and notifications, slack is key to remote communication. Microsoft teams is another great alternative to slack.

Zoom: For video calls with the whole team or smaller groups. We have daily standup meetings at 9:30am each morning where each person on the team provides a brief overview of their workload and focus for the day. This helps us stay on track with our tasks, as well as support each other with ideas and problem solving suggestions as we encounter hiccups.

Web Based Project Management:
Jira is project management for software teams, helpful for tasks, tickets, and roadmapping. Non-software teams can use Monday or Asana to help keep projects on track.

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Tmate: For instant terminal sharing, tmate can save your development team hours of work. When asked, Matti Grüner, our Lead Software Engineer, described tmate as being “a time-saver when it comes to remote collaboration between our pipeline team and our infrastructure experts. Using tmate our infrastructure team is able to help administer kubernetes clusters used to replicate our products’ architecture on local development machines.”

Google Shared Drives: Another essential, Google’s shared drives allow you to upload files and save them in the cloud for online access at any time. You’ll never have to worry about misplacing a paper-copy file again. Set your permissions as you like and your team can access files securely from home.

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RescueTime: An automatic time-tracking app that allows you to check in on whether you’re sticking to your daily schedule. It can also help you figure out what times of day you are most productive versus when you slack off, which can be helpful with regards to planning out your day and setting aside your hours of high focus for tasks that require extra brainpower.

Todoist: A good To-Do application. Tasks and reminders pop up quickly and consistently when working with remote teams who tend to communicate asynchronously via email, chat or DM. Our CEO uses Todoist for keeping track of the many daily tasks and emails that need reminders or follow-ups. Install the chrome extension and mobile app and you can add quick tasks from Slack, Emails, and Websites, and have them with you wherever you are.

Virtual Assistant for reminders. For sporadic items that you need to be reminded about, voice-activated virtual assistants are fantastic. Set up Siri on your Apple device or Google Assistant on your Android and let them create reminders for you. “Remind me at 3pm to check in with Ben.” “Remind me next Tuesday to submit my taxes.” “Remind me to call Dad tomorrow for his birthday.” No matter what you need to remember, your virtual assistant will keep you on track with the reminders that you set up.

Take notes/minutes during meetings and share them with your team. We have a dedicated slack channel for our meeting minutes. During each meeting we nominate a note taker, and they record the meeting name, date, who was in the meeting, and the action items / deliverables. Having a record of what was discussed and who’s working on what is incredibly helpful in keeping projects and tasks on track.

Zoom Friday’s

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Zoom Fridays

Finally, carve out some social time. Create opportunities throughout the week for your team to laugh and socialize over non-work-related topics. As a replacement for the weekly beer Friday’s that we previously had in our office, our team now has a weekly BYOB Zoom call at 4pm on Fridays, and the virtual zoom backgrounds are half the fun.


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