We already worked remotely before 2020, which proved to be a blessing for Chargetrip in the pandemic. We experienced little to no disturbance in our activity from a technical point of view. On the other hand, working remotely made team members struggle to feel team spirit.
A few months ago, I (Flori, Product Owner at Chargetrip) realized we were working together, but feeling apart. This was normal as we have, in some cases, up to 8000km between us. However, while we all did our tasks, we somehow failed to show that “it’s the collective responsibility of the entire team to collaborate on and deliver the tasks on the board.” In order to get there we needed to create ownership and responsibility for working remotely, as a team.
Bringing people together is pretty difficult to do online, but not impossible. Members of the team had different histories together: some knew each other for years, others started during the pandemic and had never met their colleagues in person even after 3–4 months.
In Kanban, the development process has to be a team effort. Being aware of the team’s goals is a must in this methodology, but it can’t be achieved if members of the team don’t understand and work by this principle. It is also “imperative to proactively engage the team as an antidote to the inherent loneliness of remote work — which unaddressed, can cause a drop in motivation and overall productivity.”
Empathy is one of the keys to leaving the world a better place in our work (together with education and innovation). It is easier for people to be empathic and think about someone else’s needs when they know personal details about them. It does not have to be intimate knowledge, but it has to come from a place of comfort and trust.
So, I created a list of tools that would make it easier for all of us to open up, share our experiences, and to build the connections we might lack in order to function as a team. While some of the tools were already used in our daily work, others were new and exciting.
The aim was to build trust between team members and make sure everybody had a shared set of values in our work. After all, the courage of speaking up your mind without fearing the consequence should be part of every high-performing team’s process - and helps to build trust and open constructive criticism.
Atlassian found the safer we feel taking risks and being vulnerable in the presence of our teammates, the more we will: admit mistakes right away, ask the “stupid” (but necessary) questions, challenge assumptions, share information, and propose ideas that are so crazy they just might work — all of which are key ingredients for creating a high-performing team.
One of the changes we made was to add a twist to our weekly demo sessions. Every Friday afternoon we all come together to learn what others have been up to throughout the week, and to share what we struggled with during the week as well.
So, for the past year, we've been using the last 15 -20 minutes in the Friday demo sessions to play a different game each week. Games such as: Charades, Taboo, GeoGuessr, Skibbl or GarticPhone help create connections and playful rivalry. They also guarantee we finish the work week with a smile (unless you lose the game of course).
As the saying goes “you can learn more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation”. The bottom line is we end the week socializing and getting to know each other outside of work tasks, in a fun, relaxed, entertaining environment that might even include a cold beverage from time to time!
How does your team cope with the challenges of remote work?