How to effectively transition from co-located to a distributed team.
Checklist for team leaders
Establish policies and permissions
- Obtain written approval (if necessary) for employees to work from home.
- Read your agency’s telework policy or establish one if needed.
- Read — and revise, if needed — the security policy regarding telework activities.
- Create policy on what equipment will be provided / reimbursed by the agency.
Set up tech infrastructure
- Identify technical pain points of any employees who have already tried working remotely, and make a plan to address these issues first.
- Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN), if required, and confirm that your employees can access it from their homes.
- Run load tests to ensure your VPN and other services can handle a sudden uptick as workers access on-premise and cloud applications from remote locations.
- For your tech employees, make sure critical services like source control, build pipelines, and dev/test/prod environments are available remotely.
- Scale and automate tech infrastructure as needed
Re-consider roles and responsibilities
- Identify which employees need to remain in the office to do tasks that require access to specific on-site equipment.
- Set up workflows to ensure that employees in the office are not required to handle remote employees’ regular assignments (i.e., answering phone calls to desk phones).
Ensure employees have the right equipment
- Access to high speed internet at home (or ability to tether from mobile device)
- Laptop or computer
- Headset / earbuds and webcam for video conferencing
- Schedule training or instruction to help teams use remote collaboration tools effectively and independently.
- Determine a policy to reimburse employees for certain remote office expenses.
Set up regular touchpoints
- Schedule daily check-in calls for teams via video conferencing
- Schedule virtual office hours/times when people can ask you questions
Adopt digital tools for paper-based tasks
- Eliminate the requirement for physical paperwork wherever possible
- For the long term, consider launching a project for ‘going paperless’
- Document signing: Docusign or other electronic signature app
- Virtual faxes: Free online fax services
Set measurable expectations
- Establish work assignment logs or other tracking tools to provide specific and attainable performance expectations for all employees — those in the office and remote workers.
- Maintain signed copies of any checklists or agreements (e.g., Employee Safety Checklist, Team Agreement, Telework Assignment Logs, etc.)
- Remember that you won’t be able to measure and track every detail, nor should you try — instead, adopt processes that allow the work to speak for itself and build a culture of trust.
Checklist for teams
Know your agency’s policies and procedures
- Security and data handling procedures (get clear, written guidance)
- Telework Policy
- Team Agreements
- Employee Safety Policy
- Telework Assignment Logs (or similar tracking procedures)
- Request changes to your agency’s policies if you see areas for improvement (and find other agencies you can point to as examples)
Run experiments before leaving the office
- Work from a different desk / room to identify any paper files you may need (then consider whether those files can be digitized).
- Identify and bookmark key URLs for systems needed in your daily work.
- Use a cell phone hotspot to test network access, and consider whether you need to make changes to your cell phone data plan.
- Confirm working phone / e-mail access to your agency’s IT helpdesk.
Set up your remote work environment
- Dedicate a desk or working space in your home.
- Background (for video conferencing) should be free of clutter or other people
- Surrounding noises and distractions should be minimized
- Consider how you will handle the management of kids or others in your care.
- Consider your internet connection speed and make adjustments if bandwidth is an issue.
- Be flexible when your remote environment does not work perfectly — allow for a learning curve for yourself and others.
Set up your remote work tools / technology
- Working laptop or computer, headset / earbuds, and webcam for video calls
- Onboard to video conferencing platform that your team has chosen
- Onboard to team chat / collaboration tools that your team has chosen
- Onboard to project management / document sharing tools your team has chosen
Set up your online calendar
- Make sure there is a link to a video call in every calendar invitation
- Schedule a virtual ‘coffee’ with a co-worker to practice with video calls
- Schedule a recurring social call — perhaps on Fridays — to strengthen your connections with co-workers and remember that you like each other as humans (see Culture).
Set a daily routine
- Get up, dress professionally, make coffee, walk the dog — keeping your usual workday habits will prepare your mind to ‘get to work’.
- Schedule intentional breaks to get up and move throughout the day for mental and physical health.
- Set agreed-upon working hours with your team, then stick to them — avoid the temptation to keep working because there is no ‘office’ to leave at the end of the day.
- If you’re caring for kids or fulfilling other responsibilities in addition to work, write those obligations into your work calendar so you can honor your priorities.
- Telework Basics (U.S. Office of Personnel Management)
- Telework Guide (U.S. Office of Personnel Management)
- Telework Best Practices (CISA)
- The Remote Playbook (GitLab)
- Working from Home — a Guide (Charles Patterson)
- Government Remote/Telework: Getting Started - Communications and Operations Best Practices (CivicActions)
- How to Embrace Remote Work (Trello)
- OMG I’m working remotely, now what?! (Benedikt Lehnert)
- Transitioning from offices to distributed teams during a crisis (John O’Duinn)
- Distributed Teams: The Art and Practice of Working Together While Physically Apart (John O’Duinn)
- REMOTE: Office Not Required (Basecamp)
- The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work (Scott Berkun)
Get customizable training for small or large groups at your agency on remote / telework best practices.
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