Remote working - maintaining a one team mentality

Anna Fletcher Morris
By Anna Fletcher Morris under Insights 31 January 2019

The most efficient and effective method of 
conveying information to and within a development 
team is a face-to-face conversation.

 

At TAB, we believe having each member of the team sitting together and colocated is the simplest way to collaborate and build the highest quality software. However, we are aware that colocation is not always possible and remote working can be seen as desirable. According to the ONS, the number of UK remote-workers has increased by almost 250k over the past 10 years and it’s projected that 50% of the UK workforce will be working remotely by 2020 (ONS).

 

The driver behind remote teams is clear. Offshore teams promise lower day rates and working from home is a valuable asset that workers increasingly value. In fact, according to a survey by CanadaLife, home workers regard themselves as more productive than office workers and numerous surveys indicate that UK workers value flexibility to work from home over a pay rise.

 

So, with an increasing number of organisations opting for offshore teams, and the rise of working from home, how can we ensure distributed teams are able to produce high-quality work and continue to develop a one-team dynamic?

What is remote working?

Let’s start with the basics, in this post a remote team will be defined as when one or more individuals are working together regularly from separate locations on a regular basis.

Remote working is not a one-size fits all concept, there is a scale of remote working which indicates the level of impact it is likely to have on a team. While this scale provides a good starting point, the impact is likely to differ depending on a variety of factors such as the collaborative ability of individuals working away from each other, the time-zones they operate in, and their role within the team.

In this first blog post of two on remote working, I’ll discuss a handful of types of remote teams and what you can do to optimise success when working in these environments.

The lone ranger

Generally, the remote working team-style with the least impact is when only one individual regularly works away from the rest of the team. The impact, however, can vary depending on the role of the individual. To minimise disruption it’s key to ensure that the individual is easy to contact via IM, email, phone etc. If this person is a key decision maker it may be useful to have an individual who can make a call if a decision urgently needs to be made. These measures can help to minimise bottlenecks and blockers for the rest of the team.

The dependents

A situation which can wildly vary in impact is when one team is dependent on another, but they are both based in different locations. If these two (or more) teams do not regularly interact but are heavily dependent on each other this can be disastrous. A lack of interaction can quickly drive scapegoatism and a breakdown in communication, leading to missed requirements and therefore missed target dates resulting in subpar quality work. With this type of team, it’s imperative to invest in team bonding opportunities and put together a regular cadence of communications.

The big split

This happens when teams work across two or more different office locations on the same project day-to-day. This can become highly problematic, especially if the teams in different locations specialise in contrasting areas, for example designers on one site and developers on another. Try to split your teams into squads to keep your locations cross-functional to maximise the quality and frequency of work outputted . Make sure you have decision makers at each location, especially if working across different time zones, as this helps to avoid bottlenecks.

The widespread team

The final scenario, is when several people on the same team are working from home or in separate locations. If most team members are working remotely in varying locations on different days this can be highly disruptive. In this scenario it’s really important to get plenty of face time with each other and where possible, choose certain days to colocate together.

 

In the next post in this series, I’ll be sharing some of the biggest challenges when it comes to remote working and my top tips on creating a one team mentality.