For years, Ample has prided itself on being an agency that allows employees to work remotely. Whether you’re working in a wifi-equipped cabin in the woods, taking calls at the beach, or multitasking at home with your kids, the partners at Ample have always done their best to recognize that life happens outside 9-5 hours. And some people’s working styles just don’t jive with an open office five days a week. This flexible, trusting culture is what drew me to Ample in the first place.
Now that the CDC recommends limiting large gatherings and advises everyone to stay home as much as possible to avoid community spread of COVID-19, working remotely is no longer a choice for many companies — it’s a necessity. Thanks to their five fully-remote workers, Ample has trained for this, and is already set up with many of the tools necessary for communicating daily with people on the west coast.
But not all businesses are used to telecommuting. For companies that are fortunate enough to have resources to keep business moving, this may be their first time experimenting with new tech and creating a plan for a remote office.
With how quickly the world has took action against the virus in, most managers haven’t had enough time to prepare an extensive plan or guidelines for the necessity of working remotely full-time. Many may be looking for tools that are easy to grasp and workflows that work. There are also online tools, like this one from Toptal, to assess if your company is remote ready.
Here are a few ways the Ample team manages when working remotely, and how our team has adjusted from being partially remote to working from home full-time:
Our project managers are amazing — they stay in touch with clients, keep our internal team on task, and manage company time and budget. But they can’t manage everything with post-it notes and to-do lists.
For day-to-day project management, our team uses Paymo. Paymo is a kanban-style project management board that allows team members to track moveable tasks. Is a task in progress, in review or with the client? A quick look at Paymo will tell you. When you finish, you even get the to-do list satisfaction of moving it to the crossed-off “complete” section.
We also find shared Google Calendars helpful. Maybe you need to run to the grocery store mid day, or go out for a jog. If you’re going to be unavailable for 30 minutes or more, it’s helpful to put it on your calendar. This keeps team members from trying to reach out to an empty desk and then sitting idly for a response. Plus… we all need a break. It’s healthy to block some time off.
Our developers use Github, a platform for collaborating, managing code and archiving projects. There, they can store code repositories and review it before it gets deployed to production — without needing to consult one another in person.
Our designers, a team of three who live in three different states, may be the best equipped for remote work. Among their many tools, they often use Invision, a platform for building interactive prototypes that allows for feedback directly on specific parts of the project.
Ample has 18 employees, and to keep everyone in the loop we have a scheduled 15 minute meeting each morning to briefly run through what we have to do for the day. Stolen right out of the agile development playbook, this “stand up” meeting allows our project managers to identify who is low on work load and who’s probably got too much on their plate, so they can then allocate work more evenly on the spot.
We recently started using Zoom regularly, which allows for video conferencing and screen-sharing. On Mondays, we typically do a longer update (we call it “status”), where we run through everything that needs to get done that week.
For larger companies, this may make more sense to do on a smaller-scale team basis. Since the majority of our team is made of developers, we cover our smaller design and content teams first before diving into the tech side.
Slack is incredibly useful for our everyday interactions, we often use it to share links, start group chats, and maintain consistent communication, (even when we’re all in the office). It may not have been the death of email as many predicted, but it certainly raised efficiency. One downside of Slack that we didn’t notice until we went fully remote was that it limits group calls to a max of 15 people — hence why we started using Zoom for larger meetings.
The spread of COVID-19 has been stressful for everyone. Beyond the physical and economic tolls the virus is taking, long periods of isolation aren’t easy on our mental health. Those who looked forward to the social aspects of coming into work every day may face lower levels of productivity without moments to come up for air.
Ample recently held its first virtual “Yappy Hour.” The Zoom video chat was a success — people brought in their pets, kids and spouses, had a drink, and had a chance to unwind from the day and take a break from bad news.
We started a Slack channel called #quarantinefun to share things that make us happy — good news, movie recommendations, childhood pictures — anything to keep spirits high. A few coworkers and I scheduled a weekly virtual lunch break to catch up. We even transitioned our optional Friday morning yoga sessions to video.
Working remotely is a major shift for companies everywhere, but it doesn’t have to mean a loss of communication, friendships or morale. It just means we all have to get a little creative.
Find out what our remote team can do for you here.
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