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3 Ways Agility Helps Remote Workforces Stay the Course

Working from home comes with a set of new challenges, especially for organizations that are new to being remote. These agile principles can help. 

Life as we knew it changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The way we buy, learn, and—especially—work has been turned on its head.

Remote work has now become a reality for many businesses around the globe. For companies like Pantheon, remote work is second nature. But legacy organizations with less-defined remote policies must reimagine what productivity can look like in this new reality.

It’s not a smooth transition. I’m no stranger to remote work, but the difficulties of stay-at-home orders are felt in my house. My husband and I have to care for a young child who requires constant supervision, and we are struggling with work-life balance like never before. There’s a constant juggle between professional time, family time, and the ever-elusive personal time. While some people are struggling with complete isolation, I’m dealing with the opposite—never being alone. The uncertainty of when things might return to normal sits with people, causing fear, stress, and distraction that eats away at productivity.

Breaking through those productivity barriers means tearing down the workplace barriers that already exist. Entire companies and departments must lean on one another and reach across teams and organizations to keep things moving. What’s needed is an agile mindset—one where productivity continues in unorthodox yet efficient ways.

Agility Is Tailor-Made for Remote Workforces

Pantheon’s corporate structure has always been built on flexibility. With employees scattered across multiple physical locations as well as home offices, remote practices have always been a part of our structural makeup. Still, adjusting to the lack of in-office interaction and collaboration takes time.

An agile approach helps foster that human connection by leaning on technology that promotes cross-departmental communication and collaboration. We routinely use videoconferencing for departmental meetings, and we have a “one remote, all remote” policy that encourages everyone to be on video for those calls to maintain visual and auditory equity. This enables a free flow of updates and ideas that levels the playing field while ensuring everyone feels heard.

On top of that, our team uses Google Docs, Asana, and Slack to initiate real-time conversations that each stakeholder can see. We have individual Slack channels for specific working groups and subjects, but the presence of a fluid messaging platform also helps replicate the feeling of water cooler conversations. In addition, it expands collaboration beyond departments and allows other parties to chime in with outsider perspectives.

An agile mindset is as much a communication strategy as it is a production strategy, because it encourages cross-functional dialogues and teamwork. It promotes an “all hands on deck” point of view that can be especially useful for remote teams trying to get a handle on their efficiency. Even looking back to the original Agile Manifesto, two of the main principles feel extremely relevant today: “We value individuals and interactions over processes and tools and responding to change over following a plan.”

3 Ways to Make Your Team More Agile

Remote work may be the norm for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean companies need to surrender to disruption. Here are a few agile principles your team can adopt to get production moving:

1. Hold Daily Stand-Up Meetings 

Communication is undoubtedly the essential remote work tool. Stand-up meetings can offer a new take on communication that leads to less time spent in meetings and more time spent in production.

I like to do some meeting preparation to build an agenda before my stand-ups so I can guide the conversation and cut a meeting originally scheduled for 30 minutes in half. I now conduct daily stand-ups with my design team to assess priorities, check on active projects, and socialize while we’re all trapped indoors.

2. Sidestep Any Rabbit Holes 

Doodle’s “State of Meetings Report 2019” found that unorganized meetings in 2019 cost the U.S. $399 billion and the U.K. $58 billion. Numerous variables can take a discussion off the rails, which is why there’s value in crafting a plan and sticking to it as much as possible.

In an agile setup, the scrum master builds a to-do list and dedicates a specific chunk of each meeting to various items to maximize efficiency. A timer isn’t necessary, but you might try applying some of these principles to your sessions to steer things back on track when they’ve gone askew.

In our meetings, we get quite literal with the term “rabbit hole” to signify the need to refocus. During in-person meetings, we used to have a little bunny that someone could hold up to get the conversation back on track. Now we’ve translated that to online meetings and encourage anyone attending the meeting via video to hold up two fingers (i.e., bunny ears) to recalibrate the discussion. Empower employees to help guide meeting flow, so everyone gets the most out of the conversation.

3. Set New Productivity Norms 

According to a meQuilibrium study, highly agile companies usually see their employees face a 6% risk for burnout; that’s far less than a 44% burnout risk for companies that have low agility. Understand that remote work means adjusting expectations for your team’s productivity.

Be flexible with deadlines and individual bandwidth. I’ve impressed upon my team the need to prioritize, replacing “there’s no way we can get this done” with “if a new priority arises, we need to de-prioritize another task.” This tweak shows deference to my team’s capacity, and it also helps stakeholders see our expectations for what can get done.

Embracing an agile setup can ease the woes many companies and departments experience in the shift to a remote structure. Explore these strategies—and others—to build a remote team ready to tackle whatever is in front of them regardless of location.

Does an agile approach sound like what’s needed to kickstart your website oversight or other projects? Click here to read our “Ultimate Guide to Agile Digital Marketing” e-book to learn how to apply agile concepts to your remote marketing team.

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