One of the reasons I enjoy working at Zirous is we are always considering new ways to provide value to our customers. One way we learn and share new methodologies is through our internal ‘Lunch and Learns’. Recently, co-worker Kyle Fattig and I presented on Kanban, an interesting method for managing work focusing on just-in-time delivery.
Welcome to Part 2 of our “Tips for Working Remotely With Clients” series! At Zirous, working remotely is a major part of our business, whether an employee is working from home permanently, or performing work for an out-of-state client. Of course, we do have many employees working on-site for clients, but the trend at Zirous, and in IT consulting, is leaning toward off site work for these reasons.
- Flexibility of schedules
- Employees that have remote access have a greater ability to work on issues during non-work hours, if the situation warrants it.
- Gaining expertise from multiple developers
- Whenever Zirous is hired, clients gain not only the expertise of the employees assigned to the project, but of the whole Zirous team. When the development occurs remotely, it is easier to knowledge share between developers.
- More developers to choose from
- A client located in Minneapolis who desires an on site client has a smaller employee pool to pull from than a client who is willing to allow for remote development.
As working remotely becomes more prevalent, it becomes important to improve on the skills needed to do so successfully. The following are some tips to make your life easier!
Note: Tips 1-5 can be found in Part 1 of the series, here!
6. Find the best way for you to track your open items
It may not be the same way as someone else does it, but make sure you have fool proof method to track your open tasks. Perhaps it’s as simple as a text file or notebook that you update, or maybe you organize open items into email folders. Others may have a spreadsheet that is updated by multiple team members or maybe you use a task tracking tool like Asana, which we’ve highlighted on this blog before! Whatever you use, just make sure you use it. The best task tracking tool is something that is easy to use and something that you actually WILL use.
7. Prevent and resolve misunderstandings
Even if you aren’t working remotely, this is a good tip. We use technology all the time. Technology etiquette is essential to maintaining a professional relationship. Take the time to respond to any IMs or emails. Taking a little longer to respond is much more preferable than responding quickly and being incorrect or looking unprofessional with spelling and grammar errors. Also, be wary of reply all. Take the time to make sure you really WANT to reply to all. I’m sure you’ve all seen examples of horror stories from that dreaded button. Even if it is used on purpose, take the time to consider if everyone on the original email needs to be included in the response. Occasionally, higher ups get included on emails to keep them in the know, but they really don’t need to be included on the follow up. They get enough email as it is.
Another important issue relating to technology etiquette is tone. Using IM and email make it a lot more difficult to convey the correct tone. This is another reason why it is important to take your time when using technology in a professional setting. Sarcasm can be hard to determine even if you know the person well. So, make sure you are concise and professional in your communication to make sure you are understood, and be open when reading communication from others. If you are confused about the tone or intent, make sure you clarify instead of making an assumption. When in doubt, get on the phone! Actually talking to people is somewhat of a lost art, but by doing so you can be sure tone is understood correctly.
8. Consider time zones
Not every client is going to be located in your time zone. Keep this into account when scheduling meetings, etc. You don’t want to request a meeting that forces them to wake up at an uncharacteristic hour or during their dinnertime.
9. Document everything
Not only document everything, but document it in an easily accessible and easily searchable location. Whether it be an email or on your Google Drive under a folder for a specific project, make sure any decisions that are made are documented. This ensures that when you’re working out the details of a project, you can always look back and confirm the big decisions that were discussed and finalized.
10. Use a high quality headset, and keep it on mute when you aren’t talking
Finally, something that may seem trivial, but causes stress to remote workers all the time. Please don’t use your laptop microphone; and a headset is preferable to the phone itself. Nothing is more annoying than background noises during a conference call.
Do you work remotely? What are your tips for ensuring success?