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Team Productivity

How to Take Your Team Remote as Quickly as Possible

Nathan Gilmore
April 7, 2020
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Recently, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft announced their Seattle staff would work from home to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Maybe you’ve been considering a remote work plan for your team too, but aren’t sure where to start.

At TeamGantt, we’ve been 100% remote for 10 years now, and it’s part of our DNA. So we thought we’d share some tips that have helped us make remote work successful for our team.

Here’s a simple action plan to help you transition your team quickly and smoothly—with as little red tape as possible. This step-by-step plan also includes a free gantt chart template you can use to speed up time to productivity and minimize disruption to your business.

1. Provide a budget for home office setups

Some team members may not be equipped to work effectively from home. That’s why we recommend giving each team member a small budget they can use to to shore up their home office for the short term. Depending on your budget, you might consider allocating $500-1,000 per team member as a starting point.

Here are the basics we recommend:

  • Quiet space with a desk or table
  • Comfortable chair
  • Computer
  • Desktop camera
  • Headset with microphone
  • Fast and reliable internet access

2. Implement tools that make it easy to collaborate online

Learning how to collaborate remotely may feel like a big jump for your team if you’re used to getting things done face-to-face. But there are lots of tools to help you keep communication flowing so your team stays in sync when working from home. (You may even be using some of these already!)

Many of the tools we mention below include a free plan or option. While free plans usually come with a limited set of features, it’s an easy option for getting started without having to jump through a bunch of red tape. Just keep that in mind if budget approvals become a sticking point.

Group chat

Slack and Microsoft Teams are the big players in this space. But Flock is another good alternative that offers a whole suite of helpful collaboration tools.

We recommend setting up some guidelines to minimize interruptions, as one of the biggest benefits of remote work is the ability to have long periods of focus time. It’s also important to ensure your group chat doesn’t become a hub where project work happens under the radar or in various disjointed conversations.

As a leader, it's vital to establish rules and etiquette to ensure people aren’t eating into productive time on live chat. For example, here are a couple of guidelines we established for our team:

  • It’s okay to snooze notifications if needed to quiet the chatter and focus on a big project.
  • Use Slack for “deskside” conversations, and TeamGantt for project requests or updates.
  • Respond to most messages within 24 hours. We can do so sooner, but there’s no obligation.

Remote meeting/video chat

Video chat enables your team to have virtual meetings from anywhere and gives you the benefit of face time, even if everyone’s working separately.

Just be sure the tool you choose offers solid audio and video connections. We use Zoom at TeamGantt, as it’s the most reliable one we’ve found out there. But Google Hangouts Meet and your group chat tool’s video conferencing option are also worth considering too.

Project management

Many leaders worry about accountability when going remote. Seeing your team hard at work right in front of you provides a sense of ease you simply can’t get when everyone works from home. You’ll need to shift to managing your team based on output alone.

We’re fans of having a plan for every project no matter where your team gets work done—but it’s especially important when everyone goes remote. A good project management tool sets clear deadlines and expectations for your team and makes it super-easy to track what’s being done and what isn’t. So even if you can’t see people at their desks, you can see when tasks are running behind and address delays before they become an issue. Naturally, we use TeamGantt, and over 1 million other people have too.

Whatever project management tool you choose, remember: Everyone needs to use it consistently for it to work well. All project- and task-related discussions should happen in your project management tool so you don’t have dark work going on in other channels like Slack. And make it clear that your team should regularly update progress on their tasks so you know where things are at any given time.

File-sharing and collaboration

File sharing is a big consideration for a lot of teams considering remote work—especially if you’re used to housing files on your office network. Google Drive makes it easy to create a centralized file hub your team can access from anywhere. Just be sure you copy all the files you’ll need onto the drive before going remote.

Unlike Dropbox, Google offers tools for file collaboration too. We use Google Docs to collaborate on content. But your team may want to look into additional file collaboration tools, depending on the work you do. For example, we use InVision to collaborate and comment on design-related files and Frame.io for sharing and reviewing video projects. GitLab is an interesting option that offers a lot of tools for remote development teams.

3. Discuss working hours and schedules

It’s important to help your team set clear boundaries around work and family time when transitioning to remote work. This not only helps minimize distractions during office hours, but also keeps work from bleeding into home life. Here are 2 simple ways to set your team up for stress-free remote work success.

Set core working hours

Decide when everyone should be expected to be online. This makes it easier to schedule meetings and creates space for collaboration to happen in real time.

You may want to sync everyone up to the same schedule all day or let people set their own schedule, as long as certain hours overlap. At TeamGantt, we like our team to be available between 10 am and 4 pm ET each day, but they have the flexibility to set their schedule around those core hours.

Be sure to set clear expectations around what it means to be available so there’s no confusion. For instance, maybe it means a 15-minute response time for Slack messages during your team’s main working hours.

Encourage your team to work a predictable schedule

One of the best ways I’ve found to keep work and family life from bleeding into each other is to commit to working a regular schedule. For example, I work from about 8:15 am to 5:00 pm with a lunch break each and every day.

This works out great because it provides clear expectations and balance. I agree not to work past 5:00 pm if my family allows me to focus during work times. Then when I’m done for the day, I feel like I can truly shut my work mind down and give my family 100% of my attention because I accomplished a lot during my focus time during the day.

4. Determine meeting frequency

Remote teams can feel disconnected without regularly scheduled touch points. While we try to keep meetings to a minimum to leave room for focus time, we know our team needs to hop on a video call to see and hear from everyone on a regular basis. And sometimes folks just need to be reminded that they’re a part of a team that’s working together.

Talk with your team and decide how often you need to touch base to keep communication flowing and projects moving forward. At TeamGantt, we hold a monthly all-company meeting, while smaller teams touch base once a week or every other week. You may want to meet more frequently at first until your team gets into a good remote rhythm.

This is also a good time to determine what adjustments you need to make to ensure meetings continue to be productive, even from home. We’ve found the standup meeting format helpful in our regular team meetings, with each person answering these 3 questions:

  • What did you do last week/month?
  • What are you working on this week/month?
  • What blockers are in your way?

5. Hold a meeting to inform everyone of the plan

Once you’ve mapped out the steps for going remote, it’s time to let your team in on your plan. This will help ease worry and doubts and ensure everyone’s on the same page about how the transition will work.

Make sure you explain the following points to your team:

  • Why your team is going remote
  • How long you expect the team to work remotely
  • Who they should reach out to for questions on home office equipment and IT questions

We recommend building a project plan for your transition so you can share it with your team and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. We even created a free remote work transition plan template to help you get started. Feel free to use this template—along with TeamGantt’s free plan—to plan and execute your remote work transition.

Get leadership advice from top remote companies

There’s a lot more to managing a remote team, but this list should set you off on the right foot. Be sure to check out the advice we gathered from other top remote companies in 9 Essential Tips for Managing a Remote Team.

Project management milestone examples

Milestones make it easier to keep projects on track by calling out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables. Here are a few examples of project milestones you might include in your plan:

  • Start and end dates for project phases
  • Key deliveries
  • Client and stakeholder approvals
  • Important meetings and presentations
  • Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline

Let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 specific examples of how using project milestones can benefit your projects.

Monitor deadlines

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables project milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top-level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose because they’re called out in a special way—usually with a diamond—in project plans.

While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.

Here's an example of how Washington Hyperloop uses milestones to track an important deadline in their project.

Spotlight important dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will need to be out of the office for a mandatory training. Maybe there’s a board meeting you’re expected to attend.

It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.

date milestone in gantt chart

Identify potential project bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.

That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of what that might look like for a client approval.

deliverable milestone in gantt chart

Want to hit major milestones on time more often?

We’ve got a free class to help you get everyone on board with your plan! Register for Plan Up: How to Create and Sell a Winning Project Plan to see why planning sets the stage for project success, and get a free Guide to Project Planning when you sign up.

How to create a project milestone

Creating milestones for your project plan can be simple, especially with TeamGantt. Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can easily add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Adding a milestone (or converting a task to a milestone) is very easy in TeamGantt.

Once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account, here’s a quick video on how to create milestones:

Project milestones are easy to create and even easier to track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project.

How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders

Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Simply follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.

1. Filter your project by milestones.

From your gantt chart view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.

filter gantt chart by project milestones

2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.

Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.

export gantt chart with project milestones to PDF

Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.

share PDF of gantt chart filtered by project milestones

Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?

Hit every project milestone with ease

TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.

You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.

Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍

Give TeamGantt a free try today!

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