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Blog Post

Connecting as a Remote Team in a ‘Social Distancing’ World

by Brian Manning
March 19, 2020

Working remotely is becoming more of a norm among U.S. and global companies these days. Following the CDC's recommendations for social distancing, remote work is proving to be beneficial, allowing companies to give flexibility to their employees and save money while keeping the business moving forward. 

Mediacurrent has been a distributed company for over ten years and knows what others may be facing as they begin to venture into the digital world of remote work. To help in that, we have put together a list of tools and resources we feel will be helpful to keep work moving forward and more importantly keep remote teams connected to each other.

Communication Tools

Slack

Slack is a crucial part of many organizations both remote and in office. Mediacurrent utilizes slack as our main communication tool to keep our company and client culture connected at all times. From client-specific channels to team building Slack allows multiple avenues of communication through chat, video, and screen sharing. They have both Free and paid versions to meet the different needs of companies. 

Skype

Skype is one alternative to Slack. It offers free online calls, messaging, affordable international calling to mobiles or landlines and Skype for Business for effective collaboration.

Google Meet

Google Meet which is a video conferencing app. The solution enables users to make video calls with up to 30 users per high-definition video meeting.

Microsoft Teams

Similar to Slack, Microsoft Teams is the hub for team collaboration in Office 365 that integrates the people, content, and tools your team needs to be more engaged and effective.

Video Conference Tools

Zoom

Zoom is our go-to for meetings, webinars, and general face to face communication. Mediacurrent utilizes Zoom in all of our team meetings, client meetings, and even team-building events. Zoom offers an array of features that connects our team and helps build our culture.

GoToMeeting / Webinar

GotoMeeting offers Online meeting and web conferencing tool that enables businesses to collaborate with customers, clients or colleagues via the internet in real time.

Join.me

Join.me offers screen sharing, online meetings and team collaboration are all fast and easy at join.me

Telephone / Audio Tools

Google Voice

Google Voice gives you a phone number for calling, text messaging, and voicemail. It works on smartphones and computers and syncs across your devices so you can use the app in the office, at home, or on the go.

Zoom Voice

Zoom Voice is a cloud phone system that is now available as an add-on to Zoom's unified video communications platform. 

Documentation Tools

Google Docs / Sheets/ Slides

Google’s Suite of office-like products is a great tool for remote workers. It offers documents, sheets, slides and so much more for your team. Mediacurrent utilizes Google’s suite of tools in our everyday workflow. It allows team collaboration and sharing to meet your needs. 

Office 365

Similar to Google’s Suite of tools, Microsoft offers an extensive suite of online tools that harnesses the power of Microsoft Office. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and even email. Many companies who are a Microsoft shop will already have tools like this in place and can easily deploy it to their remote workers.

Online Storage / File Share Tools

Google Drive

Google Drive is another part of Google’s suite of tools. Each Google account has its own Google Drive storage space which allows for file and document management and sharing. Mediacurrent utilizes Google drive in our everyday workflow. We are able to safely and securely share documents internally and to our clients utilizing Google’s tools. 

Dropbox

Dropbox offers an online storage space that teams can use to share and collaborate on files. 

Microsoft One Drive

Part of the Office 365 suite, OneDrive offers similar functionality to Google Drive and DropBox. Like Google Drive does to Google’s suite of documents, OneDrive integrates with Microsoft’s suite of tools.

Design / Visual Tools

Invision

Invision is an expansive tool utilized by the Mediacurrent Design team. It allows us to share wireframes, mockups, and presentations easily to clients and internally. 

Sketch / Sketch Teams

Sketch is a design toolkit built to help you create your best work — from your earliest ideas, through to final artwork

Abstract

Abstract is simply a design tool to help designers with the design process. ... It's designed to be a version control system for Sketch and makes life easy for designers by taking away the command line.

Adobe Creative Cloud 

Creative Cloud is a collection of 20+ desktop and mobile apps and services for photography, design, video, web, UX and more.

Project Tools

Jira

Jira is one of Mediacurrent’s many tools utilized to keep track of project tasks, bugs, and user stories. It is utilized as a part of our continuing goal to be transparent with our project team and clients and keep everyone on the same page at all times. Created by Atlassian, Jira has many different packages and plugins that will help cater it to any remote team’s needs.

Confluence

Confluence offers real time collaboration through documentation and knowledge sharing for your teams. The integration it offers as part of Jira is key to keeping a strong workflow and transparency in your projects.

Monday.com

Work OS that powers teams to run projects and workflows with confidence. Similar to Jira, it allows project managers to track status and communication about issues in a project.

Development Tools

Microsoft Visual Studio

Microsoft Visual Studio is an integrated development environment from Microsoft. It is used to develop computer programs, as well as websites, web apps, web services, and mobile apps

Github

GitHub is a Git repository hosting service, but it adds many of its own features. While Git is a command line tool, GitHub provides a Web-based graphical interface. It also provides access control and several collaboration features, such as wikis and basic task management tools for every project.

Bitbucket

Bitbucket is a system for hosting version control repositories owned by Atlassian. It is a competitor to GitHub. Version Control Systems are tools that help manage the code for a project as it changes over time. They allow past versions of the project to be saved in case new changes break things.

Tips and Tricks to being Successful

1. Get Dressed

Not to get too personal right off the bat, but put some clothes on. It’s tempting, I know, to roll out of bed and blob over to your laptop in your pajamas. Or maybe not even get out of bed in the first place? It’s a trap. If you’re dressed for sleep, it’s going to be a lot harder to get your brain up to a canter, much less a gallop. (In this metaphor your brain is a horse, go with it.) More important, though, if you don’t get up, take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed—whatever your morning routine entails when you actually do go into the office—you’re breaking the cardinal rule of working from home: Set boundaries

If you don’t get ready for the day, your day never really starts. Instead of working from home, you’re just at home, with the occasional work check-in. That’s fine and healthy now and then! You are not a drone. But if you’re in this for the long haul, you need to treat it like any other day at the office, minus the office part. Besides, it's good to be prepared if someone springs a surprise Zoom invite on you.

2. Have a Dedicated Work Space

Do not work from the bed. Do not work from the couch. Do not work from the futon. In fact, let’s just say don’t work anywhere that lets you recline if you can help it. If those are the only options available to you, that’s OK! Just try to find a nearby coffee table to use as a desk or anything that keeps your laptop out of your literal lap for most of the day. It helps with focus, yes, but also those things get hot.

Where you actually set up shop is entirely up to you. Maybe you have a dedicated office space with a desktop and a view. Sounds nice. If you don’t, that’s also fine; The point here is to clearly define the part of your house where work happens. That makes it more likely that you’ll actually get things done when you’re there, but just as importantly might help you disconnect when you’re not. Remember that when you work from home you’re always at home—but you’re also always at work. At all costs, you should avoid turning your entire house or apartment into an amorphous space where you’re always on the clock but also kind of not. It’s no way to live. 

Whatever your set-up, keep it tidy, or at least as much as you would your comparable office space. 

3. Go Outside

Every few days I make it a point to spend at least a few hours away from my normal work space. It’s a change of scenery, a good excuse to get some fresh air, and provides a tiny bit of human interaction (even in a social distancing world) that Slack conversations and Zoom meetings do not. There’s no water cooler when you work from home, no snack table, no meetings down the block. It’s easy to stay locked in position all day. Don’t do it! Sitting is terrible for your health, and mind-numbing when you’re staring at the same wall or window all day. Even in a world that isn’t social distancing it's good practice to always keep your mind fresh, and find ways to make your working environment something you look forward to being in. 

A sub point here: Having a pet helps. If you have a dog, you have to go outside to walk it. If you have a cat or a fish or a ferret you can talk out loud without feeling like a crazy person. 

4. Give Them Some Slack

You inevitably miss the impromptu meetings and side conversations that spin little ideas into big projects. Which is mostly OK—you'll get caught up, especially in an environment when most people are working from home.
The best solution, both for your work life and sanity, is to use Slack more than functionally necessary. Check in with people even if you don't have a work-related reason to. Send them funny tweets. Don't be afraid of italics and exclamation points. It'll never be the same as grabbing a midday coffee or a beer after work, but it helps to remind people that you're not just out there in the void. And when the conversation does center around work, know when to switch from Slack to phone. You'll be surprised how much can get lost in translation when you only type.

5. No TV

Sorry. Unless you work in an office that already has CNN or CNBC on all day in the corner, no television. You are not as good at working with that background noise as you think. And that one little break to catch up on Better Call Saul will invariably turn into a binge. This applies to videogames, books—anything but music, really. Basically, if you wouldn’t do it at the office, don’t do it at home when you’re working. Boundaries!

6. Prep Your Snacks

Look, you’re going to snack. Constantly. It’s something to do! Why type when you can chomp? That walk to the pantry or snack drawer is the perfect procrastination. The best I can do is to encourage you to keep something remotely healthy on hand—baby carrot crunch is a satisfying stress reliever—so that when you do finish off a bag of something in one sitting, it’s not, like, Guy Fieri's Double Salt Fajita Pringles or whatever.
Similarly, I’d recommend cooking enough dinner to have leftovers at least a couple times a week. Maybe you’re more creative than I am, but homemade sandwiches for lunch get pretty boring pretty fast, and there may not be as many outside options near your domicile as there are near your office.

7. Shut It Down

Yes, traffic is terrible and subways are crowded and the weather is unpredictable. But it seems nice to have a clear separation between when you’re at work and when you’re not, and some time to decompress in between when working in an office. That doesn’t exist when you work from home. It’s all on the same continuum.

Check out one of our blogs that talks about increasing your productivity with the “Shutdown Ritual”.

8. Check for Internet Speed 

High speed internet access is the remote team’s equivalent of having reliable transportation to commute to a physical office. Invest in quality internet service including modem and router.  

Mediacurrent recommends if you are going to be working remotely to have a 20mbps or greater download speeds for video conferencing and screen shares. While you can get away with a slower speed, it will greatly affect your ability to be as productive.

9. Always Have a Backup Plan 

Have a backup plan for the internet and power outages. If extended downtime is expected, identify locations nearby that provide WiFi such as coffee shops or libraries. Hotspots are also a great resource as a backup plan. Many cellular company’s offer a dedicated hotspot or plans allowing your smartphone to be a hotspot.

Have a backup plan for computer outages. If repairs on your company laptop are required, have an available backup machine with basic tools available to make progress.

Keep your work in the cloud, and Sync often! Keeping all of your work locally invites risk that it can be lost if your computer is damaged and prevents syncing challenges with your teammates if you lose internet access for an extended period of time.

10. Lean on Your Team 

Remember that you have a team of peers out there to support you, even if you don’t see them every day. Take the time to engage and connect with your remote team. Use our online communication tools to reach out for help if you are stuck on a problem. There’s a good chance one of your teammates has run into something similar in the past and can help.

References

How to Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind 

Meet team member, Brian Manning

As the IT Operations Manager Brian loves connecting business needs with the right technologies. An extrovert at heart, he enjoys collaborating with Mediacurrents clients to understand their goals to ideate, design and launch the best solutions to help them innovate, grow and expand their reach. When it comes to emerging technology, Brian works directly with clients to help them evaluate and understand how technologies can bring value to their organization.

He has 20 plus years of leveraging technologies – existing and emerging – to help customers gain a competitive edge. Brian’s diverse management roles in Information Technology and Project Management have allowed him to work with companies such as Microsoft, Sony, UTV Entertainment, LifeWay—and everything in between.

Brian thrives on partnership and collaboration, allowing him to leverage technology to achieve the desired outcomes. He is also deeply passionate to help others succeed through mentorship and communication to create a powerful vision for their future and career growth.

When he’s not working, Brian can be found trying new restaurants or going to Disney with his wife, Kate and their three kids. He also enjoys breweries, woodworking, or fishing outdoors whenever possible.

 

Learn more about Brian >

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