How to Streamline Distributed Teams Using Workflows

Working from home is no longer just a perk of the modern workplace. The concept is now a core aspect of many companies’ culture and business strategy. This is particularly true for the tech community. The latest technology allows employees to innovate, collaborate and communicate remotely almost as if sitting side-by-side. Flexibility in a remote work policy can increase employee satisfaction and lower employee overhead costs. Plus, studies show that employees who work remotely are more productive and healthy.

So, what’s the catch?

Remote work is certainly not without its fair share of challenges. Fortunately, many challenges can be tackled by setting clear policies and building strong workflows for employees operating away from the office. It’s important to keep in mind that workflows for distributed teams can be vastly different than those for in-office teams.

How can this be addressed?

First, identify how members within organization engage with one another. This point is key for any organization looking to take full advantage of what remote working has to offer. Next, identify the main challenges reported by remote workers and the workflows that can help solve them. Here are three common challenges of distributed teams and how we solved them at Kerauno with communication workflow solutions.

Challenge #1: Lack of visibility

One challenge frequently reported by managers of remote teams is maintaining communication with remote team members. Without a physical presence or regular check-ins (which can be challenging if team members work in different time zones), managers might not understand what each team member is working on, how assignments are progressing, and what challenges or roadblocks employees face.

Workflow Solution: “Work-in-public”

Automated workflows increase visibility and allow team members to “work-in-public”. “Working-in-public” describes an attempt to keep all updates and progress on assignments incredibly visible to the entire team. Automated workflows make communication more efficient and allow closer collaboration between in-office staff and remote team members. Highly visible updates on the team’s day-to-day tasks provide a better environment in which to collaborate in real-time on updates or new challenges that arise. When tasks are completed and posted at the end of the day, the team takes pride in the day’s achievements and continues that momentum to knock down the next day’s “To-Do” list.

At Kerauno to increase visibility we use trigger, automated, up-to-the-minute notifications to all teammates about updates from various software platforms used to collaborate. Examples:

  • Our engineers just committed that latest Kerauno feature to our source code. Kerauno posts it into Chat+ to let our QA team know it’s ready to test.

  • A client has submitted a new sales question to our knowledge base platform. Kerauno sends an SMS reminder to the client’s account rep to make sure they follow up.

Challenge #2: Isolation

In a typical office environment, employees spend more hours each day with their coworkers than with family and friends. Everything from lunch meetings, after-work activities, and impromptu hallway discussions are opportunities for social interactions with coworkers. When you work remotely, the closest thing you’ll get to water cooler talk is between you and your pet. Isolation and loneliness are serious threats to the satisfaction of remote employees.

Workflow Solution: Social communication integrated into technology

At Kerauno, as a communications workflow platform, most of our workflows involve voice, SMS, chat, and various other forms of communications. We use workflows not only for revenue generating activities, but for fun, social activities as well. At Kerauno we automatically post our fantasy football matchups into a shared Chat+ channel, which provides a social space for some friendly banter. Over time, these activities lead to better work relationships and better teams. Closer links between on-site and remote employees ultimately leads to better team performance and better business outcomes.

Challenge #3: FOMO

FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out,” is very relevant for remote employees. What if your team comes up with that game-changing idea without you? What if your in-office staff shifts the team’s strategic plan without your input? It’s an inherent human desire to want to be included, especially when decisions have an impact on both your personal and professional success.

Workflow Solution: Corporate memory bank

A workflow we use at Kerauno to combat FOMO is documentation of our daily work.  Tools and processes are in place to capture hallway discussions, meeting notes, or phone calls to make them visible, digestible, and available for instant feedback even for remote employees. We also use an automated workflow to record and save conference calls and then attached relevant notes in our wiki. These call recordings all become part of our collective “corporate memory” which allows remote teams to stay in the loop and eliminates FOMO.

Keeping remote staff in the loop is a challenge. It requires an organizational cultural shift to think very intentionally about communication with remote employees. Ever been on a conference call, but aren’t able to see what’s being drawn on the whiteboard? As soon as the marker hits the board, the conversation is much more difficult to follow and likely less engaging for anyone not in the room. Incorporating technology like virtual whiteboards and change the mindset to incorporate remote staff as if they were in the office to engage them in day to day activities. Remember, a more engaged employee is likely a more productive one.