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The Agile Product Team’s “Work From Home” Checklist

Social distancing is forcing Agile product teams to become truly (small ‘a’) agile. At ITX, adapting and collaborating virtually are part of our culture. It’s in our DNA. With our long-standing remote first philosophy, we’re prepared to seamlessly transition from co-location to remote work. Let our architects, designers, and developers help ease the transition to your new normal.

Review our remote work checklist for everyday best practices. You can also catch some of their personal anecdotes and insights to help you and your product development teams become truly agile. We hope these tips enhance your productivity, effectiveness, and morale.

For Senior Product Leaders

  1. Establish and document “ways of working” for your team(s) – e.g., guidelines for personal interaction, productivity, and decision-making. Share it across your organization. As circumstances change and knowledge grows, be prepared to update the document regularly with new ideas.
  2. Connect regularly with your teams. Assume that anxiety levels are high. A listening ear and soothing tone will help calm many concerns.
  3. Now more than ever, clarity around vision, expectations, and goals is vital to team success.
  4. Where in-person contact is dissuaded, videoconferencing is the next best option. Remember, distributed work teams don’t enjoy the benefit of water cooler conversations. So if it feels like you’re over-communicating, it’s probably just right!
  5. Make sure all your team members know how to use the communication and productivity tools you provide – especially newer members. It’s not too late to re-share user instructions. Your teams will welcome the refresher.
  6. Ensure online access to Technical Support and Helpdesk.

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is much more difficult when work and home are one and the same. Create a space that’s just for work, so you can just walk away. It’s tempting to cozy up on the couch every day. But after a while, the couch becomes a place of business and not a place to relax. Keeping your workspace separate from your “play” space will help you to turn off your work brain and shift into relax mode.

— Ray Fox, Colorado Springs, CO

For Distributed Product Teams

  1. A craftsperson is only as good as their tools. Remote work for distributed product teams requires a special set of tools: Trello, Miro, Jira, Zoom, Microsoft Teams are among our favorites.
  2. Provide support to team members who might need it, especially those new to your company or team. Uncertainty about process and procedure often creates anxiety and decreased productivity.
  3. Share visibility into each other’s calendars. The best way to start working together is to create transparency into what everyone’s working on.
  4. Insist on multiple, redundant modes of communication. Video, phone/text, Slack or Teams (with multiple chat groups), e-mail. Whatever works best for your group. Over time, make it clear what tools should be used for what kinds of communication.
  5. Be mindful of time zones in which your team members reside. Be respectful of personal time: sleep, taking meals, exercise, meditation, etc. If your organization spans time zones and hemispheres like ITX, we think you’ll like and Check them out!

At ITX, remote meetings is something we’re already used to. Virtual sessions work great when presenting designs, for co-designing with other members, and discussing product vision and roadmap with our distributed teams. If you can make it happen, having two monitors should be a big piece of your workspace toolkit. Show your sketches with one monitor and have the other with a note taking software to keep track of changes – or even have your script or interaction notes. You can also use software like Axure or InVision to display your work and also write notes/comments in the segments you’re showing. 

— Nicole Btesh, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Conducting Remote Meetings & Agile Ceremonies

  1. Consider going ‘fully remote’ to level the playing field. Even if some team members are co-located, encourage everyone to participate individually as if everyone were remote.
  2. Use video to boost engagement; so much of our interpersonal communication is non-verbal cues, take advantage of video to personalize the conversation.
  3. Screen share when note taking so everyone can follow along
    1. Pro-tip: use collaborative tools where everyone can contribute in real time – e.g., Quip, and other cloud-based documents.

When you work from home full time, it’s easy to get sucked into work. After all, you don’t have to travel anywhere to attend meetings. Keep in mind, though, that you’re actually more productive when you take small breaks during the day, especially between meetings. Keeping yourself refreshed by getting up to grab a glass of water, do some stretches, or take a walk is a necessity, not a luxury. Remember: full-time doesn’t mean “all the time.” 

— Conrad Ng, Portland, OR

Workspace Essentials

  1. Use the same workspace every day in the beginning to enable an “at work” mindset.
  2. Reserve a workspace that is separate from “the rest of your life.” Limit distractions.
  3. Bring your “A” game to your remote work – dress and groom yourself as if you’re going into the office. You’ll feel more professional as well.
  4. Move artificial lighting into position behind your computer to ensure your face is properly lit; this makes video conferencing effective and productive.
  5. Consider upgrading your modem and router to enhance connectivity.

Use co-workers to bounce ideas off of. Set up a 15-minute break for yourself to step away from your work and share it with someone. We often get too close to our work and sometimes overlook something in our solutions. It’s good to step away for a bit, and then revisit the same design with a fresh perspective to verify your solution makes sense. 

— Shannon Baird, Rochester, NY

Making It All Work

  1. Notify friends and family that while you may be home, you’re actually “at work.”
  2. Structure your workday as you normally would. Schedule time to manage e-mail, meetings, and other interactions. Take regular breaks. Be as physically active as your schedule and environment provide.
  3. Save your work to the cloud. Enhance access to data and avoid system interruptions.
  4. Don’t be afraid to “call it a day” when the workday ends. When work life and home life collide, distinguishing one from the other can be difficult; consider creating a habitual behavior that separates the two like going for a walk or stretching.

Dogs, plants, and light! 

— William Wells, Geneseo, NY

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