10 Tips for Managing Remote Agile Marketing Teams

2020 is already setting records and changing lives. One of its biggest impacts has been the almost immediate switch to remote working  (and, of course, the perceived global toilet paper deficit.)

For those of us that were used to daily office commutes, this is our chance to test out remote working.

Remote work rookies must get acclimated to working from our dining tables, kitchen counters, and living room floors. However, there’s a big chunk of the workforce in the United States, about 4.2 million people, for whom remote working was already the usual mode.

Remote Working Has Been Gaining Popularity

On a global scale, the statistics for remote workers have been steadily increasing. Since 2005, the number of people who work from home has increased by a whopping 140%.

It’s no surprise that more and more Agile companies are showing an interest in building remote marketing teams. The data collected from groups of remote workers shows that remote workers can be 20-25% more productive than their onsite colleagues.

As mentioned, interest in remote work has been steadily increasing over the past five years. Yet, no one could have predicted the skyrocketing number of people being forced out of their offices and into their homes since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A chart showing the growth of interest in remote working over the past decade.
Courtesy of Google Trends

These new circumstances have created a steep learning curve for those teams who are not used to working away from their teams and outside of their typical working environment. This drastic change has prompted questions like:
“Can we be truly high-performing with our team if we’re not co-located?”

Short answer - yes you can! We’ve put together this checklist of tactics for team members and managers to help make it happen.

Our top 10 tips for managing happy, high-performing remote Agile marketing teams can be widely implemented. These pointers apply equally to those of us who want to improve how we handle our consistently remote teams and those of us who want to learn how to manage a new remote team in the current reality.

1. Create Clear Working Agreements

In times of uncertainty and volatility, clarity around expectations for our remote Agile marketing teams is crucial.

Establishing clear processes for remote working within the group from the get-go makes a huge difference. Further, well-documented processes provide the necessary guidance to help our colleagues navigate this new style of working.

Make sure you define who needs to be in which virtual meetings, and when the team can expect certain members to be available online. Also, agree on expected response times for your communication channels from the outset.

Formulate the team working agreement with input from the team to find out what other rules they feel need to be part of it.

2. Leverage Digital Tools

A mosaic image containing a great number of small photos of people part of a remote agile marketing team using a popular video conferencing tool

Digital tools were made for times like these. Make the most of the tools available to you! Use them to help facilitate retrospectives, manage visual workflows, and communicate more effectively with each other.

Check out this big list of collaboration tools you may want to select from and implement during this period.

3. Hold AM and PM Standups

An image illustrating two groups of people, part of a remote agile marketing team who attend a standup meeting in the morning and in the afternoon.

When we’re not used to working separately, we need to create opportunities to catch up on the progress we’re making more often. That’s why daily touchpoints with the team, a vital Agile practice, become even more important during this time.

You’ll notice yourselves relying even more strongly on your daily standups with the team. Make the best use of this time and keep these meetings as productive as possible.

Those of us working in global remote teams might be dealing with teammates in different timezones. This makes it more difficult to maintain our schedule of morning stand-ups (but not impossible).

Initiate a practice of double standups, one AM and one PM, if needed. That way, everyone can stay in the loop.

4. Schedule Casual Chit Chats

Video call between two remote agile marketing team members

It might sound counterintuitive to schedule blocks of casual chit chat among all the various mission-critical team meetings throughout the day.

However, there is an argument in defence of casual water cooler conversations. There’s actually a lot of relevant, raw information and ideas that get exchanged in this loose format, from a personal as well as a professional perspective.

Encouraging people to talk about non-work related topics with colleagues has a variety of benefits for leaders as well as co-workers. It improves empathy and communication, and it helps people who work together often to develop a good rapport.

Throw in 30 minutes on a few people’s calendars as a way of getting to know them in a non-work-related context and see where it takes you.

5. Agree on Clear, Up-to-date KPIs

It may not feel like it right now, with kids out of school and workers still getting used to this unfamiliar arrangement called “working from home,” but statistically, working remotely has been shown to decrease the amount of distractions that are causing workers to lose productive time.

To make the most of this focused time and continue to becoming high-performing, we need short-term KPIs.

Having a clear understanding of the team objectives, business priorities, and individual contributions during this period is key to keeping employees on track as their routines undergo disruption.

If you haven’t already, update your established KPIs to reflect the new realities of marketing in a COVID-19 world, and revisit them frequently. There will be a time when we need to restart, or possibly revamp our pre-pandemic work, so we need to keep an eye out for those triggers.

6. Play Online Games Together for Team Building

Don’t underestimate the power of play as a way to boost morale during a time of change! Online group gaming with your teammates is a great way to connect and have some personal time with your co-workers, like you might have during a lunch break or over after-work drinks.

Chances are, taking 20 mins to undertake a team campaign in a fantasy world or playing a quick competitive game will re-energize your team and boost their productivity for the entire rest of the day.

7. Video Always

Young female professional waving at a laptop screen

Whatever you do during this period of remote working, work or play, keep in mind that the benefits of face to face communication don’t just disappear when we’re not co-located.  Humans continue to be extremely visual beings and accommodating for that goes a long way to strengthening our communication with each other.

We need to work a little harder to recreate in-person verbal as well as non-verbal communication using our webcams during video calls when we’re working from opposite sides of the city, or opposite sides of the globe.

8. Tour People’s Remote Workspaces

A woman holding a screen, showing her home workspace

Getting used to a new workspace and learning to be productive within it can be an overwhelming and alienating experience. Do your best to make the space your own. A good working environment and high-value real estate have that in common - location, location, location.

When you are all set up, show off your workspace to your teammates and encourage them to do the same. You'll get a whole lot of new ideas about how you can deck out your home office to make it suit your needs.

Getting to see what other people’s workspaces look like is a highly intimate and open experience of sharing. We definitely need more sharing in these times of isolation.

9. Ensure Your Team Board is Up to Date

A man wearing a tie, holding a computer mouse at the center of the screen with a digital task board as a background

In situations like these, your visual workflow is your ally.

Encourage your team to put together a digital Kanban board. Especially if you didn’t already have one or were using a physical one in the office. No matter the tool or the structure, the board should be accessible and up-to-date.

Having all your team tasks in one place and being able to share status on the task level in real-time is indispensable when we’re remote.

If the digital workflow is updated as often as progress gets made or new information comes into the team, it will act as an information radiator. This single source of truth is extremely helpful in the moments when the team is not able to touch base via video call.

If you’re just beginning your remote working journey and don’t have any of your operations set up in a digital tool, check out these templates to help your Agile marketing team go remote.

10. Continue Improving Your Team Process

You might feel like all semblance of your previous processes has gone out the window. But, consider the fact that you’re still a part of the same team and your process is still mid-evolution.

So, don’t let your retrospective meetings slip! Continue to host remote retrospectives on the typical cadence you would use when you were co-located.

Test out Retrium and Scatterspoke to help facilitate smoother virtual retros with your team.

Embrace the Benefits of Working Remotely

No matter whether you’re working remotely temporarily or consistently, these tips should get you and your team off to a flying start to building the culture, processes, and rituals needed to reach high-performance in a remote working environment.

Are you a co-located team that has become a remote team due to COVID-19? Let us know in the comments how you’re handling the shift in your ways of working.

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