BGL Tech’s Kevin Fish admits he dreaded lockdown, but has been pleasantly surprised by how connected to colleagues he has felt thanks to the right software.
In a previous post, I’ve spoken about how flexible we are with our working practices here at BGL Tech. Work whenever you want. Work is something you do, not somewhere you go.
The latter was emphasised in our office refurb. We’ve purposely opted for more shared collaboration spaces over individual workstations, re-iterating our desire for our colleagues to feel comfortable making use of remote and flexible working.
Personally, I’d never been a fan of remote working. I always felt I was missing out on something if I was working from home. I dreaded what being locked down would feel like, but while I still prefer face-to-face I’ve been really surprised at how connected to my colleagues I’ve felt thanks to us making some key changes to the way we work — which came at just the right time.
The right software makes all the difference
For remote working to be effective, good collaboration software is key and there’s a load out there.
We’re a Windows enterprise user and have been for a long time. So, of course, we’ve got Outlook, Skype (ewww) then, on top of that, we use Slack, LifeSize and until fairly recently we used Microsoft Teams but it wasn’t widespread.
Previously when working remotely I didn’t know how to best contact people. Was this person a Slack user? Would they only respond to an email? Should I send a raven?
SLAXIT — 31 March
We wanted to move to a single tool for collaboration and we were a big Slack user. It was what all the cool kids were using but there was a cost involved. And Skype simply didn’t cut it.
Microsoft Teams had come on leaps and bounds. It was free, well, bundled in our current licence. This was going to be our weapon of choice.
Rather ambitiously we set a deadline of 31 March to be off Slack and onto Teams. Zero to 100 in two months…
And then the world went crazy. The virus spread and countries responded by going into lockdown. We were perhaps a week away from moving to 100 per cent remote working.
Fortunately, we’d made some progress. We’d completed an assessment of our network capability and been given the green light. We’d understood the different use cases for a collaboration tool and drafted a potential team structure and governance.
Leading up to the lockdown, we worked hard to get the key teams and channels set up however when migrating from one tool to another one of the key factors in making it successful or not, is adoption. We had no time to set up any sessions with teams; no buzz days, no training sessions, no free pens!
Once we started remote working, Teams usage skyrocketed. People dived in at the deep end — video calls left, right and centre, the constant ping of notifications replacing the plethora of emails.
Some hints and tips for MS Teams
One of the problems we had with Slack is that the number of channels spiralled out of control. When migrating to Teams we wanted to ensure it remained effective for users, ensure teams and channels have a clear reason for existence. So, ask yourself before setting one up, is there any overlap with existing channels?
Organise your teams by pinning your most-used channels, you can also re-order teams based on their priority.
If a channel doesn’t need to be seen by everyone in the team don’t automatically show it. If users want to see it by default they can decide to change this themselves.
Customise your notifications so they work for you, it’s also worth agreeing with your team how to use @mentions to ensure users are prompted to look at the right content.
Teams is fantastic for video conferencing. I’ve recently run a workshop remotely using Teams. As part of the session I screen-shared a YouTube video (with system audio) whilst the group had the meeting chat open to discuss/highlight content for discussion later — it worked really well.
I would never have considered doing this pre-lockdown but now I wouldn’t give it a second thought.
Invest a little in the right hardware, in-built laptop microphones rarely cut it, you don’t have to spend much more than £20 to see a massive improvement.
A brave new world
So there you have it. Full scale remote working has been an eye opener and there have been many positives.
he question for me now is post-lockdown, how do we retain these new practices once we’re able to return to the office and ensure we pay as much attention to those working remotely as to those in the office?