How to be a good remote buddy?

Out of all the soft skills, remote collaboration skills are one the most useful and influential skills today. With the rise in the remote / distributed team and teams splitting across geographies, timezones, locations, etc., Good remote collaboration skills can boost your performance, relations, networking, pair working, and stuff required to rock day-to-day work.

Why the heck is it difficult/different from normal collaboration?

  • No Clues from the Body Language of the other person. Interested? Bored? Tired? Happy? Sad?
  • Natural Tuning of our mind & body to prefer in-person discussions.
  • You might have never met the person before and you might have no rapport with this person. Invisible ice blocks the flow mostly.
  • Most virtual collaborations stick to the defined work boundaries and you cannot convert (extend?) them to casual tea discussions/lunch breaks.
  • Camera Consciousness?
  • Microphone Issues? Too Low? Too High? Too much noise?
  • Many Colleagues Pinging at once? Too many distraction sources? (In the normal in-person environment, two or more people will never bombard you with their questions at the same time instant).
  • People coming from “Back to Back” Meetings! Sometimes they are in control, Sometimes they are not 
  • <<These are some of the common things that come to my mind right now, Of course, this can be a very long list.>>

Some suggestions from my experience that can help you to bridge these gaps/issues if you are a remote worker:

  • Show your face: Yeah, I know about “Zoom Fatigue Issues” but at least show your face sometimes.
    • It helps reduce the virtual robotic barrier of talking with a “Big Boss” voice.
    • I know of people whom I know for a couple of years but have never seen on camera. It’s awkward sometimes.
    • Camera: Have one! Yes, I know this comes by default. But, I have heard people saying they don’t have cameras on their laptops. I don’t know what model they use (nor do I ever bother to ask them). However, if that’s the case with you, then use an external web camera (USB supported). Now, don’t tell me you don’t have a USB support also 
  • Make sure your Internet is stable & good: Ideally, this should have been the first point on the list. Just have a good internet connection (and their backups ready).
  • Power Source Backup: Inverters? Extra Batteries? Power Banks? Yes, We live in the 21st Century! Nothing worse than losing out on work because my electricity is cut for the last 2 hours and I am sitting on the terrace  (Just Kidding).
  • Zoom It: Yes, Zooming is good, but Here I am talking about a screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations. Check here. It helps to make the collaboration more accessible and friendly and remove those pain points where the other person cannot figure out what the heck are you reading or doing. More such tools are available in Ultimate Productivity Toolkit.
  • Carnac: Another awesome tool for presentations and showcasing shortcuts. Your audience can literally see your keystrokes with this. Check here.
  • Good Microphone: In most cases, your communication would be via verbal discussions and a good microphone can create a magical impact. I use a USB Microphone. There are many available on Amazon and you can get them at a decent price.
  • Noise Suppression Tools: Yes, We live at homes (with people, kids, neighbors, streets, and maybe dogs). There are cheap noise suppression tools that can help to remove (and reduce?) this unwanted disturbance.
    • Most people don’t even consider these options but it helps in reducing a lot of distractions/sounds. I use Krisp. Check here.
    • MS Teams also allows setting the optimal noise suppression factor. Check Settings on your MS Teams App.
  • Digital White Boarding: This is an old yet powerful technique to brainstorm ideas effectively. Use digital whiteboarding tools. Get an e-pen / tab too if that’s your preferred way. I got one last year, but I don’t use it often. Doesn’t match my style. However, some of my colleagues use it very frequently and it is helpful for sure.
  • Mindmapping: Works amazingly for me. Project more in less, Document quick notes, or Present ideas quickly. It solves most of the use cases for me. I use XMind 2021. It’s worth every penny.
  • Note Taking: Like Mindmapping, this too is a specialized skill. The art of quick note-taking, documenting things, etc. will make you a very effective collaborator. It’s a great life skill too 
  • Practice Sessions: Learning by Doing! Group / Shared assignments help in collaboration big time.
    • Try Pair / Mob Learning Exercises.
    • Take up Driver & Navigator Roles – Traditional Pairing.
    • Take up Instructor & Navigator Roles – Strong Style Pairing.
    • Exchange Roles Frequently.
    • Avoid the urge of correcting or fixing things immediately. Let them learn/go at their pace.
  • Give Feedback Often: It can get difficult to catch the vibes in a remote mode. Maybe, give feedback explicitly.
  • Ask for Feedback: Anything you can improve on with? Anything you do that helps them? We all want to be that better version of ourselves, Right?
  • Ask for Comfortable Meeting Slots: Yes, There are free slots in the calendar but does that aligns with their work style. Maybe they are a morning person and like to finish important things in the morning. Better to ask than to risk creating an unknown & unaddressed tension.
  • Plan for Next Steps before closing the meeting: It helps in normal meetings too but for virtual meetings, it is okay to use that common chat for putting some immediate tasks/points that you would want to catch up on next time. If it’s something bigger, then raise tickets on JIRA. Most of the time it has helped me to clarify the scope of work that’s expected from me or expected by me.
  • Greet the Person: Don’t act like a cyborg. Yes, you are a human 
  • Casual Talks: There is so much to talk about in this world, I don’t think you need any tips here. Avoid Religion, Caste, Politics, Gender Jokes, etc. though.
  • Attend E-Sessions / Conferences together: The more you know together, the more you can know together 

This list can go on and on. I will probably update it in the future too. But in remote collaboration, small things make big differences. Look for those small things and opportunities to excel.

Happy Remote Collaboration!

What triggered me to write this post? This Question by the Ministry of Testing.

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