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Virtual Team Best Practices


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Outlines leading practices and learnings from working on virtual/remote teams in times of uncertainty.

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Virtual Team Best Practices

  1. 1. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.1 VIRTUAL TEAM GUIDELINES & BEST PRACTICES IN COMPLICATED TIMES
  2. 2. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary2 WHAT IS THE INTENT? To outline leading practices and learnings from working on virtual/remote teams • Many of these are well understood but require intentionality in a 100% virtual environment But also adapt to and recognize some of the special situations that may arise given the current extraordinary circumstances, including: • Less than optimal remote virtual environments (multiple working from home, kids at home requiring schooling, potential for interruptions, etc.) • Less opportunity to naturally connect at a human level (happy hours, grabbing coffee, water cooler talk) • Higher levels of anxiety and concern in general • And the potential for long-term isolation issues if this continues for more than a few weeks Use these practices to come to agreement as a company, team, etc. considering the partners/clients/customers/suppliers in the broader ecosystem, to make sure we are efficient and effective in delivering the expected outcomes while considering the human element Create feedback loops, measure that we are meeting commitments, and to continue to improve and enhance our virtual team practices in support of those and the people involved in them
  3. 3. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary3 HOW TO USE THIS FRAMEWORK Every organization has their own culture, ceremonies and practices – This is not meant to replace any of those as some of Pariveda’s culture and practices are reflected within the context of this Framework. It is meant to augment and solidify any practices that already exist. The framework uses a number of collaboration tools that we commonly use within the Pariveda eco-system. It is the practices that are most important and you can and should substitute whatever collaboration tools that make sense in your environment. At the heart of this Framework is a “Virtual Team” made up of “Individuals” with their own special circumstances. Teams can be defined as what makes sense for the organization but at the core, we consider a “team” to be focused on some specific or set of Outcomes (versus more general leadership communication, etc.). The Framework contemplates a “Team Working Agreement” – which is simply that the team, considering the “Outcome” to be achieved and the individuals that comprise it, have come to agreement of how they work together in some level of detail. It may make sense to look at this holistically but phase elements of this in given your current situation. Identify ceremonies or elements of the current environment that have the least amount of “static friction” to get started.
  4. 4. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.4 Focused on balancing having an effective and motivated team while keeping safety and a sense of belonging Virtual Team Best Practices Framework MEASURING SUCCESS VIRTUAL TEAM FUNDAMENTALS EFFECTIVE MEETINGS COACHING & MENTORING CONNECTEDNESS & SOCIAL RELATIONS RELATIONSHIP LEAN-IN RECOGNITION & CELEBRATING SUCCESS CARING FOR SELF & OTHERS FOUNDATIONAL ELEMENTS
  5. 5. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary5 FRAMEWORK ELEMENTS OVERVIEW Foundational Elements Creating the remote working environment that effectively supports all other elements of the Virtual Best Practices framework. Specifically around environment, technology, and collaboration personal preparedness. Virtual Team Fundamentals Engage broadly and create a “Team Working Agreement” that optimizes working as a team as well as allowing for individual time to complete tasks, while considering the needs of individuals given current unique conditions. Effective Meetings Leaders need to create the right conditions given the make-up of the group, including the preparation, execution, and follow-up to meetings. Participants need to effectively engage and leverage collaboration tools. Coaching & Mentoring Applying traditional methods in intentional ways is critical to continue to grow individuals and keep virtual teams effective. Employing different virtual methods to fit the situation and increasing the frequency of communication will likely be necessary. Recognition & Celebrating Success More than ever, Recognition of individual and group achievement as well as taking the time to Celebrate Success in virtual ways will be critical to keeping morale high on teams and for each individual on those teams. Caring for Self & Others Care for self, considering good practices around ergonomics, etc., and taking care of general health, as well as finding work and life boundaries when they are the same place. Beyond self-care, being supportive and observant of those around you and having channels to engage if there is concern. Connectedness & Social Relations Finding virtual opportunities to connect outside of talking about work and career to create the foundations of strong team and individual connections. Virtually - play games, host happy hours, walk dogs together – whatever can be envisioned by teams and individuals. Relationship Lean-In Virtual working creates less opportunity for the chance encounters we have with people we do not directly work with. Being intentional in leaning into our broader relationship ecosystem provides important support to all and keeps what is already in place, given uncertainty that currently exists.
  6. 6. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.6 TIPS & TECHNIQUES Having the basics in place and communicating intentionally create the basic underpinnings of all elements of the framework CREATE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT Make sure that you have the right physical setup and equipment. Internet bandwidth, computer, phone, headset, monitors, etc. need to perform your job. Go through an organized checklist to make sure that all team members have verified the same things and give guidance as appropriate (bandwidth requirements, etc.). HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS Make sure you can access all the systems, tools, environments, etc. to do your job. Think through the edge cases and needs. Make sure you have all the needed tools installed and you know how the technology works before using. Make sure you know best practices for VPNs, other networking considerations, e.g. should you be connected all the time, etc. FREE YOURSELF FROM DISTRACTION (AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE) During this fluid situation 100% distraction-free may not be possible given children at home, working spouse, or roommates also working from home, so create a system that makes this workable. Manage expectations with your team and others as appropriate so they understand your context. Extend your colleagues grace. KNOW HOW TO REACH KEY PEOPLE DIRECTLY Every team should have some form of direct digital communication with their key stakeholders if they do not already. UNDERSTAND COMMUNICATION PREFERENCES Set up cell phone communication with your colleagues in case there are urgent things that come up and know their phone communication preferences (e.g. text preferred over phone calls, etc.). COMMUNICATE WITH INTENTION Have intentionality in your many-to-many communication channels (Slack, etc.). The focus is to keep channel pollution down so that people can opt in to and check on things that are important to them at the right time. FOUNDATIONAL ELEMENTS • For example, if your team was using Microsoft Teams while on-site, the web app ( will still function, but the desktop app does not work from home. If you’re already set up in Slack and that is working for your team, no need for any changes. • Escalate needs using the right communication channel based on priority  Email (lowest)  Slack/Teams/Skype/etc.  Text/SMS/WhatsApp/Etc.  Phone Call (highest) • Schedule time to check channels at appropriate intervals (What is the SLA for each channel? Make a working agreement with your team on your SLAs)
  7. 7. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.7 TIPS & TECHNIQUESSTART THE CONVERSATION Engage with appropriate parties (business, IT, product owners, partners, etc). to gauge expectations and needs for efficiently working with distributed teams. CREATE YOUR TEAM WORKING AGREEMENT (TWA) Using input from the broader ecosystem, virtual teams must create a working agreement amongst all team members. This document helps the team react to changes that happen when teams are working in a distributed and virtual fashion and should include provision on how it communicates, collaborates, and commemorates. COVER ALL TOPICS OF HOW THE TEAM WORKS The team should agree on how scheduling, meetings, communication, and culture can best be implemented and supported when working remotely while remembering that not everyone may be able to agree to the same standard due to the uniqueness of the current situation. • Example: the team may work from 9a-4p CT every day, but one team member may need to work an offset schedule for childcare reasons. KEEP IT GOING On a weekly basis, discuss any changes to the team working agreement. Expect that things will change in the first couple weeks (or 1 -2 sprints) as the team storms and forms into new habits. WORK TO BUILD TRUST WITH EACH OTHER Help new members develop swift trust by introducing each person and their role on the team. For new members make sure that 1:1’s are set up for personal introductions which would have normally happened on part of the onboarding. OPEN A DIGITAL CO-WORKING SPACE Some teams have reserved one Zoom line as an all-day meeting space for team members to join when they are not in other meetings. This mimics a co-working space and allows for getting someone's attention for ad hoc questions. • Share the document with others in the ecosystem so they can see the intentionality with which the situation is being approached and so that they know what to expect from the team when working remotely • For composite teams (across multiple organizations you may need to work through a set of standards or things that work best overall; as organizations within teams are self sufficient it will be interface points that need to be agreed upon Agreeing to and setting expectations builds an environment of effectiveness and trust for individuals and the teams they are part of VIRTUAL TEAM FUNDAMENTALS
  8. 8. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.8 TIPS & TECHNIQUESCREATE AND SHARE MEETING AGENDAS Have a clear agenda & objectives for the meeting – communicate before, during, and after. CHECK IN AS NEEDED BEFORE If there are difficult topics, some pre-alignment that can be gained, etc., take the opportunity to connect before with key individuals to streamline the meeting for the rest. PLAN FOR LARGE AUDIENCES When planning meetings with a large audience, plan appropriately and consider muting the audience by default, having a moderator to help you manage questions, use chat for questions, etc. BE INCLUSIVE Try to manage filibusters - when appropriate, go around the virtual room, note people who have not spoken, and ask them directed questions. BE CLEAR ON TAKEAWAYS Be clear on what the takeaways are from the meeting and who is on point to own and/or communicate them. FOLLOW UP AFTER THE MEETING AS NEEDED Follow up one-on-one as appropriate after the meeting if you sense any tension, confusions, etc. LEAVE ROOM BETWEEN MEETINGS We are all going to need a break, as the opportunity to walk from one place to another and start a few minutes late diminishes. Intentionally look to create some breathing space. 5 or 10 minutes every few meetings at a minimum. Consider the following when scheduling, structuring, and utilizing collaboration tools and running meetings: • Size of group (smaller can be more free-form but structured preferred, larger must be more structured) • Degree of structure that exists for the particular topic/subject/meeting (less structure need for a stronger facilitator) • Degree to which the group already has a relationship • Degree to which there is a clear leader / natural facilitator the meeting LEADERS need to set up the right conditions for the meeting, consider the specific dynamics of the group, and be more intentional on meeting basics we already follow EFFECTIVE MEETINGS
  9. 9. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.9 TIPS & TECHNIQUESBE PUNCTUAL AND TAKE NOTES Timebox, be punctual, and set time aside between meetings to capture/send notes. Manage expectations if you cannot be on time via the agreed-upon channel. USE VIDEO CAPABILITIES AND BE ENGAGED Do not spend the whole time staring at your applications and typing on your keyboard. Make eye contact with the camera, show engagement with facial expressions, etc. MUTE AS APPROPRIATE Given the potential for distractions in a work from home / remote environment, if there is the likelihood of environment noise stay muted when you are not engaged in conversation. GIVE SPACE TO OTHERS The meeting leader has the responsibility to facilitate and ensure inclusiveness but help give space to others, particularly as the group size gets larger and the meeting has potential for less structure. BUILD CHAT TIME INTO MEETINGS When running meetings, be a bit laxer and allow more personal interactions and catching up in the beginnings of meetings. Consider extending stand-up by 15 minutes to chat or ask an opening round question each day. LEVERAGE YOUR MEETING TOOLS Use the technology and collaboration tools and screen share to help people visualize what is being discussed • Avoid using your personal meeting Zoom ID; using something like the Zoom Outlook plugin will make it simple to create separate meetings with unique meeting IDs. • Turn on chime notification for people entering and leaving meeting. • Avoid sharing your entire desktop in Zoom; share the application instead to specifically share what you want to share. • Ensure you are able to share your screen in your meeting tools. • Collaborative Facilitation tools: (Virtual board: MS Whiteboard, Miro, Mind Map: MindMeister, Kanban: MS Planner/Trello) • Use the right meeting channel for the right job (Facetime v. Zoom, Zoom meeting vs Zoom webinar, WebEx, Skype for Business) • Balance setting the best practices overall with individual approaches respectfully and allowing meeting the intent not the letter. • Virtual backgrounds can be a fun way to add personality to remote meetings, but make sure that it is sending the right message for the context and is not distracting from the main event, you! • Noisy environment, kids? Roommates, etc.? Consider using to mitigate ALL participants need to lean in to increase the effectiveness of the meetings and follow basic meeting etiquette EFFECTIVE MEETINGS
  10. 10. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.10 TIPS & TECHNIQUESWE EACH OWN OUR OWN CAREER Make sure you are being intentional as an individual to lean into looking for feedback and managing your career journey. Others are there to guide and help, but it starts with each of us. Make sure to prioritize it amongst the many important things we all do. MEET REGULARLY ONE-ON-ONE Find regular opportunities to meet with other members of your team to see how they are doing. Ensure everyone on your team is talking to a lead on your team regularly. SHARE GROWTH AREAS AND CREATE OPPORTUNITIES Find a way for people on your team to share where they want to grow either directly or indirectly so that there can be more focused opportunities, especially for those on your team that have leadership or collaboration-based career goals that may be more difficult to execute on with everyone remote. BE INTENTIONAL WITH FEEDBACK Find ways to shorten feedback loops and be intentional about providing explicit feedback, given there will be a loss of nonverbal cues in digital interactions. INCREASE FREQUENCY OF MENTOR CONVERSATIONS Increase frequency of conversations with your team members' mentors to better align on how your team members are feeling with the extended remote working arrangement. SPEAK UP IF NOT GETTING WHAT YOU NEED! Each of us is an individual and has our own needs. Even with the use of video capabilities, the ability to read how we are feeling (body language, facial expressions) is more limited so each of us using our voice to communicate our needs is important. We ALL have that permission, so use whatever channel you are most comfortable with to make needs known. • Have a meeting with everyone on the team once a week to start • Start a tracker for career progress for the team that can be updated monthly with progress. • Discuss the use of career development tools with your team to provide real-time feedback • Set up a monthly meeting with the mentors of those that are you having 1:1s with to keep an open line of communication about career and well-being Greater transparency and likely more frequent intentional touchpoints will be key while each of us still continue to manager our own careers COACHING & MENTORING
  11. 11. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.11 TIPS & TECHNIQUESCREATE A HABIT TO RECOGNIZE PEOPLE Find something that you do daily and weekly to tether recognition thinking around. Tie it to you first cup of coffee, to having lunch, closing up your computer for the day, last act of the week, first act of the week, etc. REGULARLY RECOGNIZE HIGH PERFORMANCE Make a point to recognize high performance and success on your team. Consider changes like setting aside time during sprint retrospectives for recognition. RECOGNIZE WITHIN THE ENTIRE ECO-SYSTEM Use whatever methods appropriate to recognize people in the broader ecosystem. Any external team Members, other 3 Party Partner/Vendors, etc. as everyone can use that boost and the appropriate recognition to motivated and feel fulfilled. HIGHLIGHT KEY ACCOMPLISHMENTS WITH MENTOR AND LEADERSHIP As individuals or teams are recognized, make sure that the individual's mentor as well as the leadership are made aware. PUT A FUN TEAM SPIN ON RECOGNITION If your team would be receptive to something like an MVP award (or whatever recognition model that exists within the culture), consider having a fun team way of officially recognizing someone's achievements. CELEBRATE TEAM SUCCESS VIRTUALLY Celebrate significant events on your team (e.g. major deployment, new team member, team member roll off, holiday, etc.) with a digital social activity. • Set aside time for people to thank / recognize others in Sprint Retrospective • Host a virtual team awards show • Celebrate with virtual happy hours or team gatherings Keep up the good practices we already have in place to motivate individuals and teams considering the broader ecosystem RECOGNITION & CELEBRATING SUCCESS
  12. 12. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.12 TIPS & TECHNIQUESPRACTICE GOOD SELF CARE Optimize Your Workspace & Habits First & foremost make sure you are taking care of yourself. • Ergonomics – Since there are extended periods of time that we spend at the computer, take care to set up your physical workspace to maximize ergonomic comfort • Eye Care & Strain – Give yourself breaks from your monitor and focus on things far away. Consider blue light blockers. • Fatigue – Take breaks regularly, if needed schedule meetings for 55 minutes instead of 60 so you can get up and stretch. Get Some Physical Activity In Your Day As appropriate, move (virtual with team?), get fresh air while maintaining social distance, or work on your balcony, etc. to make sure that we get a good amount of physical activity to boost vitality. Protect Your Mental Health Caring for your emotional state is just as important as physical activity. • Meditation – Conscious breathing & grounding exercises help bring a sense of peace (try the Headspace app). Even sitting on the floor can help. • Get Some Sun (Vitamin D) – Getting fresh air and seeing nature can help bring calm, as humans are biophilic. • Treat Yourself – Anything that gives a boost. Cook yourself something nice, have a hot bath, or listen to a song you love. • Find Non-Work Time – During the day, step away from your desk and do something non-work-related, connect with others. Get A Virtual Check-up If You Do Not Feel Well Telemedicine is a benefit available to many; for many simple wellness matters you can check in with a doctor online and even get prescriptions. CARING FOR OTHERS Keep An Eye Out For Changes In Behavior There may be emotional shifts during remote work, especially when paired with high levels of uncertainty and anxiety. Connect with people one-on-one and make sure they have the support they need. At work, let your manager know so they can connect and offer help or just a friendly ear to listen with you or others on the team. Provide Support For Your Colleagues If someone on your team is anxious about COVID-19 or concerned about what may happen the event of infection, familiarize yourself with the appropriate Care & Support (HR) policies so that you can direct them to resources to help. • How to Set Up a Home Workstation to Avoid Muscle Strain, Headaches, and Sore Eyes • Cheap ways to make your work-from-home space more ergonomic • Check the CDC site for latest COVID-19 guidance • Reach out to Care and Support (HR), Mentor, Leaders, etc. if you need more support Practice self-care first so that you can effectively care for others and leverage appropriate channels if you have concerns or need support CARING FOR SELF & OTHERS
  13. 13. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.13 TIPS & TECHNIQUESHOLD A WEEKLY DIGITAL TEAM SOCIAL ACTIVITY Lunch and learns or other digital hangouts are encouraged to keep up camaraderie while everyone is remote. Find creative ways to connect in place of traditional team lunches and happy hours. MAINTAIN TEAM SALUTATIONS Continue to greet each other at the beginning of the day and sign off at the end of the day. Not only will this increase a feeling of connectedness, but it signals your start and end times to your team and yourself, reinforcing work/life boundaries in a time when the physical space is shared for both. LEAN INTO HUMOR Take advantage of moments of light-heartedness as they arise. For example, when appropriate, show off your pets, choose funny Zoom backgrounds, play Conference Call Bingo, or anything else that sounds fun to your team. CONTINUE HAVING LEADERSHIP LUNCHES Schedule time as a team (or other group) to have a virtual lunch with leadership. Take advantage of the remote nature and rotate multiple leaders through one lunch, if scheduling in small time blocks is easier for them. LEVERAGE LOCAL AND COMPANY-WIDE SOCIAL OPPORTUNITIES Make people aware of in company and local social opportunities that may exist for people to join. Many groups, trivia companies, have found a way to replicate. There are also many organic opportunities that are created within the company (Yoga, Games, etc.) that are good to give visibility into. HOLD A VIRTUAL ALL HANDS Continue the all hands tradition, only virtual, allowing teams to learn more about the full body of work, future plans and simply socialize. CONTINUALLY CROWDSOURCE NEW IDEAS Reach out to your lead well-being employee to share new ideas to try and those that work well. Ask around your social network for fun ways they have found to connect. Socializing • Virtual Team Lunch/HH • Virtual Fika • Virtual Donut Buddy Games • Psych! • JackBox • Tabletop Simulator Other Activities • Netflix Party • MTV Cribs: Remote Team Edition • Personal photo sharing • Outdoor scavenger hunt (GooseChase) • Fitness challenges (steps, push-ups, squats, etc.) • Conference Call Bingo Even small interactions can have a large positive impact on team morale and personal well-being CONNECTEDNESS & SOCIAL RELATIONS
  14. 14. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.14 TIPS & TECHNIQUESPROVIDE POSITIVE ENERGY TO YOUR ECOSYSTEM Reach out broadly to check in on people. Everybody can use knowing that you care about them and are wishing them well. CONSIDER YOUR TYPICAL CHANCE ENCOUNTERS Think through your routine and how you met people naturally – Starbucks, favorite lunch place, Trivia, etc. As appropriate and possible, remember those people and see how you can continue to stay in touch. It will be good for everyone. DON’T LET IT BE JUST ABOUT WORK We all want to make sure we get our work done and reach the outcomes everyone is looking for. However, it is easy to fall into it just being about the work. As relationships allow and there is interest go beyond just the work. BE REALISTIC BUT TRY TO INJECT POSITIVITY We are surrounded by difficult news and should be realistic, but as is possible and appropriate, let's create some positive pathways in our conversations. CONSIDER WHAT ARE THE RIGHT CHANNELS Use Zoom personally if it helpful to leverage video if appropriate. Cater to the preferences of individuals around email, phone, Zoom, Skype, etc. BE CONSISTENT Try to stay consistent with what your normal routine would have been in a non virtual setting. If you met weekly for lunch connect weekly or as is appropriate but make it a habit as you had before. • Go through your normal habits to build a list • Create a Check-in Cadence • Create reminders to be consistent • Focus on doing the next MIT (Most Important Thing) Beyond caring for others and those you work with, leave space to just connect with people on a human level RELATIONSHIP LEAN-IN
  15. 15. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.15 SUCCESS MEASUREMENT (TRADITIONAL) Milestone dates, team velocity and other agile development team measures, budgets, burndown, meeting SLAs and SOW commitments, along with engagement measures such as Office Vibe. SUCCESS MEASUREMENT (EMERGING) Certain measures that are unique to the current virtual and health situation were not in place, and we are actively identifying them and creating scorecards. • These are to be sent as surveys, Office Vibe custom polls, or Slack polls. COMPARE CURRENT STATE TO BENCHMARKS Key checkpoints to be taken after second and third sprints to see how we are progressing over time. CONVERTING THESE EFFORT INTO AN ORGANIZED ROLE/FORUM This will help bring more accountability, transparency, and agility to efforts for excellence during this dynamic and complicated time as this is not a one-time effort but ongoing evolution. FOCUS ON TRAINING AND CONSISTENT ADOPTION Training brown bag sessions and team working agreement alignment sessions are being scheduled and conducted. As best practices evolve, leverage a best practices repository. WE WILL PRACTICE KAIZEN • Learn and Adapt to remote work, especially long-term virtual work at scale. • Continue to Share the best and latest thinking we have as quickly as possible, to help our teams prepare for future needs. • Update These Guidelines as we learn more and get feedback from our people and the broader eco-system. • Pilot New Approaches on our teams to learn what works and what doesn’t and then share broadly to scale. Traditional and emergent metrics, feedback loops, and Kaizen will be core to evolving, maturing, and hardening our practices MEASURING SUCCESS
  16. 16. © Pariveda Solutions. Confidential & Proprietary.16 Have feedback on these ideas? Want to discuss for your organization? Email us: LET’S CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION