As businesses around the world scramble to virtualize and establish operations for distributed teams, there’s a lot we can learn from those that have already been successfully leveraging remote talent for years.

Technology continues to make the world a smaller place, and we’re seeing significant shifts in priorities, workstyles and motivation among today’s top tech talent. With approximately 42 million Americans expected to enter the freelance workforce in 2020 (nearly half of which are Millennials with long careers ahead of them), there’s already clear evidence of these shifting dynamics and the need for organizations to realign in order to keep pace and avoid falling behind.

Enter COVID-19: an unexpected, unprecedented event that—in this context—is acting as both an accelerant and a force multiplier for this distributed workforce.

In response to Coronavirus, many leaders today view work-from-home mandates as a growth inhibitor and a disruptor to daily infrastructure. And while there is certainly an element of disruption in play (largely due to how quickly teams are being forced to pivot and work remotely), the reality is that forward-thinking organizations are already employing freelance talent and distributed teams to actually accelerate growth and drive new innovation. 

Tech giants like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter and others are rapidly mobilizing their teams and encouraging all employees who can fulfill their jobs from home to do so—and in some cases these transitions are happening in as little as 48-72 hours.

So what are these organizations doing to maintain productivity and keep operations running smoothly during these difficult transition periods? And what should your business be focusing on right now, particularly if you’re supporting remote teams for the first time?

At Braintrust, we’re a 100%-remote team with collaborators and stakeholders across the globe. We’re seasoned veterans when it comes to working from home, and we’ve been studying and analyzing these trends long before today’s current headlines—our goal now is to share any information we can that will help others minimize risk and set themselves up for success with first-time distributed teams. 

So how do you quickly empower your team to evolve from first-time-being-remote to being WFH masters? Start with these three buckets:

Methods & Principles

In a recent post, we shared the core methods that we employ on a daily basis when working across our virtual team. We leverage eight core principles that help us focus, move fast and with precision, operate with autonomy and ensure we’re supporting each other both personally and professionally. 

These values offer a great starting point for businesses concerned with company culture, team structure and organizational readiness and ability to quickly pivot to a remote environment. You can click here to read the full post

Systems & Tactics

In addition to values and methodology, you’ll also want to look at the systems and tactics you’ll need to keep everyone connected and aligned with corporate priorities and objectives. 

At Braintrust, we normally keep meetings to a minimum and try to handle as much as possible via email or other communication channels—but because things are evolving so rapidly right now, we’ve instituted daily morning scrums to check in as a team, identify our priorities for the next 24-48 hours and raise any red flags or blockers that we’re running into. Depending on the size of your team(s), these can be run as small-group scrums or larger all-hands meetings.

When introducing or modifying these systems to support remote teams, make sure you’re taking the time to set clear agendas, identify who will provide updates and screen-share, who’s using slides, and create dedicated time for Q&A. Proper organization and diligence in these areas goes a long way and helps you avoid playing too many rounds of conference call bingo.

Empathy & Communication

Perhaps the most important focus area right now deals with communication—the need to communicate early, often, and with empathy is essential. One of COVID-19’s unique challenges is that it’s something virtually everyone is dealing with; businesses and individuals across all industries and geographies are being affected, and in response we need levels of sensitivity, understanding and support that go above and beyond those traditionally found in corporate environments. 

Most businesses today are regularly emailing customers and clients to explain how they’re mobilizing, which of their products and services are being impacted, where to seek out additional information, etc.—and we’re seeing some brands go the extra mile to offer support and assistance to customers that are struggling right now. Make sure you’re adopting those same practices and principles when communicating to your employees and team members. We often hear leaders say things like, “this company acts like a family,” or “we take the extra steps to really support one another in times of need.”—now is the time to really put those words into practice. 

There’s no denying that the need to virtualize is creating a workforce transformation of unprecedented size and speed—and while the changes are new and drastic for many employees and leaders, there are proven methods, technologies and practices that can help you successfully navigate these transitions and set your teams up for success in the coming months. 

Braintrust remains committed to continuing to work with our core team, advisors, clients and network to share insights and help organizations that are new to virtual or distributed teams. Stay tuned for additional blog posts and ask questions on social media @usebraintrust—we’re here to help.

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