Just like other companies, Backbase has made some major shifts to the way we do work during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past few weeks, our company has been working remotely in order to ensure the safety of our employees across the globe. While we certainly had to overcome several challenges, we have also had opportunities to be more creative and Agile during this stressful time. We asked our Scrum Masters from our Product Development department to share their advice and best practices. Here goes!
James, Senior Scrum Master
Can we remain agile while everyone is WFH?
Absolutely! The first principle of the agile manifesto is that we value individuals and interactions over processes and tools. This is never more true than when working remotely - all you have to do is adopt an agile mindset!
For example, fire up a video call with someone once your slack conversation goes beyond two replies - you’ll get more out of it, and faster! Keep an always-on video conferencing room with your team, and flick the camera on when you have a question (or just want to chat!). If you stumble upon information that might be of interest to others, go the extra mile to pass it on - when we’re all remote that communication may not occur organically, but just a small amount of diligence goes a long way! - James
Agile is a mindset that doesn't go away, just because we are changing locations. We had to adjust the way of working here and there and we are making sure there are more social check-ins. But I don't see agility itself affected by it. - Beatrice
How are we staying productive?
I am having regular 1-on-1s which I start by asking people how remote work is going for them. Then I offer individual advice such as: set up a dedicated workspace, take breaks, finish work at a certain time so you don't burn out, manage distractions with Pomodoro, work out and keep active, stay in touch with your family. - Beatrice
We have our stand-up Hangout open throughout the day. This way you can immediately reach out to someone if you have a question, or just shout out if you want to chat with a human being and not just your walls. - Viktoriia
Beatrice, Senior Scrum Master
It’s harder to ‘wing it’ when working remotely, so fixing an agenda and preparing any material required keeps things running smoothly!
Communicate upcoming meetings in advance - in a shared office environment it’s easy to let people know, but remotely you’ll need to ensure that they’re ready to go in advance. Don’t put it off! It’s very tempting to skip certain ceremonies or workshops ‘until we’re back in the office’, but with a little adaption and preparation, these are still effective remotely.
Use the unusual circumstances as an opportunity to do things you’ve been putting off - e.g. tidy up your roadmap. Chase up those items you’ve kept on the back burner.
Make time for some chat - there’s a lot to talk about at the moment, and when people get together for meetings they’ll want to do just that! Ensuring there’s an opportunity to do so is important, and you can stop it from getting out of hand by time boxing it. - James
Did we introduce new, virtual tools?
We’ve adopted virtual whiteboards, have made use of remote retrospective tools, and have adopted tools for team health checks, interactive screen sharing, and more! Our virtual whiteboards have become a central hub, not just for keeping our team organized, but also sharing music, films and games we’ve enjoyed. We’ve made available a shared page for people to contribute their favorite tools and tips. - James
Viktoriia, Scrum Master
The "grids" plugin for Google Meet is very helpful during our calls. For retrospectives, we use the FunRetro website. I am not looking to introduce new tools every other time, as it also takes time from the team to get familiar with the new tool.
Last time, when we needed to have two parallel discussions, we just used two separate hangouts, Zoom with breakout rooms is also a good alternative. In short, we try to remain flexible, patient, and creative.😀 - Viktoriia
How are we keeping the team culture alive, virtually?
Keeping people in touch is the best way to do that. First, and most importantly, we needed a way to recreate the Friday drinks! To that end, there are several virtual pubs running across the company - I recommend bar hopping between them! The Cardiff one comes complete with online games provided by the social chapter, which adds to the community vibe! They’ve also provided a number of virtual events, from board game nights to exercise sessions. - James
We do virtual coffee breaks with one team after lunch and have a chat. Out kudos meeting on Fridays is virtual now with a virtual board. And then we do a virtual pub on Fridays. I know one of the teams is doing a Scrabble game each day for a few minutes.
Also every morning everyone says hello in the Slack channel like we would on a usual day at the office. - Beatrice
Keeping a healthy balance
For some people, the challenge is balancing family and work commitments (50% of my meetings have guest appearances from either my son or cat!). For others, it’s forgetting to switch off from work, with the dividing line being so blurred. Whatever your personal challenges are, your colleagues will undoubtedly be supportive, and the more open you are about them, the more likely you will be able to keep a healthy balance! - James
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