One of the biggest challenges with remote work, especially for managers, is maintaining visibility into the work of your team and colleagues.
While working remotely, people are empowered to work their way—to choose how and when they work. But that freedom can quickly lead to hiccups. As people adopt their own tools and systems, information silos are formed and a lot of work may end up happening in the dark.
This leaves business leaders in a tough position. To regain visibility, they often have to strip out some of that flexibility.
Sounds like a major bummer.
Instead, businesses should embrace remote work flexibility and focus on increasing organizational transparency. Transparency is the magic ingredient that breaks down information silos, improves team communication, and keeps work visible.
Why Transparency Is Essential To Remote Work Success
Here are some stats that highlight just how important transparency is for remote work.
According to Buffer, collaboration and communication are two of the top remote work challenges.
Factors like not being in the same room as someone, not seeing or knowing what they’re working on, and not having immediate access to your colleagues for a quick question or even a coffee break can all lead to a collapse in collaboration.
Nearly 60% of remote workers say they miss important information because it was communicated from one person to another.
This is sure to cause major headaches down the road. When information is caught in a bubble, it can mean lost work, missed deadlines, and scope creep. But more transparent conversations and wider sharing can stop these issues in their tracks.
More than half of employees have avoided sharing a document with a colleague because they thought it would be hard to find or couldn’t find it.
As remote work increases our reliance on technology, not everyone will start with the same degree of knowledge or experience. Making information transparent company-wide puts the entire team on a more even playing field right from the start.
How To Increase Remote Transparency In 3 Steps
Step 1: Build Transparency Into Your Workflows
Think of your team’s key workflows—the processes at the core of what you do, the ones that make or break the success of your organization. These could be managing cross-functional projects, executing development sprints, or escalating customer support tickets.
How have these workflows changed since you started working remotely? Are they running as smoothly? Are there any new blockers? Are you relying more on tech tools to get them across the finish line?
Many teams weren’t prepared for the shift to remote work and it took a toll on their workflows. Open, transparent conversations are key to getting them back on track.
Audit Your Workflows
For workflows to be transparent, you need to know everything about them—every quirk, exception, and rule.
Start by identifying your most important workflows and log each step. No, not just every deliverable; we’re talking about every single link in the chain. Make note of every time work travels from one person to another, every time a tool is used, and every feedback cycle.
Once you’ve mapped out your workflows, review them and identify all of the steps that are impacted by your transition to working remotely. Pay special attention to parts of your workflow that rely on in-person contact or where you think information can get lost.
This auditing exercise should give you an idea of the places where you need to double down on transparency in order to improve the efficiency of your overall workflow.
Prioritize Accessible Work Tools
For a remote company, technology can make or break a business. You need tools to fill in the gaps that were created when you lost all of those in-person interactions.
At the same time, the last thing you want is for information to get trapped in tool silos. You need apps that are easy-to-use and that keep information accessible to everyone—like Trello.
Not only is it easy to understand-—and therefore easy to roll out across your company—Trello is very tactile. Cards and boards are about as close as you can get to that sticky note session on the office whiteboard.
Trello is also transparent. Everyone with access to a board can see all of its cards, track their progress, view activity history, add comments, and contribute. This brings key information to the forefront, so that no one on your remote team is left out of the loop. Not to mention all of the Power-Ups to help you perfect your remote workflows.
Once you’ve chosen your tools, make sure you’re actually using them in a transparent way. Do this by keeping your work as public as possible, sharing access widely, and providing updates regularly.
Optimize Workflows For Transparency Across Teams And Tools
Now that you’ve audited your existing workflows and selected your tools (bravo!), you can start building out and optimizing your new remote workflows, while emphasizing transparency.
If all team members involved in a workflow operate out of a shared tool like Trello, transparency shouldn’t be an issue. But there’s a good chance that some of the most important workflows in your organization span across multiple teams and tools. The average enterprise now uses more than 200 software apps, and that number is growing.
That can make transparency challenging. What if an important conversation happens within a tool or board that not everyone on the team has access to?
A Unito workflow can help you manage your most complex workflows across all the tools in your company. These integrations make project information transparent and accessible to everyone from their preferred tools. So whether your workflow involves multiple Trello boards or multiple apps, you can follow work from start to finish.
How to get started on this step today:
- Write down every step in your top three workflows
- Identify places where information tends to get lost
- Start mapping out your new remote workflows with transparency in mind
Step 2: Over-Communicate (And Often)
Imagine that it’s the week before a big product launch. You go through the marketing plan and notice that the team forgot to update an old help-desk article. You walk over to your content manager’s desk and let him know, and then mention it in passing to the rest of the marketing team over lunch.
Those were the days.
In the office, we could communicate things on-the-fly. The parking lot, coffee machine, even Friday night beers become opportunities for work conversations. You might not realize just how much you rely on these informal communications until they’re gone.
With your new virtual set up, it’s time to get talking.
Use Public Channels
When you don’t share a physical office space, all communication needs to be intentional. You have to go out of your way to fill people in. Even then, communication tends to be fragmented across many channels. Direct messages on Slack or within the comments of a task can’t be overheard by other team members so you really need to put in extra work to make information accessible to everyone who needs it. When in doubt, over-communicate.
This level of transparency starts by prioritizing public communication channels.
- On Slack or Microsoft Teams, try to use public channels rather than personal chats as much as possible.
- In Google Drive, store documents in public folders, so everyone in the company can access them.
- In Trello, use team boards instead of personal boards to track your work. When working with clients or partners, you can even create public boards to ensure the information is accessible to everyone.
Get It In Writing
One thing that all of those channels have in common? They rely on writing. When it comes to over-communication, writing is preferable. Why? Written-communication can be referred to later. It makes important information accessible asynchronously, which is a huge advantage when it comes to remote work, since schedules tend to be more flexible. Write down your processes and playbooks, take thorough notes, archive important chats, and share them all.
Let’s not forget about video calls. You definitely don’t want to invite everyone to every Zoom meeting just for the sake of transparency. Zoom fatigue is real, after all. What you can do, however, is share meeting notes or recordings in a public channel or folder, so people can access it as needed on their own time.
Can You Hear Me Now? Good!
Over-communication requires repetition, and sometimes following-up about a task or question more than once.
If you don’t hear back on a request, ask again. When you assign tasks, follow up to make sure the assignee understands the requirements. Repeat key information in meetings to make sure it’s absorbed.
Communication and transparency go hand in hand. By going the extra mile to communicate with your remote team members you can ensure that nothing important falls through the cracks.
How to get started on this step today:
- Make important Google Drive folders public to everyone in the company
- Move Trello cards from your personal board to your team board
- Start sharing call notes in public channels
Step 3: Integrate Transparency Into Company Values
Increasing the transparency of your tools, workflows, and communications can be hugely impactful—as long as people buy in. That’s why you should consider integrating transparency into your company values.
Whether you have a values document or an employee manual, you’ll want to make sure this resource reflects your remote reality. And you can start by being explicit about the importance of transparency.
Your company values should be bold and memorable.
Here are a few examples of how transparency can be tackled in a values statement:
- Transparency in all things, always.
- Work in public: public chats, public folders, public documents.
- If the entire team can’t see it, it doesn’t exist!
- Make mistakes, but never hide them.
These statements make it immediately clear that transparency is a core value. You can then provide your team with a detailed description explaining the “why” and the “how” of this value.
Start From The Top
To increase your odds of people taking this new value to heart lead by example.
Make sure your leaders and managers are all being the change they want to see in the company. This means making calendars public, sharing feedback publicly, and participating in company channels.
For example, Unito’s CEO Marc Boscher shares negative feedback he receives with the entire company. This type of transparency and vulnerability is embraced and emulated by the entire team.
Make Your Values A Part Of Every Day
Are your values something employees see on the first day they join the company and never again? Or do you live and breathe those values day in and day out?
Hint: shoot for option two. It’s a key part of making sure your distributed team doesn’t lose touch with your culture and goals.
In the office, people often use visual reminders to keep company values top of mind. They’re taped to monitors, painted on the wall, or spelled out with magnets on the communal fridge. But when you’re remote, company values should be integrated into people’s routines.
During company-wide meetings, reemphasize your values. When you give kudos to team members, highlight the value that their great work exemplifies. Build a Trello card for each company value on your team board, so they’re always front and center as you work.
Taking these steps will help keep remote employees engaged while allowing you to highlight transparency as a core value.
How to get started on this step today:
- Add a company value focused on transparency
- Have your management team highlight this value in your next company-wide meeting
- Add your company values to a list on your team’s Trello board
Shed Some Light On Remote Work
Remote work can’t happen in the dark. When you shed light on your workflows, communication, and values, your team will benefit from the clarity it needs to succeed.