At Cloudinfrastack we are very proud of our international team of local and remote employees. Not only does it create a positive diversity at the workplace, it also encourages effective cooperation with people of different nationalities. We, as a company, greatly benefit from our remote employees who live in different time zones, most notably in terms of the overall effectiveness and flexibility which it offers when tasks need to be completed around the clock. Since the traditional workplace involves physically attending the office, managing remote employees may present some challenges, especially regarding the management and keeping track of remote work. As we are primarily specialised in DevOps, which involves monitoring and administering a large cluster of virtual and dedicated servers 24⁄7, we decided to start an office in Vladivostok recruiting local Russian employees. Since we engage with them on daily basis, they are an essential part of the collective rather than contracted workers in another country, as is sometimes the case with remote employees.
Communication is the key for completion of important tasks and this is one of the reasons why we put strong emphasis on communication. Part of being a successful team is socialising with your colleagues, sometimes referred to as “water cooler talk”. Among work related activities, it is a good idea to keep up with your colleagues during a work break in order to improve communication and mutual understanding. However, at the same time when work operations are maintained remotely, this may be an obstacle to replicate when your co-worker is more than 300 meters away. :) As is the case of a worldwide collective of people, there is a range of nuances ranging from cultural differences in mentality to being able to communicate using the English language.
As with all work, it is a good idea to keep track of how your employees are getting on with tasks, not only to make sure that work production is running at an optimal level but also as a means to mentor employees or to make sure that they have fully understood the task. Such things can be easily explained and understood when in person, however, there may be a slight difference when explaining this to an employee working in another country. A key element in this is to create space for discussion at the end of online meetings, and to hear the feedback on the task from each remote employee. We have found this to be optimal when it is carried out more concisely rather than having long meetings since then everybody gets a chance to hear what’s going on with their tasks and in the company.
Another obstacle when employing remote employees is having to ensure that they always have the newest information and that they are a part of important work-related discussions as these can be crucial, especially when instructing which tasks should be carried out or while making important decisions. We use the following methods and applications as the means of ensuring that all our employees are well-informed and up to date with the newest things every day.
We insist that stand-ups are carried out every day using Google Hangouts or Discord. This time allows every employee to mention which tasks they will be working on today and to be able to reflect on the tasks they were working on the previous day. We also make time for a discussion as this allows an employee to discuss any obstacles and further creates a space for others to learn about what the team is working on, which can be excellent when lending a hand or as an overview for issuing new tasks.
Since we have an office in Vladivostok and in Prague, we need to make sure that everybody is up to date with their schedule even if they are living in different time zones. As they are also big supporters and users of open source software, we have found Nextcloud to be an excellent alternative to other commercially available software. The fact that it is possible to host it yourself also means that you keep the data safe on your own infrastructure.
Need to find out who configured a server or when the latest batch of refreshments will arrive in the office? This is where Mattermost comes into play, our favourite open source self-hosted internal chat service.
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