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The world’s ‘Remote’​ moment is here

… and it only took a pandemic to make it happen.

Robert Skrobe
Feb 27 · 4 min read

I can’t keep up.

There’s been an incredible amount of inquiry on remote work and virtual sprinting in the past couple of weeks. So much so that it’s prompting me to drop everything I’m doing for the Global Virtual Design Sprint right now (which is sizeable) and briefly write about it.

Between invitations to round tables, network requests to expedite conversations or flat out RFP’s to convert existing operations into a remote environment, I’m easily buried in an avalanche of messaging, documentation and demands for my time.

And it’s been coming from all different kinds of professionals at various organizational levels. Functional managers, operational directors, strategists, finance CEO’s… all of them are asking about remote work, virtual design sprinting or anything in-between.

It’s flat out insane.

If this keeps up, I’ll have to proactively block off 2–3 weeks of time on my professional schedule… just to get any resemblance of real work done.

As you’ve probably guessed, this is all occurring via the growing ‘Pandemic X’ situation that the Coronavirus is currently threatening all of humanity with.

As of this writing, the countries of China, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, Iraq and the United States have all been reporting existing and new infections of the virus as it spreads unabated through cruise ships, airplanes and other areas where close proximate contact occurs.

The Chinese government alone has reported over 77,658 infections with 2,663 deaths since it first began tracking the virus. Italy now has the largest known outbreak outside Asia, with more than 200 confirmed cases and five deaths.

That’s some serious shit, and it’s only going to get worse.

So, what are the companies and organizations who previously relied on face-to-face communication and interpersonal engagement doing to get their work done? If they can’t travel internationally to meet a client without risking the health of their employees, what do they do?

There’s just no choice… they have to work remotely.
And, they have to bring their customers (willing or not) along for the ride.

What’s tragic is that most companies are not set up for remote work… at all. Whether it’s systemic trust issues with employees, lack of knowledge and experience with remote tech, weak process maturity or a delusional romanticism about ‘how real work is done’, the vast majority of modern day businesses are just not built to scale remotely.

And there’s no quick fix either, no matter what someone says or sells otherwise.

Buying your entire staff Zoom licenses is a short term band-aid that masks the incredible amount of learning curves everyone’s coming to the table with. In the absence of any quick spend, I’ve heard of teams that just leverage Google Drive and present their design sprints using… Powerpoint. 😳

You’ll also have to deal with engagement, as some people are just not built for remote working. I’ve personally led approximately 30+ people into working from home, and each required some measure of hand holding.

Whether it’s understanding the technology, or dealing with an anemic bandwidth problem, there’s way more to working virtual/remote than what the surface suggests.

I’ll repeat it again.
There’s no quick fix.

Unless you’re a company who’s already gone the route of ‘remote first’ or promoting remote as a part of the work culture DNA, you’re vulnerable.

The thing I’m advising everyone who’s in this temporary trap of non-remote sadness is to start at the top and have Leadership set a new strategy centered on a remote-first culture.

You can easily go grassroots and teach others how to engage with remote working, but there has to be a fundamental understanding and acceptance of the practice of remote work from organizational leadership… or it’ll never stick. It’ll be as temporary as China’s ban on exotic animals once a cure is announced for the Coronavirus.

If you need help getting there, I can provide a lot of perspective and guidance.

However, if I’m not the person who can provide value, I would suggest checking out Magda Sowierszenko’s remote-how’s blog. I consider it required reading material for those who need help understanding and implementing a strategy for remote work.

Do you have some resources or suggestions for learning about remote work and/or remote design sprints? If so, please post them in the comments!

The 4th Global Virtual Design Sprint (May 4–22)

It’s here!

The 4th Global Virtual Design Sprint (GVDS) has been announced, taking place during the first three weeks of May (4–22).

You can learn more about the event here, or you can get straight away and register for the event by visiting this page.

Hurry though! The first 100 signups get the best deal!

Dallas Design Sprints

I train individuals, teams and companies on how to…

Robert Skrobe

Written by

I run Dallas Design Sprints, The Design Sprint Referral Network and Talent Sprints.

Dallas Design Sprints

I train individuals, teams and companies on how to effectively use the design sprint process. I also enjoy highlighting other professionals and practitioners in the field, and feature their stories here on Medium.

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