Even with a post-pandemic new normal slowly settling in, remote working still remains our successful newfound reality somewhere.
But how did corporate leaders, managers, and most importantly individual QA professionals increasingly adapt to this sudden shift in their work environment? At the Thought Frameworks workspace were able to ask these candid questions to Sreevalli BS, Delivery Head QA for TF.
The following conversational and in-depth Q&A session answers everything you must be thinking of and offers several perspectives, with some additional hands-on experience, ground rules, professional guidelines, and practical expert advice on how we can successfully manage to work productively at home, schedule virtual meetings, and lead our QA teams ace at their best out through these times of change.
Top 12 curious questions about successfully remote working at Thought Frameworks answered!
1. Were all organizations prepared for this sudden change and work transition? How did you turn remote working skills into such remarkable success at Thought Frameworks?
The scale and scope of what we saw as the pandemic hit worldwide were that employees were suddenly asking people to work from home very very quickly, which was unprecedented. So, no, I don’t think any organization was prepared for this, but we did make the best of the given opportunity at Thought Frameworks most visibly and certainly. We aced it with time. Including managing work for different clients in different time zones, we turned the tables to handle it well even from home. All environmental instabilities aside, remote working made us handle resource scarcity really well in real time. Motivating us to rigorously track our productivity levels, which stabilized fairly well within the first 3 months. And on the plus side, it turned out to be quite earlier than anticipated. Even though people went back to remote places, their country homes, and towns but that was never an issue with us and our work at Thought Frameworks. We still had to deliver to our clients and motivated our teams to work at their best. Even if it meant staying up late nights at home. We were up for it. We took quick decisions backed by the positive actions and initiatives of our competent management and the team leads. Handling productivity was never a concern ever and now it’s no more even an afterthought. We set some ground rules for our WFH, that still works in our favor. Monitoring our team’s progress very closely. And now they’re quite used to it. Despite it being a drastic work culture shift. We are making it work quite successfully.
2. What was the very first thing that team leaders and HR managers did to boost their employees’ prep up and get ready?
We focused on getting the groundwork and the infrastructure right. We made sure that they have access to the resources they need to work flawlessly. Direct team leads and managers had to very quickly ensure that every employee had full access, and no one felt left behind.
3. How did people who weren’t accustomed to remote work perform so extraordinarily well?
We developed work rituals and had a disciplined way of managing our day. Which we in fact still abide by to this day. We schedule a start and an end time. We have a rhythm. We created the finest work-life balance and flexibility at Thought Frameworks. Also remember that some of us might actually enjoy working from home, because of its perks. You can think more flexibly about your time management. As for us team leaders and managers, we need to constantly check in on people. Making sure not only that they’re set up for the day but also that they follow a rhythm towards conducting their daily tasks and contact with others as and when needed.
4. How do these constant check-ins happen? As in a group? In private one-on-ones? Via phone calls? Or via video chats?
First of all, we do have an all-team conversation about the new state of affairs every single morning. Saying, “What are our tasks for today?” A launcher session shortly follows this to jump-start our remote clocking hours every single day. Figuring out: How often should we need to communicate? Includes whatever works the best way for us and suits the need of the hour to work together. We’ve successfully helped people understand how to do remote work with confidence and given them assurance that it will work for the better in the long run. In a remote environment, the frequency of contacts just can’t simply go down. If we have a series of meetings, we continue to do so virtually. In fact, our contacts have outreached further and gone up for the whole QA team and its members. Newer employees working on critical projects will require extra one-on-one sessions. Remembering, too, that we can do many things virtually: like have collective lunch hours, schedule coffee breaks, and virtual celebrations. All these additional things can help maintain the same level of connectivity that we had at the office. And there’s ample new world research showing that virtual teams can be competently equal to other co-located ones in terms of trust and collaboration. It just requires the right balance and discipline.
5. How did employees at Thought Frameworks stay focused, committed, and happy?
It’s simple. We’ve mastered how to coach them. One more additional piece of advice: Exercise and meditate in your free time. It’s critical for mental well-being, success at work, productivity, and maintaining an overall healthy work-life balance.
6. What are the top three things that team leaders can do to create a good remote working culture?
Did you know? There are approx +11,000 books in English on Amazon based on virtual work-life and how to lead a team remotely at a distance. Have we thought about why it is an important topic nowadays? This is a very difficult task to do, and team leaders have to really actively work on it. Number one, making sure that the team constantly feels like they know what’s going on. Communicating what’s happening at the organizational level mostly when they’re working at home. Even during remote work, our testers are motivated about achieving revenue goals and clocking other deliverables. We make sure they’re going to be immaculate and on time.
Another thing is ensuring that no team member feels like they have less access to the lead or the CEO than others. So we need to be available to everyone equally. Finally, when we run group meetings, we always encourage inclusion, and participation and balance out the airtime, so every attendee feels seen and heard.
7. How did remote work changes enhance your productivity?
Productivity did not have to go down at all. It was well maintained, even enhanced, because commutes, transportation, and other office distractions are gone for good. Of course, we might be at home with family or kids, and those issues were individually worked out. But other than that, I don’t see productivity going down at all. There’s a robust practical experience we’ve gathered over the years showing that it shouldn’t change.
8. How do you measure your team’s productivity and eventually review them at work?
I’ll say this to every lead out there: We have to trust our team. Period!. Equipping them in the right ways, giving them the tasks, checking on them as you’ve always done, and hoping that they produce in the ways you want them to. Our reviews will always have to be outcome-based. And there’s no reason to believe that, in this new environment, teams won’t excel at the work that they’ve been assigned. Remote work has been around for a very long time now almost +2 years since the pandemic. And today we have all of the technologies we need, to not only get work done but also collaborate at the same time. We have an enterprise-wide office connectivity tool like Slack that allows us to store and capture daily data, have one-to-many conversations, and share best practices, to keep learning. We also have deployed TopTracker which gives us full control over what we keep track of and how often, with multiple options including simple time tracking, screenshots, and webcam shots. We can also define tracking controls for managed projects, etc ensuring the work hours we need to chip in individually and as a team. We also have weekly brainstorming sessions where we constantly encourage our team to come up with something new and stay updated on the field, skills, and knowledge upgradation. We also encourage them to develop better domain-specific test case execution best practices. On how to write better test cases and prioritize test execution in the best possible way.
9. Let’s talk about virtual meetings. What are some best practices, beyond the general advice to clarify work purpose, circulate an agenda, prepare teams to be called on, and so forth?
First, we have some explicit ground rules. And we trust the team to follow these ground rules. Number two, because we no longer have watercooler conversations, teams might be just simply working from home, and spend the first six to seven minutes of a meeting just checking in. We don’t go straight to our agenda items. Instead, we try to go around and ask everyone. Starting with whoever is the newest in the team. We share screens internally as much as possible as well, so that we’re modeling that behavior. After which, we introduce the key pointers to talk about and again model it up on our screen exactly like what we want you to see, whether it’s explaining, connecting, asking questions, or anything. We have multiple touchpoints through various media to successfully continue the trail of conversation seamlessly.
10. How does work-life balance in remote working?
The obvious blurring of boundaries between work and home has suddenly come upon us, so Thought Frameworks team leads successfully developed skills and ways to support their respective teams. This might involve being a bit more flexible about the reporting hours in which employees work. Like you don’t necessarily have to eat lunch at 12 PM. You might take a quick breather at 2 PM. Things are much more fluid, and leads just have to trust that the team will do their best to get their day’s work done.
11. We’ve talked about internal group communication, but how did people perform in client-facing functions?
We’ve been constantly seeing virtual test calls and client engagements. And we do the exact same things. Here, it’s even more important to use visual media. We take up whatever we would be doing face-to-face and keep on doing it.
12. Did you see remote working change the way QA teams and organizations operate going forward?
I think it broadened our repertoires and multitasking skills. Organizations, teams, and people need to experiment with virtual work models. We have always wanted to test it as a way of expanding our outreach and staff locales. It’s not that people are going to permanently adopt this, but the current ongoing experience will surely expand everyone’s capacity. There’s a huge potential positive aspect we’re finding ourselves in, and it’s that we’re developing certain skills that could be certainly very helpful in the near future. And that’s my deepest hope and belief going forward.
Thought Frameworks is a U.S.-based QA testing organization that’s been commanding in business since 2009, armed with the ultimate solutions for all your software OA testing challenges. We have headquarters both in California, USA, and a fully functional well equipped QA Test Lab in Bengaluru-India, delivering premium QA & QC services endlessly across different domains. An ISTQB Partnered Company, our superhuman test team has delivered numerous QA & QC projects across the globe. Backed by our ingenious bug-hunting process that helps your software in clocking release cycle on time while delivering excelling quality and functionality.