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The basic guide line to implementing Work Form Home with Agile delivery

Guidelines for implementing Working from home

The 2020 COVID-19 (Corona Virus) has presented a work from home situation and it is important to follow the rules laid out by the South African government regarding the implementation of the Disaster Act. Some of the guidelines regarding what this means can be found on the Corona Virus blog [HERE]
It is important to implement Social isolation as quickly as possible, if you have not already implemented this at your business, please do so as quickly as possible.
Here at HRSimplified, we have implemented remote working as a strict policy and now adhere to the instructions from the Government. We need to look after our staff, their wellbeing, their families and loved ones. South Africa is our home, we need to do everything possible to protect her and the amazing people that live here.


How to Simplify the working from home for your business

There are five main components to Working from home:

  • People (your staff)
  • Agile Delivery
  • Technology that allows remote working
  • Management of your deliveries and worK
  • A Work from home Policy.


  • If you implement each of these, you will be able to successfully have your staff work from home with limited business disruption.


    Your Staff. Your People

    We need to remember that working from home comes with a sense of the unknown. This is for your staff and yourself. Sit down and plan things clearly to ensure you know what you need to do. This will allow you to communicate clearly with your staff and they will have fewer questions and feel more comfortable.
    There is a phenomenon that is always present in staff working from home, they tend to “Overwork” themselves. Because they are not under the “eyes of management” people tend to put in even more effort to get the job done. Because of this, they tend to work longer hours and exhaust themselves quickly.
    Inform your staff that they need to install an activity tracker on their laptop or PC. This will remind them to get up and stretch a bit every few minutes. Here are some examples:

  • Big Stretch Reminder - http://monkeymatt.com/bigstretch/
  • Stretchily - https://github.com/hovancik/stretchly/releases
  • WorkRave - http://www.workrave.org/download/

  • Instruct your staff to implement and follow the list below:

  • Get dressed, as if you are going to the office, it’s a psychological reminder to work and be professional.
  • Start off and make some coffee or and have breakfast.
  • Create a quiet space where you can work without distraction
  • Add an app/timer to remind yourself to get up and move
  • Be prepared for your work every morning. Working from home does not excuse bad planning.
  • Plan your day before the day starts (plan around your chors you are planning to do. Remember you are working from home; you need to manage yourself and your delivery now)
  • Share as much information as possible with your team members (Don’t work in isolation just because you can’t see them or hear them)
  • Update your work activities so your manager can monitor progress.
  • Don’t wait until the end of the day to update things and raise issues, do this sooner rather than later so that someone can assist you in addressing your issue.
  • Make some me-time. Take a break, have a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Don’t forget to eat lunch, we tend to overwork when we are busy.
  • Don’t work until 10 pm every night, you would not do this in the office.

  • If you stay with these guidelines and get your employees to follow them, you should have a healthy and happy workforce.


    Agile and Scrum Deliveryy


    What is agile or scrum delivery, and how can I use it?

    There are two mayor delivery methodologies in business (yes there are a few more, but they are slow adopters or just variances of the two main groups.)

  • Waterfall – Old school project-based delivery. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model
  • Agile- New school project-based delivery. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development

  • You might not have a Software Development business, but the basic principles still apply.
    Without going into detailed explanations about Agile delivery, here is a quick overview of what this means and how you can implement it in your business.


    Basic rules of Agile Delivery?

  • Place your teams of people into groups that can work together.
  • The teams need to have someone from each of your delivery steps in the team.
  • A single team needs to be able to complete delivery from beginning to end.
  • The teams must meet every morning (once a day, a good time is 9:15 am - proven the best time to do it)
  • This meeting is called a Stand-up meeting and must be attended by all members of the team.
  • Have different stand-ups for each team.
  • A Stand up must not last more than 15min
  • One person in the team will be the Scrum master (Meeting Manager)
  • In addition to the Stand-ups, there will be a Scrum meeting, in this meeting the planned work for the next week or two is planned.
  • The entire team joins this Scrum meeting and assists to plan the work.
  • All work is received and broken down into small deliverables that can take no longer than 1 day to complete. (if you have longer delivery cycles this could be 2 or more days as well)
  • These work items are referred to as Tickets, they should all be placed all on a Scrum board. (I will give you a list of examples that work later in this blog)
  • Make sure that each work ticket is a delivery that can be done in isolation, so it has no dependencies on anything else.
  • You must have a Scrum board where all tickets are kept for all to see, this includes management, team members, and scrum master. (aka Project manager)
  • Your Scrum board should have four columns that show all tickets or work items:
  • - To do (new Work Tickets)
  • - In-Progress (Currently with a person to be completed)
  • - Blocked (if there is an issue with the work ticket that is stopping the team member to complete the work)
  • - Completed (All the tickets that have been completed)
  • If it is not on the board, it is not going to be worked on, this is a strict rule and must be enforced.
  • A stand-up meeting must include the following:
  • - Each person gives an update on their tickets that have been completed, and their Scrum master moves it to the Completed column.
  • - Each person must share what they are “blocked” with and a short reason why. These tickets are moved to the Blocked column, and a person is assigned to help the team member address the matter. Do not try and solve the issue in the meeting as this will only delay the scrum meeting.
  • - Each person takes a new task(s) from the scrum board and they are assigned to them for completion. These tickets are move to the In-Progress column.
  • Make sure to always assign a team member to each ticket, to ensure you know who is working on the ticket.
  • You should have 5 x Stand up meetings, they are called stand-ups because the idea is to have the employees stand, so that the meetings are short, a maximum of 15 minutes must be enforced. You should also have 1 Scrum meeting each week for planning purposes. You can also work on the 2-week scrum roster if once per week is too much.

  • Remember the idea behind Agile delivery is speed and being agile enough to overcome any issues. Because you have multiple skilled staff in the same team, the input available to address issues is not limited to a management team, but the people doing the work.
    Above is a generic process and can be used in almost any industry. You will find that delivery will improve, and technical issues will be solved quicker than with a normal delivery process as the staff adjust to the new way of working.

    Technology that allows remote working

    With remote working and Working from Home, you need to have tools. Tools to allow your staff to communicate and collaborate in an online world of the internet. As most staff members are familiar with Social media platforms and chat apps, they will pick up and use the tools faster than you think. Here is a list of my trusted tools; you are welcome to test them and see what works for you.

    Scrum board (Agile board)

    This board will be the one you use every day; it needs to be online and easy to access and use. Below is a list of scrum boards I have used and that work well.

  • Jet brains – Good platform and has a free option - https://www.jetbrains.com/youtrack/
  • Jira – Good platform with many features - https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira
  • Monday.com - https://monday.com/
  • Microsoft Teams with Scrum board plugin (Free on Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions) - https://teams.microsoft.com/start
  • Scrumdo – versatile product with affordable pricing for small teams - https://app.scrumdo.com/plans

  • Communications platform

    This is what the staff will use to hold their Stand-ups, allowing for screen sharing and a group of people to communicated at the same time.

  • Skype (Free for all) - https://www.skype.com/en/
  • Zoom (Free for session up to 40min – many more features) - https://zoom.us/
  • Teams (of you have an Office365 subscription this is included for free) - https://teams.microsoft.com/start

  • Information sharing and document sharing platform

    You need a central place to store data, be it documents, or notes, or customer details. Email is not the place do this, the tools below work well for sharing documents and keeping them safe online.

  • Jira once again offers these features - https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira
  • Microsoft Office 365 – SharePoint - https://www.office.com/

  • Management of deliveries and work

    As a business owner myself, I know that you love your business and have put many long days and nights into making sure your business is successful. Because of this, you will feel apprehensive about implementing working from home, that could affect your entire company.
    You can implement it in a small section to test on before going full steam ahead.
    There are a few pitfalls that I would like to point out based on my experience in this space, from the past 7 years of operating and implementing these processes and methodologies.
    You will want to micromanage it. Don’t! It will deter your staff from adopting the new way of working.
    Some staff will not be mature enough to work from home. I would suggest pairing them with a senior staff member that can manage them, and maybe offer 1 day a week from home, and increase that as they prove themselves. You will be surprised by how quickly people adapt to this work ethic.
    Your staff look up to you as their leader. if you don’t believe in Agile and working from home, how should they? You need to show enthusiasm about the changes and support your staff in the process.
    People tend to reject change, but its good for them, “change is as good as a holiday!”. Know that your staff will also want to keep things as they were, but you need to help them take the leap and see for themselves.
    Make sure you track everything that is being done, try to measure the delivery daily. Your Scrum masters will help you with this. They and the tools will have a clear idea of how things are going.
    Stop thinking long term delivery. This is all based on Agile and it needs to happen fast. It does need a different way of thinking on how to plan smaller deliveries, but with Agile issues and even change is managed seamlessly. In a normal day to day business with “set in stone” delivery processes you cannot make changes and continue to deliver, but with agile processes it allows you to quickly adapt, and this is what is needed in the current trying times.
    Good management of the productivity of your staff will see an increase in as little as a week or two. Give the process time for the people to fit into the new way of doing things and the results will follow quickly.
    If possible, make sure you interact with your staff. The agile process will assist in getting things delivered, but your staff need to know you are there looking after them. As they say, “Out of sight, out of mind”. You don’t want to have your staff lose that interaction.
    Reach out at random times and give them a call, ask how it is going, how are they working, etc. Send out a regular update about the business, remember they also work here and have just as much invested as you.
    Find yourself a good HR system, something online that is easy to use. With staff working from home, you need to give them an online paperless option for HR processes, like submitting leave, or more important in this COVID-19 world, sick leave management. HRSimplified can help with this, and we have increased our Free period to 30 days to try and help your business get something in place to manage your staff HR. Contact us now to get going to implement HRSimplified quickly and easily. HRsimplfied [Contact US].


    A Work from home Policy

    Implement a Work from Home Policy. This does not have to be complicated.
    Look at what you want, and simply put that in it and hand it to everyone to sign. If they want to work from home, they will sign it quite easily.
    For example, you want them to call in every morning to report on their progress. They also need to respond to emails within 45 minutes if you email them. Form 8am until 5pm they need to answer their phone, and if they want to pop out, they need to let you know at least 40min in advance.
    A simple Work From home policy dan be something like this:

    To all staff
    Policy (WFH001 Policy number)
    Policy Name:
    Work from home policy
    Introduction:

    The following policy is in place for all employees who are entitled to work from home at Company XYZ.

    For an Employee to be eligible to work from home the Line Manager needs to approve this by informing HR of the required agreement with the staff. No staff is entitled to work from home if this is not preapproved by a direct manager.

    Conditions of working from home:

    1. All staff will check-in via Skype or Email at 8am for work.
    2. Staff will be available during the day from 8am until 5pm via cell phone
    email and other means of communication. 3. All emails will be answered back within 45 min of receiving the email.
    4. If an employee needs to go out for a personal reason, he or she will inform there direct manager with an email at least 40min in advance of the Employee leaving their place of work.
    5. Employees are expected to have a fast reliable internet connection. (Because of the saving in transport costs the company will expect the employee to cover the internet connection fee.
    6. There will be a Stand-up meeting to discuss work item every morning at 9:15am. If the employee cannot attend the meeting a valid reason needs to be supplied before the meeting (the day before) with updates in writing of their current status on their outstanding tasks.
    7. …. (other rules go here)


    Disciplinary steps:

    1. If an employee is not available as per the above rules, the disciplinary steps of AWOL (Absence without leave) will apply, and a written warning will be issued.
    2. If an Employee has more than X infringements for the same offence, his Working from home rights will be revoked and he or she will need to return to the office.
    3. … other terms go here



    Singed by MD John Soap: Date: 2020/03/20

    Conclusion:

    We are in trying times with COVID-19, and a state of disaster that has been implemented, as we sit and watch the numbers climb, we cannot help but worry about what the future holds.

    Our loved ones and family are important, but we also need to look after our businesses. We employee people that support their families with the income generated by your business. We need to try and do everything possible to adjust and continue working hard to ensure a future for our staff.