We’re now ~3 months into social distancing due to COVID-19, and many of us have been working from home for that long as well. Remote work has long been at the top of the list of perks people most want at their job, but we imagine most people didn’t expect a global pandemic as the impetus for it.
It can be tough to adapt to remote work life when you have little experience with it in practice. Back in March, we published 26 Essential Tips For Working From Home as a primer for first time remote workers and those having trouble focusing in these strange times.
Now that we’ve had a bit of time to adapt, we’d like to share some more advanced tips that may help with Phase 2 of the work-from-home situation. Let us know your own remote working tips by tweeting at us @SaneBox.
Be An Inclusive Coworker
It’s easy to send a private Slack message or email to a colleague to discuss a work issue or ask a question. You may think you’ll be creating noise in the public channels, or that what you want to say doesn’t pertain to anyone else. However, when you work remotely, there are fewer opportunities to share ideas with your team as you would in an office environment.
Sharing questions in ideas in public, like shared documents and emails and public chat, adds the benefit of knowledge transfer. Everyone can be kept in the loop and participate if need be. When you promote an inclusive workplace, it may help you work faster since now anyone can assist you with finding a solution.
A huge part of working remotely is also overcommunicating. Post status reports, questions, ideas, comments, and concerns in public to really “show up” to work.
Along the same lines of working in public, defaulting to transparency helps keep everyone in the loop. When everything is available to everyone, such as documents, plans, data, logins and passwords to shared accounts, meeting minutes, etcetera, remote work tend to run smoother. Especially if you’re working across time zones, making sure everyone has easy access to important work information keeps things moving along.
Find the right collaboration tools for your team
Having an organized digital system in place makes all the difference when it comes to defaulting to transparency and working in public, and picking the right tools is essential.
Here at SaneBox, we use the following tools:
- Asana for project management
- Slack for messaging
- G Suite for email, calendars, and shared docs, presentations, and spreadsheets
- Zoom for video conferencing (including 1:1s and group meetings)
Find the right tools that work for your team—and try to keep the number of tools relatively reasonable so people don’t have to burn time jumping from app to app to try to find the information they’re looking for.
Have A Weekly Sync
Host an all-hands meeting with the entire team weekly to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what everyone else is working on. This ensures everyone is up to date on projects and progress and where they can help each other out when needed.
Here are some top tips for making a weekly sync an effective use of everyone’s time:
- Create an agenda that the whole team can access before and during the sync
- Keep a consistent meeting format. Have each team present their weekly goals in a specific order so there are no surprises.
- Always be present. Avoid multitasking and turn off phone and desktop notifications.
- Turn your video chat camera on. Seeing each other’s faces helps build a team spirit.
- Keep the sync contained for a specific amount of time to not waste time and discourage tangents.
Decrease Time Spent In Meetings
On that note, don’t get overzealous when scheduling meetings. Packing each day with Zoom calls to talk through ideas may be tempting when everyone is in different physical locations, but it can be seriously disrupting.
Although it can be tough to get a hang of online-only communication, it’s important to allow employees to work asynchronously so they can get deep work done. Save meetings for situations where an issue can’t be resolved with a quick Slack message or email.
Don’t Expect Instant Responses
Everyone needs some distraction-free time during the workday to get things done. When you’re in a deep-work flow, the last thing you want is for multiple notifications from Slack and email to break your focus. Your coworkers probably feel the same way! So, don’t expect instant responses from your colleagues, and trust that they’ll get back to you when they’ve finished a task and are ready to respond to messages again.
A great way to help communicate your current work state is through chat statuses. Let your team know when you’re in a meeting, engaging in deep work, taking a lunch break, or logging off at the end of the day. This will help set expectations on your response time and will signal to others when it’s appropriate to message you.
Assume The Best From Your Colleagues
Shifting from in-person communication to virtual communication takes getting used to – especially since in-person conversations allow you to pick up on social cues that clarify the context, intent, and tone of discussions. These cues are a bit harder to read on Slack messages, video calls, and Google Doc comments.
It’s totally possible to overanalyze someone’s wording sent through digital communication. Odds are, the other person probably doesn’t have negative intentions – it can just be difficult to convey the proper tone in written messages. Communicating with these tools is certainly a skill that takes a while to develop, so it’s best to not read into things and assume that every message is sent with good intentions.
Take Sick Days
There’s a negative trend among the remote work movement – people are taking less sick days when working from home. After all, if you’re sick, why not just knock out some work from bed?
In reality, this is a bad habit that needs to be broken. A sick teammate isn’t going to be able to do their best when they’re sick and should be encouraged to rest up and come back to work feeling refreshed. Especially with all the stress of what’s going on in the world today, workers should feel comfortable taking time off when they’re not feeling well, whether that be physically or mentally.
Have Some Fun At Work
Since in-person happy hours and team outings aren’t happening anytime soon, you may be missing many of the social interactions that come with office life. However, you can still have fun and get to know your teammates on a more personal level while working remotely. Here are some ideas.
Create fun, non-work-related Slack channels such as:
- #bookclub, where you can all pick a book to read and talk about in a Zoom meeting later
- #random, where you can post all sorts of light-hearted links, videos, GIFS, and more
- #music, where you can share music recommendations and playlists
- #dogs, where you can share adorable photos and videos of your furry friends
Consider hosting virtual happy hours, trivia nights, or Taco Tuesdays through Zoom. Keep the conversation topics work-free and let everyone share what’s going on in their lives, or just make light-hearted banter. In a remote work environment, “watercooler talk” and team bonding may not randomly happen, so try to make an effort to get everyone together virtually just to socialize.
Create Boundaries In Your Home
This is certainly easier said than done, especially since we’re all stuck at home. Try your best to kindly let your family members or roommates know that although you’re working from home, you’re still working.
You’ll get much more work done if you aren’t constantly being interrupted. Establish and communicate what your working hours are, and when you’ll have break times where you’re available to socialize. If you’re lucky enough to have an office door that closes, consider making a do-not-disturb sign to let others know not to knock.
We also recommend snapping on some headphones so you can filter out any potential noise going on in your home. Listen to music, coffee shop noise, or various types of ambient or white noise – whatever helps stimulate an ambiance to put you in a focused headspace.
Remote Work Is Still Work
Although remote work comes with many perks, such as flexibility, freedom, and the ability to work in sweatpants, it’s still hard work and requires dedication. During these stressful and unprecedented times, it can be hard to focus while quarantined with family and with the distraction of the news cycle.
Stick to the preferred productivity method that you would normally use in the office, such as using the Eisenhower Matrix or the Pomodoro Technique, time-blocking your tasks, or simply writing a daily to-do list on a piece of paper.
Trust that everyone on your team is getting used to the new normal, and adapting requires patience, kindness, and encouragement.
To help you adjust to working from home, we’ve created the Work From Home Bundle and partnered with top companies providing solutions for time tracking, project management, digital communication, and more. For whatever your work-from-home situation needs, you’ll find a deeply-discounted tool here that will improve your productivity in these uncertain times. Keep it up!