We recently wrote about how remote habits are good for colocated teams too. We're living in a really strange time and we feel extremely fortunate that adapting to our current environment has been quite seamless because it's the way we've always worked. I'm based in Portland, Oregon, and my co-founder is in Sydney Australia. That means it's 3:00 pm here and 8:00 there. It's tough to manage at times, but we've found best practices on how to stay in touch, stay on the same page, and stay productive despite distance and time differences. Unfortunately for many others, it's not the way work has always been done and adapting to remote work can be extremely difficult and frustrating.
The good news is that the tools are already there. Here are some of our key practices on how we stay in touch.
We keep conversations open and check in often
Sten and I live on Slack. It's the first thing I check every day. When I have a thought I drop it in Slack and expect him to see it when he logs on in a few hours. Around 3 PM, his active icon lights up and we usually jump on a quick call (15-30 min usually), just to catch up. We talk about what I've been working on, and what he plans on working on. We've been using Whereby as our main video conferencing tool, and we quite like it.
These daily calls help us stay accountable and help us reflect on what we've done and what we need to do. This way we're always on the same page and we can develop a better working relationship. We can work at our pace and still feel like we're working together on things. It keeps us well connected when we're working very autonomously.
Don't forget to talk about something other than work too. Things you did over the weekend, fun happenings, or even talking to each other about the current situations is important. We could probably all use some extra positive human interaction as possible right now.
We write EVERYTHING down
I'm not sure if I've become more used to doing this because it just helps me be more productive or if I started doing this because people on my team are remote, but everything starts with a doc. Yesterday my job was to create a new feedback survey to send to some customers. To start, I created a page on Confluence. I wrote down all my ideas, wrote down some questions, and created a draft of the survey. When Sten logged on for the day, I sent it to him to review, he left some annotated notes. All our work is recorded so that we can always go back to it and we both have a clear view of it.
Now that I think about it, I don't think we have any working documents that aren't shared between us. We share files through Dropbox, we take notes for meetings and ideas in Confluence or Notion, and we share our feedback and work through Slack. It makes everything collaborative and keeps everyone on the same page and keeps a written record of all our work, all without saying a word IRL.
We let people be responsible for how the use their own time
Being online isn't necessarily a sign people are productive. Try to build habits in which you can trust people to do their work, rather than micromanaging their time. I have a friend who works from home and their manager requires them to be online all day. Do you know what she does when she needs a break? She steps away from her computer, does her chores, has a coffee or just hangs out and every few minutes, she moves her mouse to keep her computer online! 🤣
The fact is, working at home can be distracting and everyone is going to start building their own habits around how they work and stay productive in their own spaces. You won't have control over that. Set expectations around the work that should be done and a timeline, rather than setting expectations around the hours they need to be online. Schedule a time every day to do a quick check up on progress over a video chat and keep expectations clear.
Although it's going to be a tough transition, there are so many benefits to remote work. Chatting keeps all your conversations recorded so you can always refer back. Having docs and wikis for ideas and meeting notes keeps everyone in the know and gives us a history of work. Giving people the space and time to work in their own spaces, will not only keeps us safe during this time, but can give people more autonomy, responsibility and a work-life balance that can boost happiness and productivity.
Stay safe and healthy everyone! 💛