For the last year and a half, I’ve worked for an all remote company. It’s great to work from home. I have a cat bed on my desk, but there are downsides too (like cats walking across your keyboard).
Here’s what I’ve learned that has helped me work in a remote environment.
- Set communication norms. Having a sense of when to call a meeting or resolve over email or chat can help things move smoothly. On video calls (I use zoom), establish a way to ensure everyone can speak up. It can be hard for some folks to unmute themselves and speak into the oblivion (that’s how it feels without seeing body language), set up some expectations and norms that encourage everyone to have a voice.
- Communicate. . . a lot! Ever read a text message and thought, “well what did they mean by that?” Then had a friend read it to interpret the meaning? Now imagine doing that 40 hours a week. When you are a remote workplace, your main means of communication are emails and messenger programs (like slack). When you feel yourself trying to interpret tone, you have got to stop yourself ASAP! Here’s how:
- Ask questions to further clarify a point and assume positive intent– What does x mean, I’m not familiar with that acronym, or can you tell me your thinking behind this all work well.
- Explain your workload to help speed up or slow down requests. In a physical office, most of your co-workers can see with their eyes how busy you are. Not so when you are at home. You need to be more explicit with timelines, both when you are asked for something and when you ask others for something as well.
- When confused, hop on a video call. Chatting face to face will clear up most confusion 1000 times faster than a back and forth chat. If you are confused and chatting with someone, just ask them to hop on zoom. If they have time to type, they can have a 5-minute face to face chat.
- At the end of any remote interaction where more than two decisions are made, reiterate what you heard in a few bullet points. Does everyone think Pam agreed to pull the numbers and send them by Tuesday?
- When you are having an off day, you probably need to speak up. People are self-centered. If the tragedy didn’t happen in their town, they often miss it. On the flip side, try to remember where your co-workers are based and check in with them if you hear a news story about their town.
- Remember to take breaks. I know you are a hard worker and won’t be napping on the couch all day, but the flip side of that is forgetting to STOP working. Schedule that time for yourself. Get up and walk around the block. Find a coffee shop to work in and plan to go there once or twice a week. It’s healthy to occasionally see other people.
- When your company does get together, make the most of that time. I’m super introverted and often find large gatherings of people overwhelming. I would rather skip the retreats, but when you are remote, you need to build those relationships a little. Before in-person gatherings, make a list of 5 people you want to talk to and one or two things to discuss with them. This may sound dorky, but see point #3 and remember you haven’t left your house in a year, your people skills may be a little rusty.
- Get the right equipment. Buy a desk, a keyboard, a good chair. Pay for it with the money you aren’t spending on commuting and nice clothing. Your body will thank you!
If you want more helpful information on what it’s really like in a remote office, check out Zapier’s guide.