The switch to remote work can feel isolating and surfaces a ton of questions such as: How do people actually enjoy this? Why do I feel like my team’s communication is off? Where is that document located again?
First off, these are valid and normal questions. Unexpectedly switching to a remote work setup with your company is tough and is likely to take a toll on morale and productivity.
That being said, remote work when done properly is linked to higher amounts of productivity and overall job satisfaction. But how do other companies organizations do it?
We started our very own #EmbraceRemoteChat on Twitter to ask exactly these questions to various companies and leaders of all types.
Gather round to learn their (tweeted) wisdom.
Over-communication > Under-communication
Our first question to various companies was, “Communication is key in any workplace. What is your favorite piece of advice regarding communication + the remote workplace?”
One major piece of advice emerged which we cannot agree more with: Over-communicating in a remote environment is key to ensure that messages are not only received but understood.
A common misconception about over-communicating is how it needs to be repetitive, rather, it’s about being clear and intentional at every chance.
A1: Communication is key for any team, and you have to amp up the number of times a message is shared, as well as the medium depending on the importance of information. For example, I tell my team to share info at least 3 times. #EmbraceRemoteChat— Stella Garber (@startupstella) May 14, 2020
A1: We've said it before and we'll say it again! Over-communicate and make sure the purpose of each channel is really clear. What will you use email for vs slack, etc. #EmbraceRemoteChat— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) May 7, 2020
Also, don't get stuck in a "slack-and-forth" when conversations get complicated. You just end up talking past each other w/ words rather than hopping on a call, which would most likely get to the root of the issue faster. 🗣#EmbraceRemoteChat— MURAL #IMAGINE2020 (@MURAL) May 28, 2020
Choose Your Toolbox Wisely
Over here at Trello, it’s no secret that we’re all using Trello (and many Power-Ups) every day for work. But ask any productive team and they’ll tell you the secret sauce to productivity is using not only the right tools but the right combination of tools.
To no surprise, messaging apps, project management tools, and video services are the favorites of many large organizations.
We asked, “Using the best tools while your team is distributed should be a priority, what tools/features are your teams thriving on?”
We’re currently enjoying staying in touch through @SlackHQ and digitally via @zoom_us calls while mixing in audio calls while going for a walk (where safe) to help break up screen time. #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote— Headspace (@Headspace) May 21, 2020
A2: (2/3) Teams have also been creating shared dashboards on Trello and Jira, sending brief status updates over email or Slack, or even starting each day with a quick video standup. -MC #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote— Dropbox Business (@DropboxBusiness) April 2, 2020
A2: Across the company, we’re consistent on using Slack, Zoom, Loom, Confluence Wiki and Google Suite. Within individual teams, folks are fans of LucidChart, 15Five, and of course Trello to solve for their specific needs. #EmbraceRemoteChat— HubSpot Life (@HubSpotLife) April 23, 2020
Close Connections At A Distance
A common (and valid) gripe of suddenly working remotely is how the sense of community among your team can be difficult to foster.
When asked, “How are you fostering a sense of community among your team members while everyone is working remotely?”, an overwhelming response included the concept of bringing in aspects of your everyday life to work.
A3: (2/2) We also love virtual team meetings with kids/pets/plants! Parents can enjoy time with both their teams and kids. The kids can then also meet each other! -MC #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote— Dropbox Business (@DropboxBusiness) April 2, 2020
A3: InVision is fully distributed, but some things we do to foster community include morning meditation sessions, Bring Your Kid to Work lunches, and happy hours. For day-to-day work, we make sure to open calls by asking about life, not just work #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote— InVision (@InVisionApp) April 8, 2020
Pros & Cons Of Remote Work
Before WFH became a worldwide norm, the trope of sweatpants (or no pants) was what branded all those teams who worked from home. While this may have some truth to it, many workers are discovering that the real deal benefits of working from home occur in the mornings—getting some extra sleep and having more time because we’re saying bye-bye to our commutes.
In addition to walking 30 seconds to your desk at home, the feelings of having more autonomy over your time and getting rid of typical office distractions have also been observed by teams and organizations all over the globe.
A4. A positive: without a commute, there’s more time in the mornings in evenings to hang out with family (even if virtually)— Twitter Business (@TwitterBusiness) May 7, 2020
A negative: ambiguous hours. It can be hard to let yourself unplug –– literally and figuratively. #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote
A4. (1/2) ✅: More time to dedicate to health and wellness without a commute. Lack of “drive by’s” and random distractions. Catching up with friends for virtual game nights, craft nights, and dinners. Finding out we CAN work from anywhere! #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote— Atlassian Confluence (@Confluence) March 26, 2020
There's a democratized sense of working, too - even though we've always operated under "if 1 person is remote, everyone is" mantra, it's just nice knowing everyone else is in the same boat as you are. 🛶#EmbraceRemoteChat— MURAL #IMAGINE2020 (@MURAL) May 28, 2020
That being said, the negatives of remote work are important to point out as well. For starters, the circumstances under which you are working remotely are very important! Nothing is ever easy when our environment itself feels uncertain.
Secondly, maintaining a work-life balance can feel tougher. With screen fatigue and blurred lines between when work is truly over. Telling yourself that you won’t “just check one more email” is important—a closed computer is a closed work day.
A4: So, what we're experiencing right now is NOT normal remote work. I repeat, it's NOT normal remote work. Usually, you can meet people and cowork, or have offsites. This is surviving a crisis with no childcare while attempting to work. #EmbraceRemoteChat— Stella Garber (@startupstella) May 14, 2020
Negative: Screen fatigue! It’s easy to get wrapped up in staring at your screen all day with work and meetings. Don’t forget to step away every once and awhile, even if you have to schedule in those breaks. #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote— Litmus (@litmusapp) April 30, 2020
A4: (2/3) On the flip side, working from home can make it hard to pull yourself away from your laptop at the end of the day making it feel like you're always on. Be sure to pace yourself & remember that your work week is a marathon, not a sprint. #EmbraceRemote #EmbraceRemoteChat— Atlassian (@Atlassian) March 19, 2020
Ask Early, And Often
Turns out, discovering what makes your team most productive and healthy while working remotely is as simple as...asking.
With responses ranging from using the pomodoro technique to exercising to genuinely giving employees autonomy—the habits and routines you can employ are as varied and diverse as successful remote teams themselves.
A5: (2/3) Lastly, we want everyone to continue supporting each other, while taking care of our families. This includes taking PTO. It might not include Disneyland this year, but it’s important to deliberately unplug and recharge. -MC #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote— Dropbox Business (@DropboxBusiness) April 2, 2020
A5: (2/2) Give people the autonomy to do good work, go deep, and make decisions with as little bureaucracy as possible. Managers are there to help solve problems, not give orders. #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote— InVision (@InVisionApp) April 8, 2020
Give A Virtual *Group Hug*
Last, but certainly not least, our shared experiences from working remotely are reassuringly similar. The main takeaway: it’s OK to not feel normal while the world is not normal.
Leading with empathy is always a great call, however, when we’re apart it is truly the key to all of our teams’ well-being.
Be forgiving to yourself. Working remotely during a pandemic is *so* different from working remotely. If you’re finding it hard to stay focused or be productive, you aren’t alone ❤️ #EmbraceRemoteChat #EmbraceRemote— Litmus (@litmusapp) April 30, 2020
5/ Lastly, take care of yourself. Have a little grace that things aren't normal right now - remembering that you're not just #WFH, you're working AT home during a pandemic. It's OK to ask for time off; just make sure you communicate what you need. 🙋♀️🗣#EmbraceRemoteChat— MURAL #IMAGINE2020 (@MURAL) May 28, 2020
A6: It’s important to reinforce that these past weeks aren’t traditional “remote work.” But, they’ve heightened some of the lessons: over-communicate, own your calendar, stick to a routine, and always lead with empathy.#EmbraceRemoteChat— HubSpot Life (@HubSpotLife) April 23, 2020
Here, there, anywhere, our chats about all things remote work live on our Twitter feed on @Trello. Whether you’re a team of 5, 50, or 500, working from home presents similar benefits and challenges.
Join the conversation and let us know how your team is working, no pants required.
Good or bad, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)!