As the great Hunkering Down of 2020 settles in, there are many logistics to consider — how to manage your physical space, how to safely feed yourself, how to stay entertained, how to manage your anxiety — and though I am not an expert on many of those things, I do have some tips to share for those of you out there who find yourselves unexpectedly working remotely.
Our office works from home on Mondays and Fridays every week, and we have several remote employees who visit the office a few times every year; additionally, we keep core hours of 10AM-3:30PM, so a fair amount of our work time every week is asynchronous. We’ve been a partially async and remote team for years; here are a few best practices and pieces of advice we’ve developed, on how to manage communication and teamwork remotely.
Be verbose when communicating via the written word.
Text does not convey tone as well as verbal or in-person communication; use complete sentences and complete thoughts when adding items to agendas, drafting emails, and sending Slack messages. Innocuous but open-ended or ambiguous messages can cause needless anxiety and stress.
Get some exercise.
Whether that’s a run, a walk, or some indoor activity, physical movement will help clear your head and keep you sharp. If you normally get your activity on your way to or from your office, plan another way to get your body physically moving on a daily basis.
Don’t take things personally.
Back to our first point about being verbose — communicating is hard, and communicating remotely is harder than communicating in person. Never assume the person on the other end is a bad actor; there are plenty of other reasons things might not be going the way you would like. We can all use a little benefit of the doubt in stressful times like these.
Speak up if something seems off.
When you aren’t meeting and talking in person, there’s extra opportunity for confusion, misunderstandings, and errors; therefore it’s extra helpful and wise to keep a sharp eye out for anything questionable. If something is confusing or seems messy, speak up — not to accuse anyone, but to bring clarity to the team. It's possible you were just confused and now it’s cleared up, but it's also possible something was about to go badly and you headed it off, both scenarios are a win for your team.
Be clear about when you’re available.
Our team uses Google calendar religiously; we assume that you will be available and online during core hours unless you have indicated differently on your calendar. If your team uses a chat client like Slack, your personal status there can be a good way to indicate availability for smaller interruptions like lunch or your midday run.
Above all, take care of yourselves.
It is unsettling to be at home all day and all night, away from your coworkers and friends. Don’t forget to take care of your mental health alongside your physical; a global pandemic is deeply alarming, and having all of our routines disrupted is truly hard. Thankfully we still have cell and internet service; we have ways to connect even while we’re practicing social distancing, waiting for the worst to hit and hopefully soon pass.