COVID-19 is a challenge we’re all facing. To be clear, by “we”, I mean the world. In response to this global pandemic, many organizations are embracing remote work as a protective measure. It’s a mentality that we, at Culture Foundry, have embraced since our conception as a company. (Surprise! Did you know that Culture Foundry has a primarily distributed team?). We didn’t do it to prevent the spread of a virus, but we have learned a lot about it: the pros and the cons. We’re nearly 10 years in as a work from home team—we thought we’d share some of our best insights with those now embracing the remote life. These tips are both tactical and philosophical (because what isn’t?).
Slack can be synonymous with whatever instant messaging tool you’re using for internal team communication. In a remote environment, there’s two things to remember: it can be fun but it can also get noisy. Those who are new to remote work can find it isolating (even those of us who are used to it get lonely at times), so be sure to find space for water cooler talk. For us, it’s our #random channel. It’s where we go to share articles, memes, or joke together. Our latest are all automatic bot jokes, GIFs (SO many GIFs) and funny videos. It’s the best channel at Culture Foundry. We also created a #coronavirus-discussion channel so our team can support one another with information and empathy.
Slack can also get noisy when you’re a remote worker. It can feel like someone is knocking at your office door every three minutes with a new question. Check out our old post on our best tips for Slack here. My favorite? Snoozing notifications. It’s my “get shit done” mode.
I don’t go a day without being in a Zoom room. Well except for Wednesdays, but that’s a Culture Foundry exception (best day of the week – FYI). We use Zoom rooms for all of our meetings: client-facing, 1-1’s, team meetings, etc. It really is core to our communication. We have office hours where others can drop in, recurring meetings with strict agendas, planning meetings, and even happy hours (because being virtual doesn’t mean we can’t all share a cold one!).
Zoom makes us feel connected. It’s as close as we get to being together in a room on a daily basis and it makes us better. But here’s another pro tip: the mute button is your friend. Use it when you’re not speaking.
1Password is great for secure collaboration. We share all our company passwords here to avoid overhead or blocking our coworkers. 1Password is currently removing trial limits for businesses so if you’re suddenly remote, we’d highly recommend it.
Task management tools are everywhere and greatly depend on the goals they are trying to accomplish. We’ve worked mostly with Trello and Jira. Trello is great for simple task management. We’ve found Jira to be powerful for our organization and how we manage projects and development (if you do opt for Jira — try Confluence for document storage). Other ones we’ve heard of: Basecamp, Smartsheet, and Asana. All serve different purposes, so if you’re really stumped, send me an email and we can chat about your organizational needs.
These tactical tools are great start, but there’s a few other things to note when moving to a remote environment or continuing to be in one:
- Don’t forget to ask people how their day is. It’s easy to jump RIGHT into work when entering a meeting or a conversation. Don’t forget that when you walk into a conference room, it would be abnormal to immediately start discussing an issue. Ask people how they are, what they did last night, or what they had for lunch. Working from a computer doesn’t remove your humanity.
- Take breaks. It can be easy to get sucked in when you don’t have motivation to get up. My Apple watch tells me when I need to stand each hour and sometimes, it’s a very welcome reminder. Get up, move around your house, drink some water and for all things that are good in this world… please don’t forget to eat lunch.
“Assume everyone is doing the best their best”
Now this is one tip that you may not find on other articles on working remotely. It’s also not one I can claim as my own. Vulnerability researcher Brene Brown wrote about it in her book Dare to Lead. She calls it the “assumption of positive intent.” In remote work environments, it becomes easy to lean into doubt or unfair assumptions and the power of assuming that everyone is doing their best is something I’ve found to be extremely powerful in my work, and my personal life. Here’s a few examples I’ve come across professionally:
- A teammate is short in their email/slack/etc. (any form of written communication really)
- Assumption: I must have done something wrong to upset them or they are frustrated at me.
- Reality: They may be having an off day or needed to get the message out quickly in between meetings.
- A team member takes too long getting back to you about a task
- Assumption: They are not prioritizing my task or don’t care that they are a blocker for me.
- Reality: Remote work is tricky! There’s so many ways to communicate and sometimes things get lost.
- I’m afraid to ask questions
- Assumption: People will be annoyed or think I’m clueless.
- Reality: People want to help! They just can’t read your mind. ASK THOSE QUESTIONS. Get clear. (Another Brené Brown tip: clear is kind).
- There are a few other notable scenarios that can be found here.
Give it a shot in the new work environment you’re encountering. If you dare, let it into your personal life. Assuming everyone is doing their best has a profound shift in the way we view problems and frustrations.
Finally, take care of yourself.
Anxiety is a storm that a lot of us are weathering right now. The unknown can be stressful. To be vulnerable, I’ve felt it and it’s something I’m working on every day. The bottom line: mental health is health. So while you’re practicing diligence about washing your hands, remember to take care of your mind too. Take breaks from the media (and when you are consuming information please do it from the official sources like the CDC, WHO and your local public health authorities), do something you love (as long as it’s within the restrictions set by the CDC), get enough sleep, and remember to breathe. If things get really overwhelming, remember there are resources available.
There’s some tips in here: some you may find useful, others you may not. Take what you need from this space. One of our core values is helping and it’s what we’re striving to do always, especially with COVID-19 on everyone’s minds. So please don’t hesitate to reach out to us or me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you and your business need help strategizing how to move forward digitally, we’re here to innovate with you. If you’re struggling with a WFH (work from home) issue and it wasn’t addressed here, let me know. These are times where we all need to come together to serve one another and we, at Culture Foundry, want that message to be clear. How can we help is something we’re always asking: to our teammates, to our clients, and to friends we haven’t met yet. So let’s connect. In these isolating times, it’s really important to connect in the ways we can. Plus, it’s our core purpose to connect the world with beautiful technology and it’s important we do that now more than ever.