As tech workers, we’re in a privileged position during the current COVID-19 pandemic that we can mostly self-isolate and protect our families and loved ones. My team are remote about 50% of the time, but we always try and be in the office for planning sessions, 1-on-1s, etc. During this period, we’ve had to adapt to being fully-remote.
Here are some tips for teams that may be adjusting to working remotely for the first time.
This is not normal
I saw a couple of really flippant posts on LinkedIn over the last couple of weeks saying that remote work is nothing new and people should stop complaining and suck it up. Once I’d hit the block button and made a mental note to avoid the thought-leaders on that platform for a while, it hit home that this situation is not normal.
Covid-19 is an unprecedented situation. People are anxious and stressed; they are worried about their families health, their income and everything else that is going on in their lives regardless of the virus. With that in mind, show a bit of empathy with your colleagues during this period. They might be juggling bored kids, staying in touch with family and figuring out daily life in this new era. They might not be as productive as usual, and that’s ok.
Ask remote teams for advice
There are lots of fully remote teams out there so reach out to people who have experience in working this way and ask for advice. They’ll be able to give you pointers on what has and hasn’t worked for them. Hopefully, you’ll be able to avoid some common pitfalls from the get-go.
Routine is everything
Have a start and end time, go out for a short walk or do some exercise before you start your day.
Try and keep the same routine you would in the office, say “good morning” and “I’m finished for the day” on chat to let the rest of the team know when they can talk to you. When working at home, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and your home life.
Don’t skip regular catchups just because they’re more complicated remotely. One-on-ones and team meetings are more critical than ever when you are remote as you’ve lost that face-to-face contact that you have in an office.
We’ve always preferred face-to-face communication as a team and are not frequent users of Slack apart from for small things. When we moved to fully remote, we took advantage of Google Hangouts a lot more to have video discussions.
When conducting group meetings such as standup or planning sessions, always have one team member who is running the discussion or presenting their screen to keep things on track. It is good practice when you’re all in the same room but especially important when you’re remote.
When on video conferences, try and use headphones to eliminate any feedback and turn off video if you’re experiencing a slow network.
Be mindful of your written communication when working remotely, especially when dealing with other teams. Sometimes when using chat or email, it’s easy to come across as abrupt or blunt when in reality you’re just busy.
It is a tough time for everyone, so please take care of your mental health. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try some mindfulness exercises or meditation. There are plenty of apps out there that can get you started.
Try and limit social media consumption. As a Twitter addict, this has not been easy for me, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of bad news right now. It’s also vital not to spread misinformation so please be mindful of sharing that Facebook post from your problematic uncle who is convinced that Covid-19 is a government conspiracy.
Also, try and have fun. We’ve had kids, family members and pets join our video meetings to say hello (and show us their dinosaur toys). We’ve had remote Friday night drinks, and like most teams, we’re still posting a lot of funny videos to make each other laugh.
Stay safe out there.