Written By Kristen Hicks, tips curated by the Blackthorn team.
I worked in a traditional office setting for over ten years before becoming a remote coworker. If there's one thing I'm grateful for right now — aside from healthy family, friends, and coworkers of course — is that work-life hasn't changed drastically due to recent social distancing suggestions. Working remotely for a SaaS solutions company with a team dispersed all over the globe means fewer coworking space backgrounds and more kiddos in our Zoom chats!
For some companies, working remotely is uncharted territory. I was asked by a friend who works for The Predictive Index, a team optimization solution focused on building successful teams, to give some working online tips and tricks to help teams be efficient, stay connected, and communicate effectively.
Here are a few tips from our team:
- Talk with each other, just like you would in each others' office, through online communication chat tools. Use Microsoft Teams or Slack to communicate instead of email. If it's a conversation you'd usually have face-to-face, it's likely something you can chat with your coworkers about on Slack. It also creates a place for people to look back on conversations, so it's often better than an in-person chat where communications can be forgotten. It also cuts down on emails and creates an easy way to "conversate" remotely. But be sure to send a reminder via email on items that require action.
- Use video as much and as often as possible. While experts disagree about how much communication is nonverbal, most people agree reading emotion during conversation comes from body language and facial expressions. Enabling video lets coworkers read each others' emotions based on their reactions and responses while communicating. Video also helps alleviate isolation and loneliness. If you're anxious about these issues with your team, start the day off with a group call. Take five minutes to catch up on family and life, then dive into updates on yesterday's progress and what is on the docket for the workday.
- Create a "work area" at home. This is more for yourself, but it can have a direct effect on productivity! If your home is normally your space to get away from work, set up a place that reminds you of the office. Get a desk, a second monitor, and a headset to block out the noise and increase focus. Choose a setting away from home-life distractions like laundry piles or dishes.
- Most important: Be honest with each other about thoughts and feelings. Email and chat communications can easily convey false emotions. If you're concerned a coworker is upset or frustrated, send a Zoom link so you can make eye contact during the discussion. Start with an open attitude and say something like, "Hey, I got a weird vibe from your email. Everything ok?"
Moving from bustling, water-cooler conversations to the screen-time-only online scenario is hard, and it can take a toll on work relationships. I can honestly say I feel just as connected with our remote team as I did with past in-office teams. And after experiencing the benefits of working remotely — like increased productivity and focus, and being able to wear slippers — I wouldn't have it any other way.
So there you have it. Try these out, and if you have any questions, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Slacking! I mean the app, of course.