For the uninitiated, a sudden transition to working from home can be destabilizing. Without the benefit of time to put systems in place, your remote strategy might feel like it's been patched together. As a pro-remote team, we’ve written this guide to help you cover the most important aspects of remote working.
Moving out of the office means that your home needs to be equipped with the same level of equipment and security that you have access to at work. This can be as simple as checking to see if you have a bandwidth cap, particularly useful if you know you’ll have other people in your household using the internet. Your downloading and uploading speed might be impacted if, say, your kids are in the other room streaming online classes (or Disney+) all day. It’s also possible your workplace will want you to use a VPN, and you will want to make sure that you can use things like your printer while on it. Also important to note - public wifi should always be avoided. If you don’t have any other options, access your company's VPN to complete your work. You should also know what happens if your work devices get infected or broken, and find out what systems are in place to prevent malicious sites from impacting your gear.
Your team is likely to implement at least some of these classic remote working tools, if they haven’t already. Remote teams thrive when they can communicate asynchronously.
Slack is quickly becoming the standard for company communication whether for remote friendly teams or companies just beginning to dip a toe into offsite working. If you aren’t familiar with the platform, it is a messaging app for the whole team, with topics segmented into public or private forums. When your whole team moves remote, Slack becomes your office away from the office. You can use this platform to say hi to your teammates, check in with your managers, and collaborate with coworkers. The best thing about Slack is its transparency. You can know exactly what is going on in other departments via open channels. When there is a crisis (like a downtime) everyone on the team can know exactly what is going on, and how to communicate about it externally.
Slack has received criticism for being too distracting. It can become a problem when coworkers spend more time sending each other memes than doing actual work. But with the lack of face-to-face interactions around the lunchroom or water cooler, Slack is a good substitute for lonely remote workers when managed effectively. The best way to minimize distractions is simply mute notifications for a given period of time. So coworkers can still send you that message asking you about the latest project deadline, and you have the freedom to choose when to answer it.
Work management platforms like Asana help distributed teams stay focused. You can use it to outline clear tasks, define goals, and track projects. Since the tasks are displayed visually, managers can check progress at a glance and see where roadblocks may be.
Imagine if your company had its own personal wikipedia for all topics related to the business. Notion is basically the same thing, acting as a living knowledge base to reference and learn from. Knowledge bases are searchable, which makes them super efficient. Since employees normally spend 20% of their time working looking for information that relates to their company, knowledge bases can cut down a lot of that time. What we like about the Notion is its clean design, and the versatility of the platform. It keeps our operations transparent, helping us onboard new Teammates in a flash.
Tools like Payfit let employees request time off, check their payroll, and manage their sick days. HR and management can later filter the requests when they have time, making it easier to communicate about topics like vacation and pay. Managers can see everyone's calendar at a glance, which keeps information flowing.
When a whole team moves remote, company spending needs to be organized. Mooncard is one payment card for managing expenses, mileage allowances, and company purchases. The application logs accounting entries on the go, adapting to your activities. What we like most about Mooncard is that it simplifies the process of expense reporting. Reimbursements have a quick turnaround, and it is easy to analyze team expenses.
If you are looking for a creative management platform that would allow you to manage your design teams remotely, Bannersnack is the solution you should take into account. It allows you to share notes within your team, send design links, collaborate on projects, and give feedback in a blink of an eye.
More importantly, Bannersnack offers a wide range of functionalities that don't require any advanced design skills from you. It provides you with a huge number of designs, templates, and original illustrations. You will have an opportunity to process multiple design formats, including PDF files, create animated designs and download them in the most popular formats, such as HTML5, GIF, AMP HTML. Plus, you will be able to play with other useful features that will help you make your design routine far more productive.
Communication with video
When meeting face-to-face becomes impossible, webinars and video conferences are the best possible solution. You can still hear the nuances in someone's voice, observe their facial expressions, and feel like you are making personal connections when streaming video. Plus, this kind of communication is pretty convenient.
We’ve written a lot about ways that webinars can help connect displaced teams. Here are some highlights.
Onboarding and training
Webinars can be used to onboard new hires, and train team members. Grouping webinars into specific topics will help to streamline the employee onboarding process. They can be pre-recorded and distributed later. Or simply livestream training sessions and make the replays available on-demand for employees to access when they have time. Since webinars are one-to-many, training sessions can be grouped together and teammates can be brought up to speed quickly.
HR and Recruitment
Hiring remotely is easy with webinars and video meetings, and you can accomplish a two step process. First, candidates can be vetted through a company webinar which will explain the job position and company values. This helps to identify serious and engaged candidates (did they stay the whole webinar? Did they ask questions and answer polls?) and also lets them get a sense of company culture. The second part of the process is scheduling video meetings with engaged candidates. Regardless of where candidates are in the world, they can connect and share their enthusiasm for the position via video calls.
Webinars can also come in handy for HR functions, like policy changes or internal communications. When introducing new rules and regulations, workshops can be broadcasted to the whole team at once, and the replays made available to use as references. Teammates can ask questions as they come up, and you can answer them for everyone’s benefit.
Webinars are great tools for team meetings because they can be scheduled in advance, and be broadcasted in real-time. Livestorm even holds our own weekly team meeting as a recurring webinar. It’s a great way to remain transparent and keep silos at bay. Team members can ask questions in a question tab, or take the stage if they have any important information to add.
Finding your focus
Working remotely opens up a whole new world of opportunities to be distracted. A simple notification can be all the more tempting with no one around, and lead you down rabbit holes that are hard to come out of. This can be detrimental to your productivity, in fact some studies show that each time you deviate from a task it takes 23 minutes to get back on track. Doesn’t seem so bad to you? Let’s put it this way. In the span of one hour, if you check two notifications, you’ve only done 14 minutes of focused work.
These kinds of distractions have a huge impact on your brains activity. Phone alerts mute our prefrontal cortex (the place that controls decision making and high level thinking) and sends the brain into high alert. Your body is on the receiving end of emergency signals, all from something as simple as a tweet. There’s a cognitive double whammy involved with notifications. Not only do they stress us out, they are also highly rewarding. Dopamine is released in our brains each time we get a message, so we actually feel gratified when checking our messages.
So the first step for being a successful remote worker? Reduce all distractions that you can, beginning with your notifications.
For those of us who don’t have ironclad willpower (seriously, we’ve had 4 snacks today) blocking distracting applications and websites will do the hard work for you. Take our word for it, putting yourself in technology timeout will make focusing on your work a lot easier.
Classic site blocker Self Control lets you block your own access to websites of your choice by adding them to a blacklist and setting a time period. It’s impossible to access the sites until the timer expires, even if you restart your computer (or delete the application).
Apps like Freedom do the same thing for your phone, letting you block websites, apps or even the entire internet if you really want to. There are even chrome browser additions you can use to fine tune your distraction stoppers. Add-ons like Pause create a buffer in between the next site you open and your current task at hand, triggering a green screen for a few seconds before your website loads.
If you aren't ready to fully block your favorite sites, a good idea is to track your time just to see what the damage really is. Some phones have these built in, like iPhones Screen Time reports. You can download apps to track your browser use, and pinpoint how much time your spending on this quarter’s expense report vs your high school ex’s facebook profile.
Part of finding your focus also involves classic advice, like picking a quiet place that is dedicated to the purpose of remote working. That means avoid working from your bed, as experts suggest that it can increase your stress levels during non-working hours, making it hard to sleep at night.
Setting a routine
Classic advice tells you to get dressed for your day, but we have a message for all the remote work sweatpants fans: don’t worry about it. It’s more important to stay on task, have a structured day, and look professional whenever you have a video call. When you’re off the screen, lean into your newfound freedom and focus on the tasks at hand. Something we like to use to stay on track during busy remote days is Todoist, which is basically a living task manager. You can use it to organize your work and personal projects, creating clear guidelines for your own work-life blend.
Finally, an abrupt departure from the office could leave you feeling stressed. A 2017 United Nations report found that 41% of remote workers reported high stress levels, compared to just 25% of office workers. Have clear stopping times where you don’t answer emails or messages and communicate them to your employer. Apps like Headspace can help you detox after a long day at the (home) office.