If you’re one of the thousands of employees who recently joined the world of remote work, welcome to the club.
Across Mailshake, Voila Norbert, and our other Ramp Ventures companies, we have 40+ people around the world working on teams that have been deliberately distributed from the start. Over the past five years, we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to successfully operating a distributed team.
In most cases, remote work isn’t what people expect it to be. It isn’t lazy days in pajamas, nor does it have to be the “always on” arrangement many new remote workers are afraid of. To help you navigate this new transition, I’ve pulled together a few of my favorite resources and best tips as part of a “cheat sheet” for remote work.
I hope you find them helpful, whether remote work is something you’re taking on short-term, or a potential career direction for you in the long-run.
Great Remote Work Tools to Try
This first list includes tools that my companies have used successfully and have come to rely on in our work:
- Trello (for project management)
- JIRA (for software development)
- Slack (for team communications)
- Zoom (for video conferencing)
- Loom and Cloudapp (for screencasting)
- Krisp (for muting background noise during calls)
- FYI (for finding documents)
- Take a Break Please (for remembering to get away from your computer every so often)
- Placeit (for creating mockups, logos, videos and designs)
- Salesmate CRM (CRM for sales teams)
- Hive (to improve workplace productivity)
Also, don’t forget to make sure you have a strong password management system and other security solutions in place. A rapid increase in unprepared remote workers could put companies and their data at risk.
My Favorite Remote Work Resources
These companies have all put together fantastic primers for new remote workers:
If you like to listen to music while you work, check out the following “work from home” playlists from Lifehacker and Spotify:
The Focus@Will app is a great alternative if you can’t handle lyrics while you work, or you can search Youtube for “concentration music” for hours of free background music:
There are also plenty of social media accounts you can follow for both work from home insights and humor on the topic. Look for the #workfromhome hashtag on both Twitter and Instagram to follow along.
My 5 Top Tips for Adjusting to Remote Work
With so many other great resources out there on transitioning to remote work, I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here. But there are a few tips I’ve learned over the past few years that I haven’t seen mentioned as much elsewhere that could be useful for both new remote workers and their managers:
Tip #1: Get Used to Over-Communicating
When you’re just starting off working remote from working in person, there’s a big shift that happens – and it takes people time to adjust to that shift.
What ends up happening is that people freak out because it’s a change, and then communication suffers because people aren’t used to using written communication almost exclusively. People end up dropping the ball while they’re getting adjusted.
So the first rule of going from working in person to working remote, in my opinion, is to get used to over-communicating things. That also means your communication style needs to change. Remember, people can’t understand context with written communication. They don’t understand sarcasm as well.
One way to get around this is to supplement your written communications with Loom or other screencast videos that give more context to your messages.
Tip #2: Don’t Try to Respond to Everything Immediately
The second rule is to remember that communication doesn’t have to happen synchronously. If you set your expectations as a remote worker that you’re going to answer everything as it comes in, you’re going to get flooded. You’re going to wind up working on the wrong things.
Just because communication should be happening throughout the day doesn’t mean you have to respond to every Slack message or email you receive as soon as it comes across. Set specific times to check everything and respond so that you can still focus on your work.
Tip #3: Establish Communication Protocols as a Team
Whether you’re a team leader or employee, you need to band together to figure out exactly how your team is going to communicate. You have to set the playing rules. Like, maybe you’re going to do your normal one-on-ones, maybe you’re going to tag each other in Slack when you need an update, or maybe you’re going to shift your monthly team meetings to a weekly or biweekly schedule while people are managing the transition.
Keep an eye on whether you have people in different time zones, and pay attention to what’s working and what isn’t. Just because you decided to start out with one communication protocol doesn’t mean you can’t change it if it isn’t working.
Tip #4: Set Up a Productive Environment
Most people who are making this transition suddenly won’t have a proper work from home setup in place. What that looks like is going to be different for every person, but for me, it means having either noise-free zones or areas where I can listen to music while I work. And I need to change things up every once in a while. For example, I might work on my laptop from my kitchen counter in the mornings, but then I’ll do meetings in my office in the afternoon.
Figure out what works for you, and expect that you’ll need to adjust your schedule as you go. You might be dealing with childcare at home unexpectedly, or you may need to be able to get out to support elderly relatives. Pay attention to your energy levels and your new routines, and figure out how to work around them as needed.
Tip #5: Remember That You’re Not In This Alone
Just because you’re working remote doesn’t mean you’re working alone. Every single day, to ward off potential loneliness, I try to do a video chat or talk to someone on my team. When possible, I try to set up in-person meetings with people outside my companies once a week – whether that’s entrepreneurs or other people in my network.
Obviously, a lot of those in-person meetings are on hold right now, so I’m trying to be more active in Facebook Groups and Slack chats. Make time for your community. Having a strong network is critical during these times, and it’ll go a long way towards helping you feel as if you aren’t alone amidst all these changes.
A Special Note for Managers
My tips above are largely geared towards employees who are managing this sudden transition to remote work. But if you manage a team, expect your regular workflows to change as well.
As you’ve probably noticed, you can’t just walk over to someone’s desk or talk to them the way that you used to. That makes it more important than ever that you have a structure to your communications, as well as clear systems and processes for making sure things get done on your team.
Two systems I recommend for figuring out how to develop new managerial protocols include the Entrepreneur Operating System (EOS), from the book Traction by Gino Wickman and those described in Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish.
Whatever you choose, give it time to see whether or not it’s working. Right now, I typically have one-on-ones with my team, as well as team meetings by department where we set the priorities we need to execute on in the following week. And then, between those meetings, if there’s something we need to chat about, we’ll connect through Slack and email. We also use Trello and JIRA to keep projects moving forward.
Since we’ve been doing this so long, we’ve gotten to the point where we can do biweekly or even monthly check-ins without losing progress. But if you’re new to managing remote, go weekly.
With weekly meetings and one-on-ones, you’ll have two touch points with every individual and one touch point with the team as a whole. If things don’t work out, then everything is only going to be delayed one week before you have the next check-in. If you feel like the process isn’t working, change the process to work for you.
Just give your team members a little grace as they figure everything out. I’m hearing some reports of newly remote managers who are asking for hourly productivity reports or immediate responses from their team members. And I understand how hard it can be to trust that you’ll be able to sustain the same level of productivity if you can’t see your workers face to face. But don’t add to their burden. Trust the process, and adapt your systems as needed. Remember that rapid transitions such as these can be tough on everyone. You’ll figure out a way forward faster if you lead from a place of empathy.
Now, I want to hear from you. What other work from home resources or tips have been most helpful for you? Leave a comment sharing your thoughts below:
Image Source: Unsplash