Remote work is a double-edged sword – it benefits employees as they no longer spend hours commuting to work, can work from anywhere they wish and have more flexibility. For employers, they now have access to a bigger talent pool and can hire the best talent, anywhere in the world.

However, working remote, isolated to the four walls of your home workspace, can easily become over-whelming, feel isolated and impact individual or team efficiency.

In this article, we share ten tips that you can implement to help you and your team stay productive and positive while working remote.

1.  Replace regular meetings with asynchronous meetings

Remote work removes the serendipitous encounters in hallways to get someone’s quick thoughts resulting in more dedicated meetings being setup which could have been a five-minute conversation. The good news is that most meetings can easily be replaced with asynchronous communication. This can be achieved by creating a collaborative document and asking folks to leave their thoughts, comments, and questions as they read through the document at their own time. In fact, this method of collaboration happens to be more efficient when active thinking is required by the collaborators.

2. Silent meetings

As shared in an earlier guide, the purpose of meetings is not to talk - the purpose of meetings is to arrive at ideas, solutions, plans, and decisions. In some scenarios, the meeting owner is not looking for an active discussion but wants to capture feedback, thoughts, comments, suggestions, updates from meeting attendees. Silent meetings are a great way to enable that. Silent meetings can be achieved by blocking time on everyone’s calendar, pre-sharing the agenda and asking the attendees to leave their thoughts and comments. A good example of such meeting is “Status update meetings” – attendees have a dedicated block on their calendar to review and update the status of their task or project, leave any relevant comments and they are all set! Shameless plug: Loopin creates a master document of meeting outcomes and provides status visibility to the entire team.

3. Document everything

Whether co-located or remote, foster a culture of documentation within your team. Every discussion, brainstorming session, meetings, feedback reviews should be documented. Super critical for project success - Follow-up all remote meetings with meeting notes capturing the key decisions, discussion, action items and next steps. This ensures alignment on the meeting outcomes and serves a good reference for future discussions. Moreover, circulating meeting notes is also critical for global teams when scheduling can be a constraint. Loopin has made documenting and tracking meeting outcomes a breeze by enabling you to capture and assign meeting outcomes right from your calendar.  

4. Keep side conversations to minimum

With adoption of instant messaging applications like Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. people are resorting to 1:1 message as they appear to be more convenient. However, overuse of these “quick messages” can be quite disruptive for the entire team. Since this a 1:1 channel, the knowledge and context exchanged during these chats are often siloed and is not shared with the larger audience. This reduces transparency in communication which impacts team productivity. Moreover, there are chances that the receiver of your message is in the middle of a task and would lose their concentration and time due to context switching.

5. Limit video calls

With world going remote, we have all seen a surge of video calls during our work. While video calls are a great way to build human connection with your team, it should not be overused. Video calls have been known to induce stress, since people are more conscious of their facial expressions, behavior and the perception of their actions compared to attending the meetings in person. This leads overall exhaustion and fatigue. Hence, it is suggested to have a healthy combination of video and audio calls.

In his post, Ken Norton shares some tricks and tips to reduce video-call induced fatigue.

  • Turn off self-view
  • Shrink the window
  • Occasionally switch to audio-only
  • Kill unnecessary meetings

6. Implement work-life harmony

Gone are the days when people are expected to work 9am - 5pm. There are many reasons why this mental model doesn’t work, including – 1. People have different work preferences and achieve their peak productivity at different times. 2. Employees have families, kids and other members at home and might have different or scattered availability throughout the day. In turn, teams should move away from rigid working hours and the employees should be empowered to work during the time that fits their schedules best. Work life harmony is about giving your team complete autonomy of their time and trusting them with completion of the task by due date. To ensure availability for meetings and other instances when synchronous collaboration is required, employees should strive for at least 3-4 hours of overlap with their team.

7. Rules of engagement

Establish and adhere to rules of engagement for your team. These rules are best implemented if created by the team themselves. This reduces scope of miscommunication and minimizes the anxiety associated with having the need to be “always on” or “always available”. A few rules of engagement to help you get started are -

  • Start or end meeting 5 min early so that attendees get bonus time to reset context for their next meeting or just grab two minutes break i.e. If you have a 30/60 min meeting, consider keeping it for only 25/55 minutes.
  • Implement meeting free Friday afternoons so that the team can use the time to wrap up their week - complete pending tasks, indulge in focused work, prepare for the coming week, or get a head start on the weekend :)
  • Avoid Monday morning and Friday afternoon meetings. This is usually the time to reset, catch-up on emails and plan for a productive week ahead
  • No expectations to respond to work emails and messages outside of individual working hours
  • Normalize “stepping away from desk” when needed. This should not be followed by any justification or explanation
  • People have different work preferences. Some like to start early while others work late. Share preferences with the team and accommodate them (if feasible) when setting up meetings

8. Consistent weekly check-ins with manager

Managers, keep your check-ins with your team consistent and regular. This brings comfort to the team by knowing that they have a forum to consult with you and to raise their questions and concerns.

Employees, use the time with your manager to align on expectations around short term and long-term goals, ask for help and invest in building a good rapport with your manager. We have curated a repository of questions to help you drive a productive 1:1 discussion with your manager.

9. Celebrate wins and success stories

Before remote work, my team had this sweet tradition of getting donuts when a new hire joined or happy hours to celebrate work-anniversary, promotions, launches etc. That is all in the past now! However, being remote shouldn’t prevent us from celebrating these moments and recognizing our team’s efforts. A few ideas to help you achieve this are –

  • Start your team meetings with wins, success stories or shout-outs. Sheryl from analytics team helped you deep-dive for a product launch? This is the time to give them kudos and acknowledge their effort. Rule of thumb – No success or win is too small to not be called out in a team meeting
  • Send goodies to your team and have a virtual happy hour. Send treats or care packages to your employees and ask them to join a virtual hangout session to enjoy it together as a team
  • Setup demonstrations, lunch and learn sessions or walk the store experience for your team. This will be a good platform for the team to present their project, share learnings with the entire team, get recognition for their efforts and help them build their soft skills  

10.  Schedule fun activities

It is extremely easy to be consumed by tasks and executing on the roadmaps for the year. However, it is important to set aside time for fun sessions and activities with your team. This promotes team spirit, builds inter-personal connections, and gives an opportunity to know more about your team member outside of work. This directly impacts the health and wellbeing of the team. A HBR guide on managing newly remote team emphasizes the importance of building opportunities of social interactions by either leaving sometime at the beginning of a meeting for non-work talks or through virtual office parties. The author highlights:

“While these types of events may sound artificial or forced, experienced managers of remote workers (and the workers themselves) report that virtual events help reduce feelings of isolation, promoting a sense of belonging.”