Millions of companies have been thrown into a remote environment, with little preparation or guidance as to how they can make this unique situation work. At ExperiencePoint, we’ve found that gathering firsthand information from experts in a field is a useful step towards innovation. As such, we curated the trusted practices of companies that have been working remotely for years, and who are adept at keeping employees engaged and productive while working from home.
Here are some of their suggestions:
1. Create random pairings. In any remote work setting it can be easy to feel disconnected from the team. Zapier, the global remote app developer, mitigates this risk by pairing individual team members at random each week for a 10-15 minute ‘pair call.’ “Sometimes cool new product features come out of these (calls), other times it’s just good fun,” company leaders write in their Ultimate Guide to Remote Work. “Regardless, it helps everyone better know their teammates.”
2. Prioritize time management. Lionbridge, a translation and content development agency, shared this tip from one of its global remote translators: “To best manage your time, you first must value it.” She argues that remote workers have to self-prioritize the tasks that are most important to themselves, their teams, and the business. When a request comes up that doesn’t fall in-line with these priorities, they need to be able to turn it down. “Part of valuing — and thus managing — your time, is knowing when to say no,” she says. “In other words, don’t take on projects that either don’t interest you or for which you are not qualified.”
3. Take a virtual-first approach. To avoid making remote workers feel isolated or left out, treat every meeting as if it is a remote meeting. This is the advice of Stewart Scott-Curran, executive creative director of Instrument, a brand communication firm with both remote and on-site workers. “Always make sure there is video-conferencing available and try to avoid hallway decision-making,” he says.
4. Enhance the mood. Start every customer call with a single goal: to dramatically lift the customer’s mood before the conversation comes to a close, suggests Katie Bapple, senior director of agent engagement at Lioveops, a cloud-based call center company staffed by remote reps. “That little extra effort will set you apart,” she says.
5. Burnout is real. If you want to be productive in a remote environment, the leaders at VIPKID, an online English language training company, advise that you must remember to take breaks. “Take things one step at a time so that work time remains a highlight of your day,” they advise in their eBook, Finding Success and Happiness through Remote Work. they say. “Find your pace. You’ll thank yourself later.”
6. Work when it suits you. Leaders at Collage.com, a 100% remote company, believe the key to productivity is to let employees set their own schedules. “We don’t set a fixed schedule for our team, and instead, trust each employee to get their work done on time,” says CEO Joe Golden. “What difference does it make if the work gets done at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. if it’s still ahead of schedule?”
7. Establish a distinct routine. Josepha Haden, executive director of the WordPress project at Automattic, starts and ends each day by checking in with her remote team, and she encourages them to do the same. “If you don’t have a standard routine you can’t notice when something strange or out of the ordinary is happening,” she says.
8. Remote workers take time off too! It is easy to assume that’s remote workers are always available to answer a quick question any time of day. “This is unequivocally false,” warns Michael Pryor, co-founder of Trello, the collaboration software firm. In the company’s How to Embrace Remote Work guide, he suggests that teams track their workday availability on a shared virtual whiteboard where other important project information is stored. “If it’s unclear whether someone is currently available, you can double-check the card to know for sure,” he says.