All work styles aren’t created equal. So when many organizations entered emergency work-from-home-mode in the spring of 2020, the transition might have been a bit rough.
It’s not enough to take the team out of the office, add a virtual chat tool, and continue working. Remote work calls for its own special style – greater communication, deeper understanding, more creativity.
We’re still making the transition ourselves here at Hologram. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned and the new ideas we’re trying to make it more seamless for our team that spans across the United States.
Check in at the top of meetings: Remote work means fewer opportunities for social interactions, so add some humanity into your online meetings. At Hologram, many video syncs start with all participants sharing a two-word check-in to describe how they’re feeling coming into the meeting. (Two recent check-ins I reported: “energized, overwhelmed” and “getting organized.”) You can also use a “traffic light” scale and have your teammates report whether they’re feeling green, yellow, or red. A quick check-in can unearth insights about your team’s state of mind and change the tone of a meeting for the better.
Stretch the boundaries of Zoom: Happy hours at your local bar or cafe are fun, but lots is possible on a video call, too. I’ve been in Zoom sessions for meditation, gentle stretching, yoga, live music, and even virtual forest bathing. Our Zoom holiday party included a three-course dinner party, a magic show and virtual celebrity cameo visits. There are also ever-growing options like virtual escape rooms, gaming, and more. There are so many ways to stretch this medium so it feels almost like being together.
Switch it up with new tools: We can’t rely entirely on Zoom, however, and ‘Zoom fatigue’ is on the rise as we all log more and more hours video chatting. Try some alternatives to switch it up once in a while. Tools like Gather, Sococo, Branch, and more can offer a switch-up by adding a virtual gathering space to syncs. We recently had a GatherTown happy hour where we broke into small group chats and played games like Tetris. And don’t forget the classics: A simple phone call still works great and even feels newly fresh in a world of Zoom.
Create rituals to open and close your day: While most of us don’t miss a long commute to and from work, the one thing it offered was a clear boundary between work and life. Those boundaries can start to dissolve with remote work, so set them for yourself with morning and evening rituals. For example, try morning meditation before opening your laptop or take an evening walk to close down the day. Also make sure to set boundaries in all your communications tools so folks have true time away from work. This can be as simple as turning off certain notifications during certain hours.
Keep it organized: It’s easy to find someone to answer your question in an office, but a growing remote team needs all the information at their fingertips. Build out a searchable, easy-to-access information resource to answer frequently asked questions, like “Where can I see an up-to-date org chart?” and “What’s the process for expensing things?” For these questions and more, we turn to Notion, a web-based collaboration app that we use to house our dynamic team handbook.
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Praise and celebrate: Most of us would like more praise and acknowledgement, and it’s particularly important in a remote environment where visibility can be harder to come by. We celebrate “weekly wins” every Friday in Slack. There are also other peer recognition tools like HeyTaco! that can help inspire more gratitude and positive communication.
Slow down decisions: If you’ve ever used a chat tool like Slack for work communication, you know it can become a struggle to keep up as information, decisions, and conversations fly by at record speed. Especially if you work across more than one time zone, it might be worth trying to slow things down to make sure all parties get to weigh in on important conversations and decisions. At Hologram, we’re deliberate about slowing down decision-making by taking it out of Slack. We’ve developed a specific decision-among format that makes sure all stakeholders have the time to absorb the information, think about, and share their thoughts and feedback.
Acknowledge the shortcomings: Remote work has some wonderful advantages, but it’s also important to acknowledge its shortcomings. Communication without body language is hard. Some concepts can be tough to explain over Zoom, and endless video calls can get exhausting. Do your best to assume the best intentions in all interactions. (When you can’t rely on body language and facial cues, emojis and GIFs are a close second place. We trick out our Slack with custom Slackmojis, Giphy integration and more.)
Make space for serendipity: Perhaps the biggest element missing from remote work is the simple serendipity of running into a coworker in the hallway, or lingering in the break room to discuss a new idea. You can’t recreate this serendipity, but you can try to make space for it. We love tools like Donut, which introduces people who don’t know each other well via Slack DM, and encourages them to meet up (virtually or in-person), and Zoom breakout rooms can also create opportunity for small group conversations and bonding. We’re also trying some spontaneous lunchtime gatherings as well.
Include everyone: As you’re thinking through your ideal remote work culture, remember to think through all the varieties of experience on your team. Are you caring for introverts and extroverts? Thinking across all time zones? Considering the needs of parents and caregivers? Especially if you’ll eventually have some folks in office while others are remote, take special care to make sure you don’t create “second class citizens” of remote workers. There should be no advantage to being in the office over being remote/elsewhere.
I am always interested to learn what remote work tips worked for you. Drop me a line on Twitter (@CourtneySeiter) and let me know!
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