The world of work is changing, and quickly. Two weeks ago, we were all showing up to our cubicles or offices, as we always did. Now, many have been thrown into a work from home situation overnight. With little to no preparation to lay the foundations for a strong remote team, the transition has been bumpy for some.
In times like these, it’s best to seek advice from others who have been actively managing flexible and fully remote individuals for some time.
Our team at the Sterling Woods Group is a matrix team with a mix of in-house and fully-remote colleagues. The following list is a compilation of our best practices we’ve utilized to keep everyone positive, fulfilled, and engaged.
1. Get on Video
If you have internal phone calls to replace meetings, move them to Zoom or Google Hangouts with video on! Being remote does not preclude us from building relationships. Video is a step in the right direction. When you can see others’ smiling faces, it helps to strengthen your bonds, even from afar.
2. Communicate Clearly
As best as you can, be transparent on your primary communication vehicle (Slack, GChat, or the like). The hardest part of the move to remote work is keeping departments and individuals up to date with decisions that are made. Moving these decisions into your primary communication vehicle will help prevent any issues with alignment.
3. Be Understanding
The majority of your workforce is going to struggle during this time of remote work. In acknowledgement of this, provide them guidance and guardrails with communication best practices. These will differ from company to company, depending on your industry, team, and needs.
4. Keep it Casual
Schedule absolutely random video calls to just talk and have coffee (or beer). Again, just because we are remote does not make us invisible or robots! The relationships we build remotely are vastly important in creating psychologically safe work environments. The more that can be done here, the stronger your company will become.
5. Use Ethernet
When on video calls, please use an ethernet connection. Video conferencing can be difficult with stutters, time lags, internet slowdowns, and more. Do your part in making sure that you are using the best connection possible for others on the video. Ditch the WiFi for a hard-wired connection.
6. Upgrade Your Sound
Similarly, if you have equipment to separate your microphone and speaker, please use it. You don’t need to have a Yeticaster or a $2,000 microphone, but anything to help with audio quality will make a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
7. Embrace the Process
In times of doubt, process is everything! Many managers rely on visual inspection to confirm their team members are staying on track. When remote, this is obviously difficult. We need to shift focus from visual inspection to adherence to process. When processes are accurately communicated and executed, it results in transparency and an alignment on expectations. And these are two absolutely critical elements within a remote workforce.
8. Relax and Stay Positive
Everyone is a little on edge with everything going on around us. Some people may have additional personal or professional responsibilities during this time period. Be amenable, and be the calm, positive force in your workplace. Being relaxed and positive will spread good vibes across your organization.
9. Default to Asynchronous Communication
When decisions are made, they need to be communicated. When you are in the office, this can happen in person and face-to-face. When you are remote, you need to understand that things ebb and flow within a household (especially with children unable to attend school). After any decision-making process concludes, share the outcome in Slack so everyone can see it!
10. Use Living Documents to Increase Transparency
Transparency allows us to build and form trust. Creating living documents that help onboard, align, and even educate employees—and that adapt to the ever-changing realities of your business needs—will go a long way toward decreasing anxiety and bolstering trust. In these times, trust is paramount to any other goal you may have.
As with just about any major change in life, there is a learning curve when it comes to getting used to remote work. It pays for all of us to be patient with each other as we adjust to this new reality. Leave space for lighthearted interpersonal connection in the midst of the hard work we’re all doing to keep pace with business from afar. If we’re able to come together and support each other during this transition period, our teams will come out stronger in the end.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.
We use a hypothesis-driven, data-supported methodology to discover insights that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right sales strategies, marketing plans, technologies, and resources to seize this opportunity.
About the Author
Patrick Hereford has spent his career combining business acumen with technological innovation. He has experience building software, integrating technology, and performing advanced analytics for companies of all sizes, from startups to large enterprises.
He has served in leadership roles at a number of companies, spearheading engineering efforts for Forward Financing and America’s Test Kitchen. He also has a background in developing marketing campaigns and designing and implementing market research.
He holds a degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.