Working remotely or leading a remote team definitely comes with a unique set of challenges. How often do I need to communicate with my team? How can critical meetings be run efficiently on video? What happens if my dog starts barking during a super important call? How can I stay focused when there’s cheese in my fridge? Etc.
Since the Startup Grind Team has been fully remote and global since nearly the beginning, we wanted to share a few #remoteteamtips we’ve learned over the years. These are meant to help you weather any new remote working circumstances you’re suddenly facing during these unpredictable times. But we hope they also help you if you find yourself working or leading remotely in the future, too.
Tip #1. Lead the charge by leading by example.
When in-person interactions are removed from our day-to-day, it can add a lot of uncertainty to the mix. Suddenly we’re unable to read reactions or see if our teammate is at their desk. A lot of time this results in teams feeling unsure about how to act, react, or work together. Luckily the golden rule of remote work is simple: lead how you would want to be led.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unclear on something, be the one take initiative to get people on the same page. If you want more communication from a team, communicate more yourself. You already know the things you’d want from others to help make your workday efficient. Use that to set a standard.
Tip #2. Overcommunicate expectations.
Being clear about expectations is always extremely important, but especially so for remote teams. We lose a lot of impromptu “casual questioning” when we’re working remotely. Small details that might’ve been nailed down while walking together to our next meeting can quickly get lost in the remote shuffle. The more you can highlight specific expectations to your team or teammates, the better.
Be crystal clear about deadlines or timelines when requesting an action or deliverable. Set calendar reminders to make sure your teammates know how often they should be updating particular documents. Share exact expectations about scheduling. Etc.
Tip #3. There are no stupid questions when it comes to getting clarity.
Don’t spend hours trying to piece bits and pieces of information together in isolation. If you’re confused by something, ask for more information ASAP.
“I don’t quite understand. Can you tell me more?” and “Does EOD mean 6pm or midnight?” and “By Y do you mean X+Y+Z?” These are all perfect examples of questions that help you get better clarity. Believe us, it’s much faster — and saves so much wasted energy — to face the beast and quickly clear things up with your teammate or team via Slack or a by jumping on a quick phone call.
Tip #4. Be quick to let your team know of unique or unusual circumstances.
Life happens. Sometimes at odd times during a remote workday. And when it does? It’s important to quickly update the team. If you suddenly have to run an errand or you know you’re going to have to get up to sign for a package during an important video conference, simply let involved parties know. Then plan from there.
Do you have to share everything? Of course not. But whenever there’s an unexpected or potentially disruptive schedule change that’ll affect the team, it’s best to quickly give your team the heads-up.
Tip #5. Assume the best from your teammates and always seek to understand first.
Going remote inherently comes with added “communication gaps” and “unknowns” during our day. And we humans sure do love to fill these gaps with assumptions. Why is my teammate ignoring my Slack message? Am I being left out of important conversations? Why is nobody responding to my email?
Go ahead and push all those gremlins to the side.
Always assume good intent before spending any energy getting unnecessarily frustrated. If somebody isn’t being as responsive as you’re used to, assume they’re heads-down on a project. If a Slack message seemingly comes across as haphazard or terse, don’t assume the person on the other end is being careless or is upset. 99% of the time we’re all just trying to do our best. Always start there. And, as per the point above, it’s always OK to ask for more clarity.
Tip #6. Make sure to prioritize human moments in your day.
Fully remote work very quickly dissolves those small — often unnoticed — social niceties we share when working together in an office. Being remote means you won’t casually catch-up with your deskmate before diving into a project. And you can’t chat about your coworkers’ weekends while walking to lunch. Small as those things might be, they’re such an important part of our workdays.
Be sure to maintain a good cadence of non-work connections with your remote teammates, too. That can be a quick “Hi! How are you holding up?” message on Slack or an occasional appreciation email sent round to your team.
Tip #7. Do everything you possibly can to build your ideal working space.
Working on the couch is fun for a few days, but it gets old quickly. Create a dedicated space for working that fits your personal in-office work style. If you work with a monitor and keyboard at your office, invest in one for home. If you like to stand in the office, figure out how to stand at home. Having a space that feels like your own will also help you maintain a sense of “working space” that’s separate from your “living space.”
Tip #8. Create a professional background “set” for video calls.
It’s safe to say you’ll be on more video calls and conferences as a remote worker. Knowing that, it’s important to consider what type of “set” you want to present during your time on screen. Think about your environment in terms of video calls and what your team will be seeing and hearing (distractions like dogs and kids, private things in the background, etc.). Ask a teammate to help you test for sound, lighting, and also ask them to point out any background distractions that may have gone unnoticed.
And speaking of video conferencing, just remember that the camera doesn’t stop rolling just because you’ve stopped paying attention. You’ve likely seen the “Zoom Fail” videos by now. Treat your video conferences like you would an in-person meeting. That goes for sound, too. Mute yourself when you’re not talking.
Tip #9. Set “Working Hours” on your calendar so others can understand when you’ll be online and available.
It’s super easy to slip into being “on” 24/7 when you’re remote. Suddenly we can sit down at our computers as soon as we wake up. And there’s no one there to tell us to leave the office.
Not only is this unhealthy for you, it also sets an unhealthy expectation for a remote team. To make sure you’re working a healthy number of hours, set some rules around what hours you’ll be working (just as you would if you were physically going to an office and leaving an office). Then share these hours with your team.
Tip #10. Keep your calendar up to date, even with your non-work time blocks.
If you know you’re going to be offline for a chunk of time, add it to your calendar ahead of time so people don’t schedule a meeting. This makes it easier for people to know when you’ll be offline. Of course you can set non-work events to “Private” so others aren’t seeing the details of your doctor’s appointments or personal events.
Tip#11. Schedule — yes, schedule! — the same number of breaks you would normally take if you were working in an office.
Think about what a typical workday looks like when you’re working in an office. You commute. You might have a 10-minute chat here or there when you arrive. You might get some good work in at your desk before going out to lunch with a teammate. Etc. Within that typical day, there are lots of little “micro-breaks,” often without us really noticing.
But those off-the-cuff breaks disappear when you’re working from home. It’s all too easy to hop onto your computer at 6am only to emerge in a fog after a break-less 12 hours. That’s why it’s so important to be strict with yourself about setting (and actually taking) breaks during your remote workday.
Here’s one way to do it: Take a quick audit of your typical office day and mark down every “break.” Then turnaround and add those breaks to your calendar. Then commit to taking these breaks hell or high water.
Tip #12. Occasionally change locations to keep productivity high.
Changing your view gives you a mental cue that you’ve entered into a different productivity block. Even if it’s just sitting in a different position at the same table. Move to new locations or change up your positions throughout the day.
Tip #13. Back away from your computer. Really.
You’ve just put in a solid chunk of working hours at your computer and you’re ready to take a break. What’s your next move? Most people open up a new browser tab or take out their phone. But when you’ve been staring at a screen for work, continuing to stare at your screen during downtime is energy depleting.
Give yourself a different kind of break when the time comes. Get off your computer. Stretch for 10 mins. Take a walk and get some fresh air. Lightly tidy. Read. Sit and stare into space. Etc.
Tip #14. Set mental boundaries by using “Start” and “End” rituals for your work days.
It’s incredibly easy for work to blur into home life when you’re working from home all day. That’s why important to set boundaries for yourself by always starting your day with purpose and ending your day with purpose.
One great way to do this is by creating small rituals to indicate when your working day has begun and when it’s finished. For example, beginning-of-workday ritual might be always meditating for 10-mins or working out or reading 15-pages of a book while drinking your coffee. An end-of-day ritual might look like physically turning off your computer or taking a short walk to unwind.
Tip #15. Remember the five senses for your remote work environment.
Oftentimes you’ll hear “keep your space tidy” as the #1 tip for maintaining sanity while working from. And in many ways that’s absolutely true! An orderly atmosphere has a hugely positive effect on your headspace and morale.
But usually what’s left out of the conversation is just how much our other senses play into our morale. Scent, sound, and sight are big contributors, too. When building your space remember to incorporate those other senses as well. Open a window. Light a candle. Play music in the background. These small things matter.
Tip #16. Remote work ≠ alone work. Ask for support when you need it.
It’s easy to feel like you’re in it alone when you don’t have a team physically by your side. But if you’re feeling anxious, lonely, or could use connection simply let someone know — teammate or otherwise. Remote work shouldn’t mean “alone” work. Reach out when you need to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Tip #17. Take each new day as an opportunity to experiment.
You’ll quickly learn that there’s no “right” way to do remote work. As with everything, you have to find what works best for you and then tweak from there. Take each day as it comes and experiment with different approaches to find your fit.
Do You Have Any #remoteteamtips?
Share them in the comments section below! We’re always looking to learn from our community’s collective wisdom. And as you’re adjusting to these new realities all across the world, remember that we’re all in this crazy time together. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Keep grinding.
17 Tips for Taking Care of Your Team, Your Work, and Yourself While Remote was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Jeremy Webb Startup Grind - Medium https://medium.com/startup-grind/17-tips-for-taking-care-of-your-team-your-work-and-yourself-while-remote-13240c964ee2