Many of us are trying to find ways to adjust to what is now becoming our biggest work-from-home experiment. Whether your organisation has adopted a sweeping remote work policy, or you collaborate with global team members or clients who have done so, many now find themselves in a new, potentially confusing environment.
The circumstances surrounding the coronavirus, and its effects on teamwork, motivated us to dig a bit deeper into what works, and what doesn't, when 'work-from-home' is the new norm.
Part four of this series is all about remote team routines and regimens. Breaking bad habits, forming good ones, and sticking to them.
One good thing about working in an office is that you can build a solid schedule. For most, this helps to boost both focus and performance. Commuting every day, having a proper lunchtime, organising your own desk, or even dressing in your chosen work outfit to set the tone for your day. These rituals create boundaries that help us feel safe and confident in our work.
But, they don’t have the same weight in a remote work culture, and some might find it difficult to keep an ‘office pace’ when they’re not physically among colleagues.
What's your structure?
Boundaries can go a long way when working from home. Structuring your day around a defined timetable can help your brain enter ‘the zone’.
Find a proper time to start work, to have lunch, and to end your day. Hold yourself accountable to that schedule. Treat messages just as you would were you in the office, and don’t slack off or wait too long to collaborate with teammates. On the other side of that coin, be wary of working during off-hours, when you’d usually spend time with friends and family.
This doesn’t mean fully replicating your office work schedule. In fact, splitting time more strictly between different activities is often beneficial here. Perhaps you can use mornings for reading and responding to emails and messages, and afternoons to focus on high-priority projects and collaboration.
When it comes to office space and attire, boundaries are important as well. Many find wearing their normal work outfit gets them in the same groove they’d otherwise be in in an office, and organising a dedicated part of their living space to serve as a work haven increases productivity.
This isn’t universal. For some, pyjamas and a dining room table are fine! But for others, structure is quite crucial. Regardless, find a routine that works for you, and stick to it.
As social creatures, it’s important that we interpret each other as more than commands and messages on a screen. When you’re in an office environment, a good team doesn’t only talk about work. Friendly chat is an important component of team cohesion.
Without water cooler or coffee break talk, the habit of casually catching up with one another can often slip away. Managers—encourage small talk among team members, be leaders and make this commonplace by using remote tools. If you’re part of a shy group of individuals, take the initiative and open up to your team!
Calls shouldn’t always be status reports, they should also be conversations. It’s as simple as saying “what’s up?” but these efforts instil a sense of trust and safety across organisations in a remote environment.
These bonds can also be strengthened by making individuals feel recognised in their work. When someone achieves stand-out results, make sure the whole team or organisation is well aware of this success. A team that achieves together, celebrates together, regardless of the environment.
Be mindful that this appraisal doesn’t take shape as a “manager thing” or a “boss thing”, but rather a team-wide habit of showing appreciation to those who do their best.
Practicing remote education
Learning and teaching requires routine as well, and webinars are a good option for introducing knowledge remotely. You can use slides or digitise posters, but make sure to first reserve a time for interaction. Virtual boards and online tools like Google drawings are also an option when trying to run exercises or collect data.
Training and workshops operate in a very specific way when all participants are co-located, but the challenge is quite different when in a remote environment.
Keep interactive during these sessions. Ask questions. Start conversations rather than just speaking at length about a subject. This gets people out of their comfort zone, encourages participation, and eliminates the common pitfall of the passive audience.
One final thought—it’s easy to lose focus when on a remote call. Interactions and games can help alleviate this issue, but what’s extra important is regulating the max amount of participants. This saves time, leads to productive discussions, and allows everyone to have their voice heard.
If you haven’t yet, check out the rest of our series on remote work culture series: