To maximize the value of remote work, each team member should focus on maximizing the time spend on Core Work, ensure that Communication is efficient and utilize the most efficient tools and systems for everything else.
I’ve pieced together this guide for my own team from a number of articles I’ve read over the past 10 months. If you are interested in creating a guide for your team, I strongly encourage you to read the source material and customize a guide that works for your team.
The Three Key Activities of Remote Work
Jory MacKay, RescueTime identifies three key areas of remote work:
- Core work: This is your core contribution to the team, and should contribute to your objective outcome (software development for developers, writing for writers, designing for designers, etc…)
- Communication: Writing, emails, chats, calls, and meetings
- Everything else: File management (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc..), mandatory training, company all-hands meetings, or anything else that don’t fit into one of the above buckets
Remote workers had a 4% increase in average daily time spent on their core work and an 18% decrease in time spent on communication
Communication Should Be Distributed
Alex Moore of Dropbox offers the following points the A guide to remote work etiquette:
When your interactions are virtual there’s more room for misinterpretation. Signals can get magnified and take on greater importance. We should continue building positive relationships with colleagues, and to redefine some things we used to take for granted and embrace new behaviors.
Make no assumptions
Avoid the the presumption of availability, assume unavailability as the default.
In the office, firing off a Slack message like “Hey quick question” seemed harmless enough but in distributed work you have no idea what your colleagues are up to at a given time or when they’re available to you.
- Look at someone’s status to see if they are available for a chat conversation before you start one
- If their status is set to “Away” or their notifications are snoozed, they don’t want to talk
- Before you DM or @ mention someone to engage them in a chat, check their calendar to make sure they’re not in a meeting
- Slack light up with notifications mid-meeting is the worst!
- Consult your coworkers’ calendars for conflicts before scheduling a meeting.
- There is nothing more off-putting than having a meeting drop on your calendar when you’ve already got a meeting
- Always add an agenda or meeting description so people know what they’re walking into and why
- Give people the opportunity to opt-out or send a delegate
Respect others’ time as if it were your own
Intentionally take steps to not waste time is key in a remote-first environment
- Before sending an email outside of work hours, ask yourself whether it’s urgent.
- Are you sending it because someone needs to receive it now, or just to get it off your plate?
- If the latter, use your email scheduler to deliver it the next workday after 9am.
- Before scheduling any meeting, ask yourself, Does this really need to be a meeting?
- Could I just email and wait for a reply?
- Don’t DM or @ mention coworkers at night and on weekends, unless it’s really important
- Many people feel pressure to reply to direct messages in chat right away, especially if you are their boss
- If you’re starting a chat, batch your thoughts into one message instead of sending multiple messages
- Batch your comments when leaving feedback on a doc, so notifications come in all at once
- When you send a link to an article or doc through Slack, and have something to say about it, use the command to link on your written comment rather than just pasting the URL as a separate comment.
- After you hit send, click the little x at the left to “remove preview.”
Be Mindful with Video & Voice Calls
Laurel Farrer at Yonder.Io has a great list of Commandments of Remote Work Etiquette that were certainly a good idea pre-COVID. With everyone forced to work remote, whether they wanted to or not, the rules of engagement have changed.
Avoid calls in busy public spaces Being aware of the people and noise around you. Background noise can be distracting and you’ll spend the entire call on mute. Be aware of discussing potentially sensitive topics while in a public space.
Always provide a time zone when scheduling a meeting Avoid the back-and-forth of your-time/my-time with 3 simple letters. Know the correct time zone abbreviations.
Test your audio and/or video before a call Check the camera alignment and microphone using the internal settings dashboard. If you are concerned about bandwidth, make a test call with a friend.
If you are riding in a car and connectivity is critical, have the driver pull over until you’ve completed your call.
Prep for the call For video calls take time to adjust your camera to be at eye level, clear your background of any embarrassing items. Or better yet set up in front of a piece of art, bookshelf, or even a blank wall. Also ensure that your face is fully lit and visible.
Pay attention and avoid multitasking Be mindful of everyone’s time and focus on the meeting. If your Slack notifications are going off in the background, have a look at the Slack user guide for details on how to snooze notifications until the call is over.
Know what you sound like Make sure your audio comes through loud and clear and there isn’t a lot of background noise. If you are using your laptop speakers and mic, just don’t Invest in a headset, earbuds with mic, or other stand alone microphone.
Be respectful of time Be intentional about gathering this information. Never assume you are anyone’s highest priority. Always check the other person’s Slack status to see if they are available before reaching out.
For working meetings use an agenda For any meeting where a specific topic needs to be covered, a decision made, or outcomes or action items assigned, always use an agenda.
Before the call, distribute the topics to be discussed, then stick to the allotted time during the call.
Try not to be late Meetings run over, you need a moment for a bio-break or to stretch between back-to-back meetings. Be a pal and let all attendees know at least a few minutes in advance.