The pandemic we are now living through has put the entire world into a great experiment of forced remote work. Even before the days of COVID-19, businesses have been making the shift to enabling more remote work. Now, though, setting up a good remote working environment for your team is essential and potentially even existential.
Luckily, the tools all exist and are at our fingertips. Businesses can and will survive, and even thrive during this uncertain time, but it's important to take pause, adjust to the new day to day, and set up systems and processes that facilitate the new normal.
Most importantly, if you're a CEO or business owner implementing a work-from-home setup for the first time, do not panic that your employees will be home "slacking" – that's simply not true. We've found our employees are often more productive from home where they have less in-office distractions.
Here at Yeti, we've always taken a bigger-picture look at how we handle internal communications and made it a priority to codify them into how we run our business. While, naturally, some of our systems and processes are made for our internal team in house, we've worked with clients to help them create for themselves many of these systems and processes, too.
From these experiences, we've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't when coordinating efficient communications in organizations. Given the current climate, we felt it was important to share those systems and some tips we've learned along the way so you, too, can maintain a successful business and a happy team.
1. Use messaging tools like Slack effectively.
First and foremost, set up a standard way of quick and easy communication between your team members that doesn't involve email and phone calls. Save emails for lengthier communication and external communication, and reserve phone calls for meetings and check-ins. Many of you may have this setup within your organization already.
At Yeti, we use Slack. It allows us to communicate with team members working remotely (now all of us) and with clients all over the world.
We've found, however, that when left unmanaged, Slack notifications, direct messages and active channels can become overwhelming distractions, easily leading to a loss of focus throughout the day. We suggest setting up some parameters for the tool. Here are 17 hacks and best practices to help you use Slack effectively.
2. Create a standard meeting structure for employees to follow.
Your weeks should follow a standard cadence with set times for meetings. At our company, all of the teams meet on Mondays for a weekly action review. Here, we discuss the strategy for the week and allocate out the tasks that need to get done. The teams then have daily scrums and follow-up meetings throughout the week. The regular cadence becomes the out-of-office heartbeat that keeps the business running.
3. Check in with your full team.
We have what we call a daily huddle. It's a short, five- to 15-minute, all-company meeting designed to raise energy and create group alignment. Though it's a simple tool, we've found that it's become a central pillar for how our business comes together while remote.
At a set time every day, the whole company gets on one call, discusses good news, gives individual team updates and one team gives a show-and-tell of what they've been working on. This simple practice is powerful enough to build positive momentum within our teams, foster a culture of transparency and create happier team members.
We've found that by providing a platform for our teams to both discuss and track the work they are doing, we've virtually eliminated the feelings of anonymity and irrelevance that so many people cite as root causes of workplace unhappiness.
4. Have everyone on your team set up a dedicated workspace in their home.
This is incredibly important. Working from your couch in your pajamas creates the same vibe as your employees' Sunday morning. By stressing the importance of a dedicated workspace, you can ensure that everyone on your team is still getting up and "going to work," even if it is a few feet away from where they sleep or eat their breakfast.
You can ensure employees do this in a couple of ways. Some companies have offered to let employees take home the computer monitor that they have at their in-office workspace or have helped workers purchase the necessary office supplies employees will need, such as a small desk or office chair.
After we started working from home, we had everyone share a picture of their office setup in one of our general Slack channels. This made it fun for everyone to create a space that they could showcase. Employees did a really nice job adding greenery and family photos, etc.
5. Encourage employees to structure their day, and stay up to date and transparent with their calendars.
Whether you use Google Calendar, Outlook or some other calendar tool, everyone on your team should have access to each other's calendars. This makes it easy for employees to check-in with one another and schedule important meetings. Also, as you encourage employees to structure their day, encourage them to take time for lunch and even to get outside and take a walk. Fresh air and exercise are essential to keeping employees healthy and happy.
Finally, it is important to set "expected work hours." Have a time frame for when employees are required to be responsive and check-in with each other. This can be your normal business-day hours. But if someone is trying to get answers before or after hours, it shouldn't be required that other employees adhere to that.
6. Put a face to the conversations.
Make use of video conferencing for calls. When we meet with our remote teammates, we use Zoom. Zoom makes it easy for screen sharing, but it also has a great video feature that displays everyone's face, breaking the isolation that remote workers often run into.
Seeing one another improves overall communication, too. Video keeps it more like real human interaction and keeps everyone on the call focused. (It's hard to be playing games on your phone or perusing Instagram when everyone can see what you're doing.)
7. Keep your company culture alive.
Just because everyone is working remotely doesn't mean you still can't have team events like team lunches or even team happy hours. It might take a bit of trial and error to figure out what works for your team virtually, but keep trying until you find a good fit.
We have a monthly book club; once a month, we have a happy hour and discuss the book of the month. We plan on still doing this while working remotely so we still have that causal interaction. Earlier this week, we arranged a game night where people signed on and played a multiplayer game together. Jackbox Games has several easily accessible, fun games you can set up after fiddling around with Zoom a bit.
Additionally, we plan on having our weekly team lunches on Friday together – virtually. We will use this time to reflect on the current situation, share tips and tricks for staying on track, as well as what everyone is doing to stay mentally happy and healthy.
If you don't have a company culture where you share those concerns, there is no better time than the present to get close with your team by making a safe space for everyone to share their fears, vulnerabilities and solutions for maintaining some perspective during this time of uncharted waters.
While these are certainly new and evolving times for most of us business owners, it doesn't have to all be panic and chaos. There is a lot out of our control, but there are things we can still do.
With uncertainty and chaos happening in the world around us, we need to be the leaders building some structure and routine back into our businesses and the broader society. Hopefully, these tips get your team up and running efficiently and sustainably. This has worked for us, but what's most important is keeping a steady rhythm of communication that's right for your organization.
Pay attention, listen to it, and adapt accordingly. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or other tips you want to share.