As most of us would know by now, regular remote work isn’t quarantine working from home during a pandemic.
It’s waking up in the morning and deciding what coworking space, coffee shop, country you want to work from – if you wish so. It’s getting to your conveniently close “office” or shared space you’ve carefully chosen – if you wish so. It’s curating an amazing home office you feel inspired working from – if you wish so.
Intentional remote work is all about freedom, flexibility, choice and productivity.
Nonetheless, over the last 6-8 months, a significant part of the world has been thrust into a WFH crisis, to call it so, with little to no systems, workflows, expertise, support on how to make remote work…work, especially in a team.
At Livit, we’ve been remote-capable since our inception in the early 2010s, and we have “birthed” and nurtured a well-rounded portfolio of other distributed or hybrid teams, some of which scaled to 100+ team members. In the process, we’ve learned a lot of things that work, many that don’t, and we’d love to share.
Side note: though I am mentioning a few tools in this article, this is not the main topic this time around – you can find those in this list I made here.
1. A carefully picked mix between synchronous and asynchronous communication
Synchronous communication means that two or more people exchange information in real-time. In most workplaces communication happens that way and people expect real-time responses. Asynchronous communication refers to the exchange of data between two or more parties without the requirement for all the recipients to be “present” and/or respond immediately.
Written, asynchronous communication is the cornerstone of good remote work practices. Yet, as Google noticed when they recently surveyed 5000 remote employees, a lot can get lost (e.g. humor, tone, emotion) if all is async. Some feel we can also waste lots of time exchanging messages when a five-minute call could provide answers to multiple questions.
So, at Livit, the default mode of getting work done is async (e.g. brainstorm and solve ongoing tensions on Google Docs/Spreadsheets; assign tasks, ask for clarifications and update your colleagues on how things are going via Asana). Most of us then sprinkle this focused type of work with a few time slots per day where we catch up with Slack messages and have synchronous meetings and interactions, usually in the afternoon.
As a rule of thumb, we make sure none of us (including me) regularly spends more than 5-10% of their work time in recurring, mandatory, synchronous meetings with the team. That’s an average of 2 to 3.5h/week. We also batch our meetings in the afternoon and have a ‘no-meeting day’ (Thursday). Too many calls and the team will feel burnt out. None at all and the team will feel disconnected.
Important side note: our cameras are on for selected meetings, but not all, to avoid “Zoom fatigue” and the pressure to look good on-screen at the end of a long day 😊
One of the objections to remote work I kept hearing before the pandemic was that a team gone remote would all of a sudden find it really hard to be aligned in terms of expectations, work practices, objectives and so on, and “pull” in the same direction.
We have a few things in place to make sure we avoid that:
a. OKRs and KPIs.
We use KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure our results and performance on every day/month/quarter/year activities. We work with OKRs as improvement goals, to experiment, build, try out new things on a focused, quarterly basis. Both systems and updates are fully transparent to the whole team, and ensure good alignment.
b. We briefly discuss our priorities for the week on a call on Mondays.
Each person shares their 1-3 top tasks or focus areas for the week, as well as asks for any help or suggestions they might need. All this only takes around 20 min for the whole team, but it brings us together at the beginning of the week and it pushes each of us to think and get clear on what’s really important to get done.
c. Culture Deck
Our guide, detailing our beliefs and expected behaviors, norms, policies, from how we deal with mistakes to expectations on how fast to expect answers (taking into consideration different time zones and work schedules) and much more.
3. A strategic combination of virtual socials and team building activities
Social interaction and connection are quintessential human needs. We want to make sure we don’t forget that, so we spice up our week with moments of bonding and fun:
a. Ever-changing coffee buddies on Wednesdays (30 min).
We use Donut, a bot that randomly pairs up two people for a “donut date” and offers a conversation opener if needed. The only rule is: don’t talk about work.
b. Team-wide virtual watercooler hangouts on Fridays (30 min).
We pick a random topic and chat away or challenge each other to a dare. The last one was: find the last song you listened to on your Spotify/playlist and pick a line from it you could use as an email signature. So much fun.
c. Quality, thoughtful time with the team every quarter
A few months ago, we organized a Livit Culture Fest, where we revisited our core values, talked about what keeps us connected to each other, refreshed our knowledge of the “Way We Work” and played GTKEO games.
More recently, the leadership team had a team-building beautifully facilitated by Garrett from Social Architect – we warmly recommend them!
We do all these in a mindful way, where it doesn’t take a lot of time, it is optional and it is scheduled at times when most people are either having their post-lunch lull, or their morning coffee, rather than in the middle of a focused work time slot.
4. Feedback & recognition
Once again, the truth is that lots can get lost or go unnoticed in a remote work setup. Perhaps it’s someone who’s pushed extra hard to make a deadline or close a deal, reinvented the way we do something which saves a lot of time, or simply has done wonderfully this week given they have one too many things on their plate.
So we make sure that whatever it’s worked, we highlight it. And whatever it hasn’t, we learn from.
A couple of things we do to nurture that:
- We have an ongoing Feedback & Performance program which we run via 7geese. It includes components like peer-to-peer feedback, regular 1-on-1s with your direct lead, self-evaluation, 360 reviews, depending on the focus for that quarter. While in many companies performance reviews are dreaded, at Livit they’re something many of us look forward to and use as a catalyst for both celebrating achievements, as well as further development.
- We have a special channel called “highfives-achievements” – definitely one of my favorites. It’s continuously populated with heartwarming stuff and always delivers on lifting my mood on a tougher day!
5. Genuine care
We don’t have this written in our ‘policies’ and it’s not something you specifically get “onboarded” or trained on when you join the team.
But we make it a point to look out for each other and make sure there’s always someone who can back you up, who asks you how your weekend went, and holds you accountable if you’re online during time off 😊
Your turn now!
Inspire us: What are your favorite remote work tips & tricks?
Reach out: How can we help?