The Foundations of Remote Work (In Progress)


Hello, fellow humans who are now working from home! We here at Civic Hall have been “WFH” and dispersed across boroughs, states, countries, and time zones since March 12th! As our Director of Organizational Design, I’ve been working on making the transition as smooth as possible for the team and collecting a lot of helpful resources along the way. While tech tools for remote working can help a lot, as Matt Stempeck explained here with his article on Next Generation Tools for Remote Collaboration, how we communicate and organize ourselves while we use those tools is just, if not more, important. 

Here are some of my favorite picks, along with highlights to help you navigate to the information you may most need.

REMOTE WORK FOUNDATIONS

New to remote work? Don’t make these mistakes –  Many (if not most) of us are new to a 100% remote work setup. While some of us think there are perks to working from home (chief among them, the ability to wear comfortable pajama pants during video calls), there are also challenges that can make it difficult to feel impactful as a remote employee. In this brief Fast Company article by Maurie Backman of The Motley Fool, we are offered insights into three major pitfalls for those new to working remotely: (1) getting too easily distracted; (2) not setting boundaries; and (3) not having the right setup. 

Working during COVID-19: How to be good at video meetings Being good at in-person meetings can take some time to master. There are additional layers required to be good at video meetings! If you want to be able to prevent, mitigate or move through some general awkwardness you may be experiencing during any type of video conference meeting, check out this Fast Company article by Erin Barnes, CEO and Co-Founder of @ioby. She shares important considerations on being good at video meetings. Some important rules: (1) Make sure that everyone can hear each other; (2) make eye contact; (3) facilitate the meeting. One quick reminder: it’s okay to make room for some silences as we all adjust to this new way of connecting with one another!

10 digital miscommunications and how to avoid them – Communication always matters, but it becomes even more crucial to approach it with thoughtfulness when working as part of a virtual team. Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy, coauthors of the book, No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work, share with us 10 tips on how to avoid digital miscommunications. They spent four years studying the science of emotions and how that intersects with our work lives. Here are some highlights from the article on how to avoid digital miscommunications:

  • Add emojis (but proceed with caution)
  • Emotionally proofread your messages
  • Punctuation marks matter even more for one-word or very short sentences
  • Use richer communication channels when you’re first getting to know each other

TEAM- AND CULTURE-BUILDING

5 ways to build trust when your teams are working from home indefinitelyFor many who are not experienced in remote work, questions of accountability and transparency can generate feelings ranging from anxiety to defensiveness. Wade Foster, the CEO and co-founder of Zapier, suggests in this Fast Company post that many of these problems are solved by proactively cultivating a culture of trust. Some goodies: 

  • Default to transparency
  • Get to know each other
  • Focus on output, not time-in-seat

15 culture-building tips for an all-remote team Perhaps you have made some necessary adjustments to accommodate a remote work arrangement, but you’re feeling disconnected from your team when you’re not in video or phone meetings. If this is the case, check out this article written by an expert panel from the Forbes Coaches Council about how to build culture and improve morale in a fully remote team. Some good tips:

  • Develop a common cultural language
  • Encourage cross-collaboration
  • Prioritize two-way communication and dialogue
  • Host a team retreat
  • Have a non-work group chat
  • Establish check-in and check-out processes

The best virtual team building activities, according to real remote workers If you’re looking for some creative and fun ways to incorporate team-building into your virtual worklife, look no further! Sarah Goff-Dupont, a principal writer for Atlassian’s blog, provides interesting ideas on how team members can stay connected. Some ideas to check out: 

  • Virtual lunches
  • Social group chats
  • “My user manual”
  • Learning circles
  • .gif battles
  • Strengthsfinder

BALANCE AND CARE 

What your coworkers need right now is compassionI will speak for myself when I say that my usual practice of patience and understanding has been fraying amidst this era of social distancing and COVID-19 worries. Amy Gallo, author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict, offers some great tips in this post on how to center compassion with colleagues during this stressful and tense time. Some particularly excellent tips:

  • Accept that we’re all coping differently
  • Be generous in your interpretations
  • Accept that your coworkers’ home lives are now relevant to you
  • Don’t compare suffering

3 tips to avoid WFH burnout – For those of us who are newer to remote work, it seems that the lines between work and life can be much harder to discern. Since we are unsure about how long we will be working remotely, it is really important for us to avoid burnout. Laura M. Giurge and Vanessa K. Bohns, experts on wellbeing research and organizational behavior, wrote a Harvard Business Review post sharing tangible steps we can take to prevent this from happening. Here are some high-level tips:

  • Maintain physical and social boundaries
  • Maintain temporal boundaries as much as possible 
  • Focus on your most important work

BONUS
What type of remote worker are you? – My teammates at Civic Hall know how much I love self-assessments. While I strongly believe that people do not and cannot fit into neat boxes, I think practices of self-reflection and self-awareness can lead to improved outcomes in communication, relationship-management, and more. Shelcy V. Joseph, the founder of a millennial career website, offers seven types of remote worker archetypes to help managers and colleagues better support the unique needs of their teammates in this post. The seven remote worker types are: 

  • The Natural
  • The Honeymooner
  • The Overachiever
  • The Solo Act
  • The Introvert
  • The Creature of Habit
  • The Hybrid

These are challenging times. None of us have ever experienced anything quite like this before, so we are bound to make lots of mistakes. But remember: mistakes are okay. In fact, they’re generative and important when we can gently hold ourselves accountable to iterating, learning and growing from them. Personally, as an extrovert and an ever-aspiring problem-solver, in the first few weeks of this crisis, I think I may have pushed too hard to engineer a sense of connection between my colleagues, not leaving enough room for an adjustment period or for other peoples’ needs. But in an attempt to be gentle and understanding, even with myself, I remember that we’re all human. And hopefully, as humans before us for generations have done, we will find our way through this challenge, together.