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19 Mar 2020

8 Effectiveness Suggestions For Distant Teams

We’ve long been proponents of remote work, our development team is spread across more than 10 countries in Latin America, the US, and Canada. Our admin team (recruiters, accountants, HR, and a few others) still have an office, but beginning with the coronavirus crisis, we’ve decided to send everyone to work from home. We’re sharing these eight tips to help you and your team stay productive while enjoying the flexibility of working from home.

How to be more productive while working from home.

Children sitting next to their morther while she works on the computer and talks on the phone

Have a “proper office”

Unless you live alone, one of the main challenges of working from home is keeping your concentration. If you have kids, they will want to play with you, your cat will want more pets, your dog will want more treats, and your older family members might just not get that you are actually working. 

One of the best ways to combat these distractions is by setting up a proper office for yourself. If you have a spare bedroom (or even a walk-in closet for that matter), set it up as your own private office. Make sure you have a door you can close, and make sure the whole family knows that you expect to be able to work without interruptions while in your office. 

Get the right equipment

Working from the couch sounds great until you do it for about 2 hours. Then your back hurts, you’re tired and you actually just want to watch TV. Having the right equipment is essential for a productive work-from-home experience.

Make sure you have a comfortable desk that is large enough to hold all of your stuff and have space to move around. An office chair with wheels is a must, it will allow you to sit during your working hours without giving you back pain. You don’t need to splurge on a Hermann Miller either, a good chair from Ikea will do just fine. Here is a list of equipment you should consider

Also, be sure to check out "Must have remote work tools for distributed teams in 2020"

Set up a schedule

We’ve met our fair share of people who associate working remotely with working whenever you want. In our experience, the most successful are those who treat telecommuting the same way they would treat being in office. Having a schedule is an important tool for productive remote work. 

A schedule will keep you focused and is also a good way of letting your kids and other family members when they can expect to spend time with you, when they can interrupt you and when they can’t. Share your schedule with them and make sure you respect it. If you start at 9 am, make sure you’ve showered, had breakfast, brushed your teeth, and are in front of your computer by 9 am. Make sure that during your lunch break, from 1 to 2, you are actually having lunch, and make sure that by 6 pm, you stop answering your emails. 

Sharing your schedule with other team members is also a great way of letting them know when they can expect you to be responsive and when they should expect to receive an email the next day. 

Track your time

A big part of working remotely is learning to keep yourself accountable. You don’t need to worry about your boss popping her head in to see how that project is doing, and it’s easy for some people to start slacking off. We find that tracking your time is a fantastic way of keeping yourself accountable. 

Pick your favorite time tracker (Harvest or whatever your company likes to use) and make sure to track your time live. When you start a meeting, click start and leave a short note: “Discussing new landing page mockups with the team”. At the end of the day, you should have about 8 hours logged, each block with a short description. 

For extra “remote employee of the month” points, you can share the notes from these logs at the end of the day in a quick email to your boss. Just let them know what you’ve been up to and what got done. 

Not currently using time tracking? Be sure to check out "Time tracking for remote teams"

Chat more

Working remotely means you can no longer peek over your co-worker’s monitor and ask him for a quick tip. You now have to write them a chat message, and this forces you to really think it through. There is definitely some productivity (and some googling skills) to be acquired by asking yourself if you really need to bother your co-worker about something. Still, you want to ensure that you are not holding back too much, or you will miss out on valuable information.

Nowadays, lots of companies use Slack, Discord, or other chat tools to allow instant messaging between peers. Make sure to use chat as much as you need to. Set yourself as available when you login in the morning, and if you snooze notifications (which you sometimes need to do to maintain your sanity), do it just for an hour or two. Make the rest of the team feel that you are available and don’t hold back on writing to team members when you need something.

Video call more

Part of the allure of working from home is wearing whatever you want, but we’d like to encourage you to at least wear a decent looking t-shirt and brushing your hair so you can have video calls. We know people who hate video calls, but we feel that they are an essential tool to make people feel like part of the team. An important part of communication is body language, and chat messages, or even plain old phone calls don’t convey it. Seeing people’s faces, smiling and laughing together, seeing someone frown, look distraught or angry, are all critical parts of building rapport and empathy with your team members. 

Woman chatting with a bearded man in video conference on her laptop

If you use Google, you should have access to Google Hangouts. You can also use Zoom or any of the other tools out there. Even Slack has integrated video chat now. All are easy to set up, and you can even keep an open video chat with a team member during the day if you are working on a project together.  

Share online watercooler chat

The watercooler chat is one of the office experiences that’s usually lost in a work from home setting. At the office, you would take advantage of the downtime to discuss your weekend, find out about co-worker’s plans and their family’s latest, and even gossip a little. You will need to make a special space in a remote setting for this.

In your team chat you can set up a “random” channel where people can post whatever they want, or even more specialized channels like “pet-photos” or “memes”. Share gifs and emojis, and don’t always keep it formal.

When video chatting, we recommend taking 1 or 2 informal minutes before a call to catch up on whatever you did last weekend, who won the ball game, or what concert you are looking forward to.

Decided on working from home? Then be sure to check out this extensive guide on creating a healthy and productive workspace at home. 

Enjoy your home

Last but not least, make sure you enjoy working from home. During breaks, go out and play with your kids, take a nap, or watch an episode of your favorite Netflix show. For lunch, enjoy a homemade meal. Get up a little bit later now that you don’t have to commute, and occasionally work from the couch. You don’t need to wear pants all the time, and for that really important client call, you can just wear a button-up shirt. 

If you don’t have a spare bedroom, you might be able to set up in your own bedroom or even a corner of the house. Set up a desk with your equipment and make sure to let everyone know that that is your “working zone” and that you expect them to respect it. 

Follow us on LinkedIn for more tips on working remotely and to hear about our latest job openings. 

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