This week has held a lot of unprecedented challenges for our friends, colleagues, and communities. In an effort to help teams, managers, and leaders everywhere, we partnered with GitLab and asked a few admirable thought leaders who typically work remotely to share their number one tip for teams who have rapidly shifted to all-remote work.
What transpired was an open and honest conversation that was less about quick tips to #wfh like a pro, but more about inspiring human connection.
Stick to your routine… as best as you possibly can. Proactively plan what you’re going to do with your time that came from your commute. This will help you ramp in to work and out of work and it won’t blur the lines in between.
Acknowledge that this is not normal…It’s okay to be open and honest with yourself and with your team about that….Even as empathetic or supportive as your team may be, if they’re not parents, they don’t understand what a 10 minute interrupt rate looks like.
Create reasonable work expectations…Your team needs unstructured chat time with one another, water cooler chat, bathroom breaks, snack runs, just those normal life distractions in this chaos that we are experiencing. Be mindful of timelines and deadlines.”
Set the bar low, but clear it often. It’s super important that throughout the course of your day, your week, your month, you set goals that may seem tiny or silly to outline, but that you can achieve easily so you have a sense of accomplishment.
Custom fit what works for you, your culture, and your company. I think it’s important to drop the ‘remote is better’ or worse mindset or even conversation. It’s going to be better for certain companies, it’s going to be better for certain personalities, teams, etc. But for certain work relationships it just won’t be. So I think it’s best to drop the fight and fit the best solution for different teams and different people.
Courtney opened up about a shift in her own leadership over the past couple weeks at Holloway. While initially she tried to have her husband on guard duty outside her home office to intercept any curious kids, she realized that embracing the constant kid interruptions helped create empathy on her team, while setting the example for others that it’s okay to be honest about your situation.
By making the decision to let her kids come into the room, her coworkers got a first hand experience of what it is like to lose a train of thought when your kid decides they need to come in and share snack time with you.
One inventive way the GitLab team has embraced having kids who love to video chat is to go ahead and leave a team meeting Zoom link open at the end of a meeting for an extra 15 minutes or so and just let the kids join in and say hi to everyone and other kids as well. Darren explained that a new #juicebox slack channel for parents on their team has helped with everything from top tips, hilarious stories, and scheduling time for the kids to jump on Zoom too. This has led to kids trying to speak to each other from around the globe in other languages and parents gaining an even deeper sense of community.
Shayla added in a key takeaway that there have always been distractions, and will always be distractions, they may just be more personally visible now. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can treat each other more like human beings.
The panelists collectively agreed that this presented a great opportunity to de-couple our identities from our work or our job titles. While some teams may be missing that human connection from seeing colleagues at the office each day, there are other opportunities to create community. Whether that’s spending more time with your immediate family, emailing with friends far and near, or supporting local small businesses. By taking the time and appreciating the human interactions that are available each and every day, we can learn to find deep personal value in places otherwise overshadowed by career.
Savannah described this approach as being ‘old school thoughtful’, and encourages others to actively think where they might be able to create community connection. One example was taking the time to write and mail physical letters, in a time when physical experiences are rare, or brainstorm other forms of checking in with people and showing you care.
Darren’s best estimate is that we’ve jumped 10 years into the future in terms of remote work adoption. He expects that when the time comes to return to the office, many employees will not be excited about resuming their daily 2–3 hour commute, after experiencing that it was in fact possible to work from their homes. That’s something leaders should be prepared to handle, discuss, and possibly explore new long term solutions. What learnings from this experimental time of working remotely could your team implement once offices are open again? What can you do to help employees through that transition smoothly too?
For additional resources on working remotely, both Holloway and GitLab have created helpful guidebooks:
Savannah has also written about wellness and mental health when quarantined back in December: How Stay Sane During Self Isolation
And to learn more about creating flex and remote engineering teams, visit www.turtle.dev/hire