There are, by my highly scientific review, about 8 billion articles on the Internet right now full of tips on how to adapt to remote work life.
This is sort of like that, but the quick-and-dirty version. It's a peek inside how we run the jungle at Tako Agency, which is and always will be 100% remote.
(Updated May 21 2020: it appears that the enthusiasm for remote work is catching on. Shopify's CEO today announced that Shopify will be mostly remote, permanently. Nice!)
As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.— Tobi Lutke 🌳🌲🛒🕹 (@tobi) May 21, 2020
Our team is scattered around the US and the world, across seven different timezones, and we still work together seamlessly to create awesome Shopify stores and mobile apps.
To manage the chaos, we use and highly recommend:
- Asana for project management
- Slack for team communication
- Google Drive for file sharing
- Google Hangouts for conference calls (video optional but not mandatory because we are not sadists)
- Hubstaff for time tracking
- HubSpot for email marketing and CRM
Those are the big ones, though we use other tools as well to keep things running smoothly. If you're trying to get off the ground with remote work as soon as possible, hit up those top four first.
As far as the squishy, harder-to-pin-down components of working from home goes, here's what our team had to say when I harassed them about it on Slack:
Andrei, QA: "Maintaining regular working hours is the best tip for working remotely."
Andrei is a man of few words, but they're effective! Come up with a schedule that works for your team and stick to it. That means NOT answering work emails at 9 PM just because your laptop is sitting open right next to you. Defining clear parameters for work time and not-work time will help you create boundaries that are critical for mental health and wellness.
Mallory, Tech Lead: "An actual dedicated desk or office space is great for creating healthy boundaries within your living space. It's okay to work on the couch occasionally, but don't get in the habit of it."
If you don't have a spare room in your home available, that's okay. Just choose *a* space, even if it's just a card table jammed into a corner of the living room, and designate that and only that as your workspace. Don't be afraid to get creative, either! My cousin once took the doors off her closet and jammed an ironing board in there to serve as a desk. 🙃
Check out this recent Shopify Twitter thread for some inspiration on unusual workspaces.
It's also important to get dressed. If your workplace is enforcing a dress code during remote work (?) then I guess that's that, but if not, make it a point to get out of your sleep clothes and into regular people clothes, even if it's just pants and a sweater. It seems like a little thing, but it does help your brain make the switch from lounge-mode to work-mode.
Darren, Development: "Sometimes if my energy is flagging, I put on my running shoes for a mental boost. Don't actually go anywhere, but it does help, weirdly."
Lindsay, Project Management: "Make an effort to say hello to team members before asking them for something right away. It's easy when you're remote to just reach out for asks, but as a result, we miss out on the "water cooler talk," which is pretty important for team building. Being intentional has helped me connect with remote team members on a human level rather than just a coworking level."
Consider encouraging your employees to take a break and challenge each other to a quick 15-minute game with Jackbox Games. Check out this helpful Twitter thread for other browser-based ideas for quick games and other team building activities you can do remotely.
Kani, Project Management: “Emojis have been really important to me when it comes to communicating with the team online. Putting a 🙂on makes things easier, and when it comes to something urgent, always panic 😜 .”
As you do.
Grace (aka me), Marketing: "Don't be a dick."
This is pretty much my entire life philosophy, but it applies even more than usual now. Look, this is a SUPER STRESSFUL TIME for most of the world right now. Bosses, now is the time to be extra-forgiving with your team. Give your staff a couple of hours here and there to go grocery shopping. Let them spend time talking to coworkers, to bond, vent, and help each other by sharing stories. Just...relax.
I'm not saying your business has to grind to a halt, because hey, we've got bills to pay. Here's the thing: how you perform as a leader during a crisis will show your true character to your team.
Two examples from today alone come to mind:
First, this morning I read a Facebook post from a girlfriend who works at a MNC. They recently had a division-wide meeting by phone to discuss the company's policies concerning coronavirus.
A 30-minute meeting quickly turned into a 2-hour slog as employees fired question after question at the suit in charge, desperately trying to find solutions to the abysmal leave policy being offered to them. (Essentially, "Die on your own time, fam.")
When the executive in charge of the meeting weakly tried to wrap things up by saying, "I'm sure we all have more important things to be doing," he was openly laughed at by nearly everyone on the call, including several other C-suite executives.
Really my dude? A critical health crisis in your area that directly affects your employees and their families isn't as important as The Project™?
Almost immediately after I read that gem, I came across a Reuters story mentioning a company that banned pets from video calls.
What kind of empty-souled, hollow-eyed, joyless cretin do you have to be to issue a memo saying that your cat can't be visible during a video call?
What difference does it make?!
All that does is suck smiles out of the world.
At Tako, it's exactly the opposite. If we're on a video call and we CAN'T immediately spot everyone's four-legged coworker in the shot, that's the first topic of discussion. "Where's Buddi? How's he feeling? Where's Luna? Why can't we see Pants?" (Pants is a dog.)
In addition to being decidedly pro-pet, Tako founder Z is also pro-nap:
"Take time to take a NAP, reset, and come back to work full throttle."
Life is pretty good at Tako Agency, folks, I gotta say.
To sum up:
Leaders: be cool, be kind, and be forgiving.
Teams: do your best, take care of your health (both physical AND mental), and hang in there.
...and go snuggle the damn cat.