In the uncertain times of Covid-19 we are all shakily adjusting to a new normal. Those of us that are able to are now working from home. This huge disruption may permanently shift the work patterns of the future. Our Corporate team share their experiences.
The work culture of our Corporate Team at YSB has always been geared towards remote working. This allows us to keep ahead of the curve in these ‘digital nomadic’ times by providing flexibility and autonomy to our employees. Located in 7 different countries, we have worked on projects of various duration, scale and geographies. Today, we have successfully built a strong company culture without losing any valuable energy, ideas, trust or productivity in the process.
Whether an entrepreneur, intrapreneur or employee, we share one thing in common – we are social creatures. We rely on emotional connections to inspire, connect and motivate each other. What we found out over the years is that being remote should not stop you from being social. Thanks to advancements in technology and the use of collaborative tools and frameworks, we connect frequently, get to know each other on a personal level and manage to hang out in virtual ‘office spaces’.
Today an array of apps and tools are designed to ensure everyone in the team is on the same page, despite never being in the same physical location. At YSB we use communication tools like Slack to keep conversations going and bring the team together, Zoom to make remote meetings more productive, Asana to keep on track of tasks and keep us organised around priorities, collaborative programs like Google Docs to work together in the same document at the same time, Google Calendar to know when people are available to schedule calls, Mural to collaborate visually and solve problems and finally Clockify to keep track of time. These all make everyone feel they are working together under the same roof.
Whilst remote work may seem like a dream, the adjustment is not as easy as people expect.. In fact, the hardest part is not the logistics but maintaining a healthy work-life balance, being coordinated and truly feeling like ‘a team’ and making sure you stay mentally and physically healthy.
Below we suggest some habits to avoid rabbit holes that may lead to unproductivity and make the experience as effective (and fun) for all new remote workers.
Note that no two people work in the same way, so what works best will vary from person to person and must be adapted to fit your context, personality and needs ;-)
Having a separate and quiet space that you can go physically leave at the end of the day helps switch your brain on and off for ‘work mode’. Keep your bedroom or couch as spaces you associate with leisure time. For those working with a family or flatmates in their immediate surroundings, this also helps them know when to avoid distracting you. If a physical separate door is not possible, noise-canceling headphones are a great signal.
Work around the time you are most productive and keep yourself on schedule. If you are an early bird and want to jump start at 7am - you can! It’s great to prioritise important tasks for the period you are most alert and the less important stuff around the time of the day when you are more ‘mentally fatigued’. Otherwise it’s easy to lose focus and ‘make up the time in evening’ which leads to over-work. If you can, attempt to chunk your time with meetings appointments back-to-back with short breaks so you have longer ‘uninterrupted time’ to get work done. And don’t forget to communicate this schedule with your teammates as it is much more difficult to see when you are away from the desk in virtual life!
The way you start your day has a big effect on your state of mind and therefore your productivity. We don’t recommend staying in ‘comfy clothes’ such as pyjamas. Try setting the right tone for the morning and start the work day the way you would in the office: set alarm, coffee and wear some nice clothes). Have a glass of water by your side to avoid ‘clouding up’ and keeping the energy and mood high.
Make sure you are purposefully engaging with your colleagues on video calls, and have fun ways to communicate about non-work - to mirror the 10 minutes chat you would have bumping into your colleague in the corridor. At YSB we speak daily on Slack with specific channels for work, and other for more relaxed chatter to communicate about anything and everything, for example, sharing videos, books, podcasts and everything in between. We begin all video meetings with fun facts to form bonds and hear about our colleagues' kids, weekends or a passion they have recently taken up. We have weekly stand up meetings to avoid working in silos, centralise information and make sure everyone knows what’s going on in the organisation (even if it’s not directly relevant to them).
Communicate more than you need to, especially in multi generational and cultural teams, as you will lose 70% of nonverbal communication such as body language, tone of voice and eye contact. People then make assumptions which lead to misunderstandings, or you missing critical information about your colleagues as you do not understand their context.
Although making your presence felt is important, your colleagues need to know when you are not working. Especially with this set up, people can reach you constantly which means you can easily work 24/7. If you need uninterrupted time to get work done, or are going on a call, use the ‘do not disturb’ on slack or snooze notifications. When you are finished your work day or are on a break, leave your laptop and phone in a different location entirely to make this simpler for you. Remind yourself that an early morning or evening message or email can mostly always wait first thing in the morning for an answer.
When no coworkers interrupt you it is easy to lose track of time and work longer than it is healthy. In fear of turning into a hermit, embrace the outdoors once a day to keep a fresh head and avoid headaches that you naturally get from being connected to digital displays. We recommend short walks before your start the day or afternoon walks to ‘decompress’.
1) When you are not talking, mute yourself. This helps avoid background noise especially when there's more than 3 people in a call. 2) If you are not experiencing internet problems, keep your camera on to maintain effective communication with body-level language. 3) Unmute yourself to avoid interrupting and make it clear you want to speak next.
Give yourself some slack, be kind in this new situation which takes time to get used to, and where the team dynamics may feel different at first. If you question yourself, communicate with your colleagues, ask for help, tips or feedback.
The difficulty of adapting to remote work lies in making sure the culture of the company is up to speed. For this, businesses must change their mentality and embrace a different stylesort of workplace. This is a two-way street. Employees need to become comfortable with remote tools as well as having the discipline to work outside the conventional office environment, while employers must foster a stimulating, open and trusting environment from a distance where each individual can thrive and feel connected.
For this to succeed, it is increasingly important for businesses to clarify the purpose of the company and set crystal clear priorities to make sure that employees can align their work with the company’s strategy and goals. A high-trust culture, project management systems to share what everyone else is working on and providing regular feedback are more important than ever.
We hope these insights will help you feel better prepared for a remote set up in the coming weeks. Stay safe and look after each other!
Unusual Pioneers is a platform for corporate leaders and social intrapreneurs turning business into a force for good. Established by Yunus Social Business, The World Economic Forum’s sister organisation, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, and Porticus.
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