We live in a fast-paced world that’s constantly changing. Thanks to CoVid-19 many of our clients, friends and family are immediately transitioning to digital remote working. As a digital agency MATES has been mainly remote and cloud-based since its inception, so recently we’ve been asked by a few people how best to prepare for what’s coming. We thought we’d gather the most important tips from the lessons we’ve learnt and share them with everyone to help during this difficult time.
Stay positive, be empathetic, and your remote work will be a success.
Remote working has amazing benefits and we believe it is the future of work.
We get to set our own schedules, streamline communication with our team leaders, peers or clients and even spend more time with our families. As a company we can be more agile, flexible and maintain much lower overheads. As individuals we find we are actually more productive, have less “bullshit” meetings and overall a better work life balance.
The heart of successful remote work and collaboration is empathy. When communicating as a remote team, whether by email, phone, messaging or video chat, it’s important to remember that there are other, real people on the other end of the conversation. And those humans deserve our attention and respect, no matter where each of us is physically. At a distance it can be so easy to forget this, as you don’t get the same visual and emotional feedback or see the consequences after the conversation has ended.
So, let us remember some basic rules of etiquette that will go a long way to maintain good relationships. And relationships make work so much more pleasant!
1. Consider your own environment
Nothing is worse than having to hear all sorts of distracting background noise while trying to talk or listen. If the noise is unavoidable try muting the mic whenever you’re not talking to help everyone else on the call. Ultimately, it’s wise to invest in creating a private and quiet space that’s off limits during work time so that you can focus correctly.
2. Invest in good equipment
If you are going to engage in audio or video chat with someone, at least take the time to make sure that they can hear and see you correctly. If you have a strong accent like myself you may need to invest in a podcast quality condenser microphone on Amazon. I personally use this one that you can purchase for under 25 Euros. Headphones are also you’re best friend when you need to listen and stay focused, so make sure you have a pair handy.
3. Look sharp and you’ll be sharp
If the communication involves video chat, show the courtesy of at least looking appropriate. We don’t need formal shirts and blouses, but look presentable for a casual office look. My grandad always said “Look sharp and you’ll be sharp”, and he was right. In my experience impressions are important and if you want to be treated seriously you need to look and act professionally.
4. Be mindful of others` timezones
Always try and set up meetings with respect for your colleagues or clients in different time zones. If you want to properly engage in collaborative feedback or creative thinking there is nothing worse than being asked to do so in the middle of the night or too early in the morning. You can use Google Cal or Outlook to help schedule meets but in the worst case just google “Time in Vancouver” to find out what time it is currently and do the math.
6. Stay focused and attentive
You may think you’re great at multitasking and juggling multiple roles at the same time, however multi-tasking while in conversation with another person is rude. And studies have shown: it’s less efficient than focus. How can you fully focus on what they are saying if you are typing an email at the same time? The simple answer is that you can’t. As the concentration span is shorter and only ONE person can talk in a meeting. It’s more important than ever to have clear meeting agendas with only the relevant people in the meeting. People deserve your undivided attention for the time they have with you. Turn off the phone, don’t open your email and be attentive.
7. Take notes
The only caveat for the above is for taking notes, which I also recommend someone do on every call. This allows you to double confirm that both parties agree on the outcomes and actions defined. We usually assign one attendee to take notes during meetings and then send them through to everyone after the call with the ask that they double check and confirm that they agree to all items.
8. Don’t be late
People’s time is valuable. When you are more than a minute or two late to a meeting, the message you send is that they or the topic discussed is not important enough for you. If an emergency occurs, it is your responsibility to inform the other parties immediately and re-schedule, not just be late with no explanation. “Sorry, I lost track of time” is not an explanation – it is an excuse that makes you seem unprofessional.