Since the COVID-19 outbreak, several companies moved to remote work and some companies that already allowed remote work now are full-remote. I’ve been working remotely for a while now and it’s my third job full-remote. By this time, it was expected that people already got used to it, but I’ve got some feedback from people still having a hard time working from home, and if you think about it, it’s not totally unexpected.
At Pipefy, we’ve been working remotely for a while now, especially the engineering team, and after the crisis, all the company is working remotely. In the beginning, we created an internal guideline for our colleagues, but later it was shared to other companies.
I’ll share what I learned from my previous remote experience and what’s different now, starting with the transition.
When we work at the office, there are some things we take from granted that are not available in the remote environment. It’s very easy to just get up and walk to your colleague and talk. Just look over to see if they’re available. Water cooler chat. The list goes on. When we work remotely, no such things are available. The tip here is communication. The rule of thumb to make things work is to be strict with what you do, but liberal with what you receive. That way you won’t be frustrated when things go awry and you’ll be prepared to work around the issues.
If possible, set a place at your house to be your home office. Have a cave. If you don’t have a spare room, use some corner in your living room, but have a different table. Avoid using the same space for work and leisure. If you don’t have a separate space, have a totem. Use some sign, wear business clothes (you don’t need to wear a suit, just dress differently), you choose it. When you finish working, take down that sign, change clothes, etc. I heard from some people they leave the house and enter again as they were leaving for work and do the same at the end of the day as they were returning home.
If you leave with other people, be it friends or family, educate them. If you were in the office, you wouldn’t be available walk the dog, then don’t be available to walk the dog. It’s much harder when you have kids, have a nice conversation with them and try to make them understand.
However, don’t be too upset if you get interrupted. Take advantage you’re working from home to be closer to your family. In the office, you would get up to grab a coffee. Then get up and say hello to your family. Just be mindful to get back to work soon.
Video calls are much more disruptive to the flow. Consider writing first, calling second. Your focus must be having a clear and precise communication. Provide all the information your interlocutor may need. Be prepared for asynchronous communication.
On the other hand, do not expect to be handed everything you need to work. Check if you have all you need and ask for the missing items. Give plenty of time to the other part to prepare to give you your answer. Remember: what’s urgent to you may not be urgent to the other person, plan accordingly. As a friend of mine used to say “don’t make your incompetence my priority.” Prepare to tackle two or three tasks. That way, if you get stuck on one of them, you can move on with the others while you wait for the information you need. Be resourceful.
Finally, be considerate of others. If you have a task that blocks other people, do that task first or set the right expectation, give them a due date and keep that promise.
Do not live only in the asynchronous world. Human interaction is needed, we’re social beings. Even if you’re a cyborg and totally productivity-driven, have a synchronization meeting from time to time. In what frequency? That depends on the work you do. If you have daily goals, such as some sales team, a 5-10 minute sync twice a day is good. If your project is long term, having a daily meeting with the team and weekly with the stakeholders suffice. An example: in agile development, we have the daily meeting. Our team changed that to be asynchronous through Slack one day and synchronous over video call the other day. And I have weekly meetings with the C-level.
In the end, everything ends up in communication. Communicate with your family, communicate with your team. Err on the side of over-communication.
In the future, I’ll drill down on some of the topics above to show how I do them and what worked for me.