Although many companies around the world are going back to the office, remote work is here to stay: according to this Gartner study, 70% of employees have stated they would rather continue to work remotely, and 82% of companies are adopting more flexible work models. If you’re working remotely, we’ve gathered this list of tips to help you make the best out of your experience, avoid the pits of remote work.
1. Zoom Chat
Do you miss having informal and spontaneous conversations with your colleagues? Well, Zoom and all the similar video calling platforms can help. We recommend using them not only for work-related meetings but also for casual catch-ups with your team. These conversations not only help with building deeper connections, but they also improve our interpersonal skills, which eventually creates more trust and confidence among team members. With greater trust, there is greater innovation and performance, as teams feel more comfortable and safe experimenting and developing breakthrough ideas.
Pro Tip: Keep a Zoom conversation running at all times, and share the link with colleagues so they can pop in and have a chat whenever they can!
2. Team Lunch on Zoom
People across different cultures have always bonded over enjoying their meals together. Why not do that over a Zoom call? Schedule a meeting with your colleague or team and have lunch together online. You can even plan to all enjoy the same dish (did someone say, pasta party?) This ritual creates the space for casual conversations, can open the door for more cultural exchange and maybe even inspire some banter.
3. Check-in with Others
When working remotely, it's easy to go from conference call to conference call discussing tasks and deadlines without meaningfully checking in with your teams. But giving someone the opportunity to express how they truly feel can have a lasting impact on the psychological safety of a team. We suggest starting your meetings with deliberate check-ins and ask your team mates how they are really doing.
Pro tip: Aion is an emotional intelligence platform designed to help hybrid or virtual teams share vital information with each other. You can share your moods every morning and afternoon so teams have a sense of how everyone is feeling. It’s an easy way to contribute to greater team collaboration and cohesion. The new Chrome Extension even includes daily icebreaker questions to help you get conversations started.
4. Create a Playlist
Do you listen to music when you work? Music can boost your energy when you need to get your productivity mode on, or it can help you relax if you’re too overwhelmed and need something soothing. Create playlists with your favorite tracks that fit your paces, and if you’re running out of ideas, check out the music recommended by our Future of Teams Conference speakers. There’s something for everyone.
5. Get Creative!
Virtual meetings with coworkers or friends are a great opportunity to have light-hearted connections with each other. Get creative in using Zoom filters and virtual backgrounds in occasions such as birthday celebrations. These can be good conversation starters and tools that foster cohesion among team members.
6. Make introductions
How many times have your kids or pets made a sudden appearance at a virtual meeting? We recommend not making a big deal out of these moments and rather, seize the opportunity to introduce your colleagues to your kids or pets and get them to know the version of yourself that doesn’t usually come to work.
7. Timing is everything
Having coworkers spread all over the globe can be tricky in terms of accounting for time differences. We suggest finding a tool or feature within your calendar that helps you become aware of your colleagues’ time zones and working hours.
Pro Tip: With Aion your team can input their time zones and change it as they travel. This feature enables colleagues to be constantly aware of when and how to schedule their meetings and in turn, facilitate their work.
Now more than ever, highly functional teams are the real assets of organizations. Whether you're a team member or a team lead, you need to develop and strengthen the tools and processes the team needs to operate. We recommend hosting a retrospective to see what you can do as a team to improve your collaboration, cohesion, communication and performance.
9. Establish Rituals
Rituals are necessary to foster shared culture, collaboration and connectivity among your team members. Whether they are work related (e.g.: daily standups) or not (e.g.: celebrating birthdays virtually), these activities are important for promoting the sense of community in a virtual team.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out our ritual bank.
10. Use Connectivity Tools
There are a variety of tools that can help foster greater team cohesion. Donut connects to your Slack channel and analyses the interactions of your team members. If two people haven't spoken in a while it suggests a meeting or virtual call, from casual coffees to 1:1s with the CEO, by sending an invite to both team members. It also helps connect people from different teams and departments, and if like most of us, your team now works from home it's also a great way to fight isolation.
11. Virtual Post-It Notes
If you’re used to having your colorful sticky notes posted all over the office, you can still do that virtually! Pinup is a simple and efficient online "post-it" board. It allows you to design a board, prepare a different instance of it for each team member to work on individually, and then copy their "post-its" onto a main board when they're ready. It can be used as an idea bank, to keep reminders, or when hosting a virtual brainstorming.
12. Setting Boundaries
We’ve all heard about Zoom fatigue and burnout, but rather than dwell on the problem, we want to share a solution. We recommend setting boundaries for your time. Be explicit and specify when your workspace becomes active, and when it's time to call it a day. You can use a morning ritual like playing a song to start your day or filling your time sheets at the end of the day to wrap it up. We also recommend separating your workspace from other areas at home. But we know this can be hard, especially if you live in a studio.
Pro Tip: If your space is small, section it out. One of our Cosmic Community members suggests using different sides of your bed to create a separation between your work and rest space.
13. Respecting Space
If you are living with others and you want to communicate something to them, respect their workspace and send them a message instead of barging into their room. Remember how difficult and time consuming it will be for them to re-focus on what they were doing if they were interrupted and exercise that empathy.
Pro tip: Use our time-place worksheet to set the ground rules with your house-mates.
14. Decorate your backdrop
We love a good backdrop! Personalize your workspace backdrop or desk. This can make you feel more comfortable and happy while working and acts as one of the few non-verbal cues that can tell the people you are speaking with a little more about you. One of the best parts about working remotely is that you can design the dream office you always wish you had!
15. Clarify the Rules
During virtual meetings, it’s a good idea to share some housekeeping rules. We always recommend that the moderator or meeting host clarify the guidelines before diving in. Whether you want everyone to mute their mics, wait until the end of the presentation before commenting, or to use the Chat function for questions, be explicit about these guidelines. It leaves little room for ambiguity and enables your team members to engage in the right ways.
Pro tip: Use our communication guideline worksheet for some tricks on how to facilitate virtual conversations.
16. Focus on outcomes over activity
Remote work makes micro-managing very difficult (that’s one of it’s many perks if you ask us!). One tip we have for managers is to clearly define goals and objectives and then allow employees -provided they are skilled and have the right training- to curate their own plans to achieve them. This empowers employees, enhances creativity and increases trust between colleagues.
17. Walk The Talk
Kevin Eikenberry said that “employees watch your feet, not your lips”
As managers set the example for the rest of the team, managing a remote team implies that you have to be more explicit about shaping the right behaviors. If you encourage employees to share agendas ahead of a meeting, you must also do the same, and be explicit about which tools and formats to use. If you are vulnerable and open about how you are feeling, they will be encouraged to share their emotions as well, therefore enabling a more emotionally intelligent team. Remote work does not have the tacit knowledge or implicit cues that are found with co-located workspaces, so taking the extra mile to explicitly show what your employees should do or not do is a necessity.
18. Make your “why” explicit
Ensuring that everyone in a remote team is connected to the purpose of the company can be difficult. We recommend sharing the ‘Why’ behind everything you do. Whether it's the mission of the organization, or the context behind a brief, being clear about the why creates alignment and clarity.
19. Dress the part
When CEO & Founder of Cosmic Centaurs, Marilyn Zakhour, was naming the company, she envisioned everyone working from home wearing a dress shirt and pajama bottoms, so half work, half home attire, much like a centaur is half horse half man. But the reality is, we get dressed up every day for work, just as we would if we were going into an office. We recommend putting on something an outfit that helps you compartmentalize when you are ‘at work’ and ‘at home’. Whether it's for a client presentation, a day for slow work or a meeting marathon monday, wearing shoes, spraying some perfume and dressing the part helps set the tone for a day of work, even if you are in fact, at home.
20. Beyond the Work
This tip is not related to work! It’s one that reminds you to stay connected with your loved ones around the globe. With families and friends spending more time apart, we encourage you to check in, stay up to date and celebrate the milestones in life, albeit in the virtual world.
We’re always thinking of ways to help teams and leaders adapt to the new ways of working. Whether your company switched to remote-first, or if you have a hybrid model that better suits your team, we’re always collecting more insights to share with the world.
For more tips and a deeper exploration of the mindset shifts needed to gain the most value out of distributed work, check out the Cosmic Centaurs ‘Remote Work Manifesto’.