To state the obvious: There’s a lot going on right now, and it’s fair to assume that everyone is feeling a little unsteady. We’re all worried about the health of our families and communities and concerned about the future. And even if you’re lucky enough to work in a job where you’re able to work remotely, it’s easy to be distracted.
While we might not be the right team to ease your fears about this global pandemic, a few of us at Pingboard have built our careers on remote work. Pingboard is now working 100% remotely, and we’ve been sharing every bit of advice from our remote-experienced members across the team to help everyone feel motivated, prepared, and empowered to do great work from the safety of their homes. If you recently started working from home for the first time or are managing a newly remote team, we humbly offer this advice to help you encourage, care for, and motivate your teammates.
For most organizations, in-person communication is a cornerstone of daily work. Now that the kind of face-to-face communication your teams are likely used to isn’t possible, they will probably need some best practices for how and when they should communicate with each other. So take time to establish guidelines for when it’s appropriate to send a chat message instead of an email, or when a scheduled video meeting might be a better way to connect. If you’re not sure how to manage those differences, here’s our remote staff’s approach:
Chat messages are for quick questions and immediate conversations (and are also great for ongoing team chit-chat)
Email is for project updates and other long-form messages, especially to address topics or decisions that come up in 1:1s that a broader group needs to be aware of or chime in on
Video conferences are for regularly scheduled group conversations, project kickoffs, 1:1s, and virtual happy hours
Empower your employees to highlight their preferred method of communication. Maybe they’d rather a teammate send them an email instead of a chat message, or maybe working from home is particularly challenging and a video-call is a welcome relief. If your team already uses Pingboard to stay in the loop, a quick addition of a custom field to employee profiles will give everyone a little more control over how they invite others to communicate with them.
If your team is just starting to work remotely, it’s nice to have virtual places to connect—like Slack, Google Hangouts, or Zoom—to take the place of the office kitchen or other communal space. Look up some conversational icebreakers online and post them every so often in your company chat app. Start a conversation by talking about what you watched or read last night after work. Your Pingboard account can help with this, too. Ask people to add their favorite books, movies, and other entertainment that they’re enjoying while they’re practicing social distancing. Use tag fields so that people can see shared interests. On our team, we’ve got a channel dedicated to chatting about entertainment in Slack, and we’ve also started a daily 30-minute video call for whoever wants to join to just hang out, catch up, and provide a space for people who want face-to-face time. While you’re at it, now is also a good time to remind employees to give their Pingboard profiles a quick refresh to make sure fields like contact info and location are correct.
Communication is everything when it comes to working from home. Schedule morning check-ins via conference or video calls with your team. Remind your employees that over-communication is better than no communication. Even if that over-communication feels a little distracting at first, now is a crucial time to make yourself and your teams comfortable with the level of asynchronous communication necessary to keep up with each other online. And remember, most team chat software (we use Slack) can help you set your notification preferences exactly to your tastes so that you can keep up with what’s important while avoiding distractions. Don’t forget to communicate little things that might be missed when working from home, like when you hop online, when you take a break, and when you’re finishing up for the day.
Let your team know about upcoming changes, reminders, or announcements. Again, don’t be afraid to over-communicate or distract. If it’s something everyone needs to hear, you want to make sure they hear it, even if it means a broadcast message or email. You can also broadcast that messaging right in Pingboard using Announcements. New announcements are displayed on your team’s Pingboard home page and you can even schedule them to be included in Monday’s This Week email.
It’s important to set boundaries or you might find yourself wondering where your lunch hour went! Schedule out your week and make it a point to set time to get away from your screen. As much as your current situation allows, try to keep your regular hours and encourage your team to do the same. Keeping a fairly regular schedule can help you feel stable, focused, and motivated while you’re working from home. If you do find yourself changing your work schedule, make sure you update your teammates so they know when you’re available and when you need space to focus on other things.
It’s easy to remember to give a shoutout in a meeting or bring someone a coffee when they’re working right across from you. In a work-from-home scenario, those prompts for praise can easily slip your mind, but that’s exactly when they’re most crucial. Remember to recognize and celebrate your team (set a weekly reminder to do so, if you need to) through whatever communication channel is most public. At Pingboard, we use our own tool (Applause) to give shoutouts to our teammates. Slack or other chat tools are another great option for colleagues to chime in with their appreciation.
Chances are you might not know Susan from Accounting or Armand from Customer Support. Working from home kind of puts us all on the same level. If you’re a leader, encourage your team to start connecting with people who they might not know yet. Ask (but don’t require) your teammates to set up a weekly video or Slack chat with someone they don’t know well, or use your company directory or intranet to find out more about the people in your workplace. Our Who’s Who game is great for this type of activity.
No matter which tools you use or changes you make to help your team feel more comfortable and productive in your new remote structure, the most important things are: stay positive, keep in touch, and take care of each other. You might not be physically close anymore, but with the right technology and leadership, your organization’s human connections can stay strong. If you have questions about the advice we’ve given above, or if there’s anything we can do to help, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.