In my previous post I tried to list out some of the areas where most of us could do a lot better when it comes to remote working in our industry. This is the – objectively much more challenging to write – second part of the article where I will attempt to offer some solutions to the issues that I’ve seen or heard about frequently and across organizations.
Reducing the amount of meetings
I talked at length about why and how people end up sitting on inefficient calls for most of their day. Luckily this is a problem that has a variety of different fixes that an organization can evaluate and apply as appropriate.
No meeting days are a good and easy start. Not only are they great to provide some balance and much needed focus time, they also allow people to be flexible about their time off and work during the hours that suits us best. It’s like working over Christmas and New Year – just on your average Friday or Monday – or whatever day your team chooses. 🙂
No meeting days end up being more effective if more than one team in the organization adopts them and if people are actively incentivized to book meetings outside of them.
Utilize productivity tools and edit documents together. You can use a variety of document types (slides, spreadsheets, etc.) to express ideas using your preferred productivity suite. Your colleagues can then use direct edits or comments in your document to critique/improve/amend what you’ve outlined.
Any productivity cloud will now allow you to easily share documents with others and edit together.
When working on documents asynchronously it is important to set deadlines for when you expect a review.
It’s important that you communicate these deadlines effectively. A good approach that I’ve seen is a to work via a Teams post where you use emojis or colour to indicate when a reviewer has completed their review. This tends to encourage people as they do not want to be last.
More than just communicating deadlines it’s important that you do so in a consistent and straightforward way. (stick to one tool and one communication channel) Once again this is a skill that can be trained and it’s worth investing into broad based training with entire teams.
Embracing asynchronous working
If we get past the first challenge of reducing the meetings that we need to get things done, it’s easier to move to a more asynchronous environment.
This doesn’t mean that you should do absolutely everything asynchronously. Indeed if anything, building personal connections – be it via a video call or in person – is invaluable and it is certainly well worth investing the synchronous time and inefficiencies required to do that. A more connected team is a better team after all.
With that being said though, almost all decisions can be made asynchronously, as long as the tools and culture of the team allows it.
Some start ups are pioneering asynchronous decision making by documenting the process as a multi-person chat in a shared document. Once a decision is reached, the process of getting there is available for anyone to see. People can dip in and out of the conversation based on their schedule. It allows people to work across timezones without the “jetlag”-effect that comes from trying to bridge all timezones.
Opponents of this method say that the approach can be unstructured, random, and convoluted, but so is trying to attend a 10 PM meeting with your partner team in Singapore that you’re already triple booked for. 😉
Making synchronous interactions count
The idea of a remote-only fully asynchronous environment may seem like a cost cutting exercise to some. And to be honest for some organizations switching to “remote only” might be the equivalent of giving people a shiny new work phone in the early 2000s. (“Now you’ve got a work phone we can always call. Isn’t that great?” 🙂 )
However organizations who get it right also understand that they need to make the occasional moments where people get together extra special. Many start ups who have gone remote for good are planning all company vacations, meet up events, and conferences to compensate for the time apart.
Allowing employees to have a home office has to go together with new benefits like excellent working from home equipment that makes their day-to-day work life a joy. There may no longer be free cappuccino at the flashy downtown office, but good employers should seek to provide an equivalent. (and it doesn’t need to come in the form of caffeinated beverages – different things count in a home environment)
But wait there is more…
There is way more that I have to say here and I haven’t even got onto talking about the concept of location-based salaries yet. I feel we need a “part 3” for this topic. See you next time…