Remote Working: 4 Ways we Make it Work at Clearly Blue
Some tips for managers and employers in these harried times
Remote working (“Working from home”) is almost a norm at Clearly Blue. All employees past their probation period avail of it once a week – sometimes more, depending on what’s going on with their life, commute situation, and health. One common strain among our employees is they actually hate working from home – they enjoy the camaraderie and instant feedback at office, and feel they’re more productive here. But, external circumstances force work from home many times, and we’re happy to accommodate the best we can.
We’re all experiencing a giant external circumstance right now – Coronavirus is stalking the globe, felling celebrities and prime ministers as well as ordinary people like you and me in its wake. Yesterday, we made a snap decision that all employees would work from home for the next few days. It doesn’t really need a huge change in the way we work, given that we do it as a matter of course.
I saw several LinkedIn posts this morning about other companies shifting to this mode as well. Thought I’d share a few of our best practices – spreading the goodness never hurts! So, here goes –
Collaboration tools – Think Whatsapp, Hangouts, Slack, Cloud-based productivity aka the G-suite or Office 360. These are de rigueur if your team is going to work remotely. What to watch out for: Do ensure you’re set up and fully productive on this front. What does this mean? For instance, CB has moved incompletely to Slack – some of our client projects demand a Slack participation, some not. We’ve made it a goal to move completely to Slack this quarter, but for now, our teams love Whatsapp – groups keep popping up for every project, landing page, conversation or campaign. I’m keeping an eye to make sure we stay productive, but am pushing my PMs to move to Slack – just so that we reap the benefits of a full-blown productivity platform rather than a glorified messaging tool. We’ll get it done soon.
Set office hours – Working from home doesn’t mean you login when you feel like it. We ask all the team members to maintain the same hours as if they were in office. This means logging in at 9ish, taking your lunch break 1ish, and so on; ensures that no one feels frustrated when they ping a colleague and are left hanging for 15-20 minutes waiting for a response. What to watch out for: I’ve noticed that the more senior design folks can’t be pinned down to regular 9 to 5 hours. Many prefer pulling late nighters and are probably at their best then. We ask senior design folks to give us some set hours when they’ll be online, and do our meetings and interactions then. We do working sessions late night with some too – whatever works to ensure the flow of creativity doesn’t ebb!
Empower with time management – It’s a fact that can’t be denied – most freshers and junior employees don’t have the time management skills needed to work remotely. What do you do when everyone is remote? Our Head of Operations spends her first hour talking to many of them (as do some senior PMs) helping them plan their day and priorities. Yes, it’s micromanagement, and yes, it’s necessary. Unfortunately, our education system doesn’t teach us these skills. So managers need to. What to watch for: Micromanagement must be done adroitly – a word of praise here, and note of caution there. Gentle steering rather than heavy-handed monitoring. In our line of business, passion and energy count for a lot. We don’t want to dampen that!
Reliable video conferencing – Three cheers for the makers of Zoom, Hangouts calls and other video conferencing tools. They help remote teams converge effectively on calls using shared screens and allied tools. Many a roadblock is removed via a simple 20-minute call. We’ve been using this heavily even with clients (two words: Bengaluru traffic) and I highly recommend it! What to watch for: Uneven net connectivity across the team. Do ensure your team members have good net connectivity to enable them to login without a hitch. We’ve sent some team members home with Jio wifi boxes to help them be productive.
One last personal tip – encourage your teams to ‘get ready’ as if they were going to the office before they login. I’ve found that wearing office attire puts me in the right frame of mind to work.
Everything else – cutting ambient noise from people at home, a proper work desk, internet connectivity, etc. – are a given. The onus rests on the employee to take care of these basics. But as an employer, if you take care of the 4 best practices we’ve shared, you’re more than halfway there.
Good luck to all of us as we navigate turbulent health situations and economies the next few weeks and months – may the world emerge safer, healthier and happier out of this crisis!