Working Remotely – 7 Key Learnings to Be Productive

At interfacewerk we’ve tried to be a remote first company for six years now. Our office in Munich is only the hub where we meet from time to time for our academy days or workshops with clients. The team was spread out from the beginning, in up to four countries. That means our communication is usually asynchronous and decentralized. We are certain that the office is not the only place you can be productive at – sometimes an isolated workspace and a change of scenery is even better.

We see today that our company culture based on flexible working times combined with being remote at heart is super productive and we are not limited to local talents joining our team. We want to share our learnings to encourage everyone. We truly believe that there is a way of working as a team from separate locations in the long term – and still remain focused, collaborative and productive! The following points highlight our key learnings from the last six years.

Prepare your location 

While working remotely, the good thing is, you can choose your workplace. You should be aware that by working remotely, you yourself are responsible for your working place and the equipment you need.

As most jobs require internet and collaboration, you should find a place with a good and stable internet connection and a calm corner for audio/screensharing conferences – plus the occational video chat. At home or in your camper van, it doesn’t matter.

Plan your day and tell your team

Let’s be honest, our usual behavioural mode at home (at least for me) is chill out mode. If you want to work from home you have to learn what is the right thing for you to get into work/productive mode. Setting goals for each day and planning is key to get there. Prepare yourself for remote work as you would for the office. Set a fixed alarm, get breakfast, get properly dressed, stick to lunch and take breaks. Use those breaks to move or get some fresh air. Find a routine to get you in a productive mood. Don’t skip things from your daily routine just because you are not physically at the office.

Things like cleaning, laundry, vacuum-cleaning or anything not concerning work should be outside your scheduled work time. You wouldn’t start randomly cleaning the room while at the office, would you? 

Morning Check In, Evening Check Out

To keep everyone updated, each morning everybody informs the team about their goals for the day and availability in our chat. By that, we know that everybody is up and healthy and it’s clear who needs support from whom today.

When you are done for the day, let the others know, update your tickets, clarify the last questions. Switch off the computer with a good feeling that you didn’t leave anyone hanging.

Be responsive & increase your online communication level

When we are working remotely we have a special obligation to use our company chat – in our case: Slack. We believe: since you’re not there in person, you have to compensate with increased online presence. Establishing Overlap Hours where everyone is obliged to be online, might be a good idea. For us, it is 10:00–12:00.

Be online when you are working, participate in discussions and engage others to collaborate with you if necessary. Keeping the communication flowing, is an essential part of working remote! Keeping up the conversations and commitment in online chats rises your focus and keeps you socialized! 

Stay connected, use video chat!

Our rule is to switch to a video call, whenever a written conversation/discussion takes more than 3 minutes, is expected to to take more than 3 minutes or is by nature too complex to express in text. Don’t even try debugging code via chat, just share your screen!

Also, seeing your coworkers is important, especially when you are remote for an extended period of time. Don’t forgo the “activate my video” in online conversations. It not only increases the efficiency of a conversation (more engagement and body language), but also gives you the social benefit of interacting with your team more naturally. 

Focus by switching off notifications

There is a limit to how much you should be bothered by notifications. The default settings of the apps that are used should be set to a minimum of notifications (only mentions and direct messages, not for every channel in slack).

It's even okay to mute them completely for a certain amount of time so you can concentrate on your work! This time span is usually determined by how long the rest of your team can continue working without your help. For us, it is usually blocks of up to two hours during which we deactivate notifications. When you disable notifications, you should still have an emergency communication channel such as SMS for important and urgent events - and your team should know this.

Keep your peers updated about your work

Especially when your are remote, it should be very transparent to your team how far you have come with your tasks. Update your tickets, communicate the current status to your project leads or colleagues, define new tasks and todos in written way, so it can be followed up by anyone who is working on the same project easily. Remember, you can’t have a quick chat at the coffee machine or share your ideas or progress during a common lunch, write them in the appropriate place.

Bonus: Avoid these Common Remote Working Pitfalls

  • Trying to work in distracting places (loud noises, XBOX nearby, …)

  • Leaving your team in the dark about your progress

  • Not being available to help your team mates for too long!

  • Not asking for help if you are unsure or have a problem!

  • Not switching off your notifications if you need to focus for some time!

  • Not buying your employees high quality headsets and webcams …

  • Leaving on your pajamas ;-)

I hope this helps you. Let us know if you have any questions about it. We are open to share more insights.

Published by Moritz on 2020-03-16

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