We are a completely remote company here at ChuckJoe. That means every one of us works on our own – mostly in our own homes – in multiple states across the globe. This is both an amazing opportunity, however it does present a certain set of obstacles.
One of the biggest difficulties working within a remote team is the reduced opportunities to “gather around the water cooler” and connect on our personal lives. Most of our conversations happen via Slack, so many of the day-to-day bonding interactions get lost. We combat this pain point by implementing a “How Are You as a Human?” kick off during our weekly Monday Team Video Meetings via Zoom. We each chat about how our weekend was, any personal achievements, if there were any wins from the week before, and we answer a “question of the week” that is usually humorous in nature. This allows us all to remember that there’s a real person on the other side of that email and lets us all connect in the way we might if we were working in a physical office together.
Holidays however, still presented a particular challenge. How could we all come together for a holiday party? Well, for the last four years, we have thrown a Virtual Holiday Party! Everyone hops on video chat at the same time and we have an end of year celebration. Through trial and error, we have found some sure-fire ways to make a remote holiday party a success. We would like to share them with you in the hopes that you are able to throw your very own party with your team, no matter what time zone they are in!
1. Send a Gift Box
Every year, we send gift boxes to each of our team members that say not to open until the holiday party. Sending this to each person helps build comradery as everyone opens their boxes simultaneously. In addition, this gesture shows that your company cares for its employees.
You can’t have a party without poppers… or other party supplies that would be expected in “real life”. Each of the boxes contain the same items, so it’s like we’re all together celebrating at the same party! Our boxes over the years have included:
Cookies and Candy
A Small Bottle of Champagne
Christmas Poppers (crackers)
Small Holiday Crafts
3. Play Games
Games can be a great way to get everyone on the team involved and having fun! For example, within your gift box you can send a couple bingo cards. Someone on your team can share their screen and use a Bingo Number Generator to choose digital Bingo Balls. Have a prize ready to be sent to the winner for a little extra competition.
Bingo is a fun option, but there are all kinds of games you could play online including Charades and Fibbage.
4. Stir Up Conversation
Prepare some questions to ask the “room” and have each person give their answer. Some examples are:
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
What is a hidden talent of yours?
What was your favorite gift you ever received?
If you could spend the holidays anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Do you have a New Years’ resolution in mind? If yes, what is it?
Just because your team works remotely doesn’t mean you can’t build relationships with co-workers and get into the holiday spirit like other office teams. This holiday season there are plenty of ways to stay connected and bring the festive cheer with remote team celebrations.
How do you celebrate the holidays with your remote team?
Telecommute, remote work, virtual job, work from home–a few decades ago, these terms may have been a completely foreign concept, but in today’s digital age they’ve become a part of modern culture. Whether you own an online business or picked up a freelance gig from Upwork, the advantageous remote lifestyle is steadily luring employees away from their conventional office jobs. According to the State of the Remote Job Marketplace report from FlexJobs, 3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9% of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least half of the time. Those numbers are expected to rise exponentially in the years to come.
If you’re working remotely, you’ll find that there are unique challenges while acclimating away from an office. As a collective of individuals who pride themselves on exceptional quality work and superb remote culture, we’ve curated 7 tips that can help you successfully transition into the remote workflow.
1. Designate a Workspace
Now let’s start with the basics. Yes, one of the glorified perks of working from home is that you can work from your bed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Unless you’re feeling under the weather, avoid catching the “work from home blues” and set yourself up with a savvy designated workspace. Having a centralized space can increase your productivity, reduce distractions, help channel your creative energy, and focus.
When decking out your workstation, try to take into consideration an ergonomic layout that will benefit your health in the long run. Enter your height on the Ergotron’s Workspace Planner for tips on the right measurements for your home desk.
2. Over Communicate
Clear and effective communication is important for any team, but when you enter the realm of virtual coworking, over-communication is essential. There are amazing communication and project management tools out there, but it’s ultimately up to the user to make the most out of it. “Did he read my email?” or “Is she going to make the deadline?” These are some thoughts that may come to mind if questions or tasks go unanswered. Likewise, one of the most damaging setbacks you can commit as a team player is to assume that your co-worker will or will not do something.
When you’re virtually collaborating with team members you must replace assumptions with proactive communication. Some examples may be to ask about upcoming projects before they’re assigned, giving your team a status update, following up on a task, or asking for an extension ahead of time.
Here’s an etiquette pro tip for correspondence: when getting any form of message, be sure to “confirm receipt.” This will notify the sender that you’ve received their message and are aware of its contents. Confirmation also helps build trust and accountability by clearly accepting the transfer of responsibility from the sender.
3. Have a Weekly Check-In
Here at ChuckJoe, our weekly Monday check-in is the one time during the week where the team gets to see each other via Zoom. The meeting consists of each member recapping the previous week with a combination of the following topics.
Last Week Wins - Project accomplishments, ways that you’ve excelled in a task, or positive client feedback
Team Shout Outs – Highlighting a team member for outstanding work or assistance
The Weekend – Summarizing weekend activities or anything that’s new in your personal life
Question of the Week – Random open-ended ice breakers that helps get the team warmed up and engaged
Client Accounts – Reviewing each account’s status, projects, upcoming tasks, and pending account opportunities
Internal Housekeeping – General updates, individual schedule changes, and upcoming goals
Trust me when I say, these weekly one hour check-ins make a huge difference! Getting to know your co-worker helps build relationships and improve team chemistry. Instead of wondering what each member is working on, or being unsure about a client’s status, the check-in makes priorities clear and gets the team on the same page. This is not only a time-saver, but provides team synergy to get you through the upcoming week.
4. Be Professional and Human
You may find yourself a little bit more relaxed at home than if you were working at an office. As easy as it is to have a laid-back demeanor, it’s important to remember to be professional when it counts. One of the best ways to express professionalism is to be punctual. We treat our general channel in Slack as an “office door.” We greet each other when our workday begins, provide notices when we go on break, and disclose when we’ve decided to call it a day. Providing transparency through the virtual window works wonders for the team.
If you’re expecting a client call, try to have that conversation in a quiet space. A loud and disruptive coffee shop probably isn’t the best option. Some factors to take into consideration for obvious reasons is the Wi-Fi connection, lighting, background noise, and appearance.
Last bit of profesh advice is to have a positive attitude and keep communications similar to an office setting. When you have a group of individuals who are all positive thinkers, it’s easier to collaborate and get tasks done with optimism instead of a sour perspective or curt impersonal responses. Positive attitudes are definitely a major contributing factor when striving for a successful team!
5. Dress for Success
Having a zero commute is another terrific benefit of working remote (and it’s more sustainable too)! Your new and improved commute may just be walking to the other room, but having a morning routine is still a priority. Get dressed! Even if you don’t need to make a video conference appearance, don’t work in your pajamas. It may have been one of the shiny attractions on a job post that got you into the remote business, yet in reality working in your pjs may leave you feeling icky and unproductive. You’ll likely be in a better headspace and more effective if you’re dressed and feeling ready for your day.
6. Take Breaks and Know When to Unplug
One of the best ways to recharge is to take frequent breaks, real breaks. The kind where you can completely step away from your computer and take your mind off of work. Going for a walk can be a beneficial way to relax and unwind in the midst of a workday. A short walk can even elevate your mood and boost creativity while also improving your cardiovascular health.
In Buffer’s recent, State of Remote Report, they found that 22% of remote worker’s biggest struggle is unplugging after work. When your work and home space intertwine, it can be difficult to disconnect. Setting boundaries for yourself is crucial when avoiding mental burnout from working throughout the entire day. Let your co-workers know when you’re signing off and don’t respond to non-critical emails to protect your personal time.
7. Take Advantage of the Flexibility
In other words, treat yourself! Remote positions are sought-after for a reason, the perks are phenomenal. You’re given the ability to personalize how, when, and where you work. Spend more time with family or friends, incorporate exercise into your day, or spend a couple of hours on your favorite hobbies. As long as you continue to produce quality work, you have the freedom to create a schedule that best fits your lifestyle!
As technological capabilities continue to accelerate, so will the opportunities in the way remote work is being conducted. Spatial is a new real-time AR collaboration platform that includes lifelike avatars where remote employees can ‘teleport’ into an augmented workplace.
As we’re on the brink of mainstream holographic conferences, our tips for working remotely may evolve in the near future. Stay tuned for what’s to come!