The satisfied remote worker

Cup of coffee

Be happy, become efficient

Ok, so some people have experience with working remote and some are just now getting started (maybe because of Corona, maybe just because of sheer coincidence). There are a number of ways to make sure it’s efficient and actually fun instead of dragging your spirits down.

Since remote work is not all sunshine and rainbows we will address some of the points on ‘how to be a happy remote worker’ here. So, what exactly is remote work? It is often just seen as being equal to working from home, but we see remote working more as from anywhere else but the main office of any chosen company. This means that you need to give it some careful thought. Both for yourself, what it means to teams and what it means for management. Understanding and establishing some new rituals and practices is an important part of making sure everyone operates on a similar level.

Most people working at Contractuo do so remotely. It allows us to hire more flexibly and regardless of location. We still like our days together at the office but we know that we do not need those necessarily to be productive. But, remote work is not the same as working from home. The biggest difference is just symantically – go into any random company not used to remote work and mention ‘working from home’ and people will almost automatically use those ‘air quotes’ to denote that the person is probably just doing laundry and watching movies (or playing Animal Crossing…who knows). Because, if you cannot see them, how do you know they are working? Right?

Well, that’s exactly where building up a proper ‘remote working culture’ comes in. You need to build routine, do daily stand-ups (uh, digital, of course), and learn how to write short concise work summaries.

So what to do when you want to give remote working a fighting chance?

We established some rules for our remote work (unwritten, we may just write them down as our team grows..). It helps our team and management work together and trust each-other. No matter how long we have not physically seen each other anymore.

Rule #1: take care of the obvious

Have a dedicated space with a door that closes. Well, this may be very obvious but it may also be a luxury that not everyone has (besides their toilet, perhaps). It is very important to optimize your workspace so that it’s not your kitchen or couch. Ask if your company helps you financially but mostly a room, good table and chair will already do the trick. Ensure that you have a room that you can leave for some time to get out of the work-mode.

Rule #2: get dedicated child-care (applies if you have kids 😉

Yes, remote working may sound wonderful if you have kids to take care of. But anyone with kids knows that there is exactly 0 chance to work concentrated with kids around. They ask a thousand questions, hurt themselves, or (if there are more) fight. Anything for some attention. So, get dedicated child-care. Be that in cooperation with your partner (switch days), some family or from outside the house.

Rule #3: have everything you need for your workflow / zone

It’s easy to get distracted, it’s easier to get frustrated and then seek distraction. So make sure that you have the digital tools, hardware and a dedicated strong internet connection. At Contractuo we use  Slack for chatting,  Skype for calls, Figma and Balsamiq for prototyping and lots of other tools. Yours may look very different and if you need help choosing we have a tool section here. And remember, if a good coffee machine is part of your workflow – get it! It’s worth it.

One tip, do not get caught up in lots of cool gadgets. Hardware is (almost) never the barriere to getting your work done. It may make it more comfortable, but do not blame your procrastination on a chair or a laptop.

Rule #4: Communicate….no I mean it….communicate!!!

Make sure that you feel that you are overcommunicating. Just share. Not in a flow of e-mails, try to summarize. But make sure that you keep everyone up-to-date. This also counts for people working in a normal office building. Some of the things that we do:

  • Every day a short day-start (max 15 mins) in which the teams share what they have planned to accomplish and what they could not accomplish the day before and why. Follow up with trying to fix if there are things preventing work from getting done and offer support to colleagues that are very busy if your agenda is a bit more relaxed
  • Twice a week a management call. This can be a bit longer but should be focused on: targets, what can potentially stand in the way of people working, strategic planning and priorities
  • Weekly or bi-weekly company update (call it a townhall, whatever). This should be dedicated to one or maybe a few specific topics and should be the place to enlighten everyone with bigger updates and invite employees to present what they have been doing, best-practices, mistakes, etc. It should be fun, not mandatory fun – real fun.

Rule #5: Bond like you would in real life

Some people do not talk at work to their colleagues, the Ron Swansons of this world may be good at their job and may contribute to the output but usually only make a (very) good character on (still one of the best) comedy series.

Schedule time with your colleagues individually, grab a digital coffee and ensure that everyone feels involved. Support people when possible and well, it always helps to be truly interested – not just because I told you so.

Also, once Corona is over, it’s great to plan off-sites – or some regular days where you still meet your colleagues in real life. Digital is never a complete replacement..

Rule #6: record decisions, and reasons behind them

This too is important in any work setting but doubly so when working remote. When working with people from different cultures, with other native tongues than English or (in our case) German, it’s easy for people to misinterpret certain things (or, hide behind misinterpretations). This is why we record all of our decisions in our own platform’s (Contractuo) decision recording module. We built this specifically to keep track of decisions, actions following from them and, even more important, if those decisions were good or not. This is not to punish anyone but if we detect a pattern in faulty decision we do try to get to the bottom of it. Maybe someone is not in the right position, maybe someone needs support from an expert or, maybe we should not take important decisions right after lunch.

To help us with the analysis of it we also write down other influencing factors. Maybe I was tired, or maybe I had a big fight with my partner at home or maybe I am in financially difficult position currently (or just really really hungry). These are all things that may influence what you decide and how. So it’s important to know yourself and how you feel. And, of course, to have it written down so there is absolutely 0 misunderstanding about what the outcome of a meeting was.

Tomorrow we will talk about personal productivity.. Of efficiency, for the Germans 🙂

Talking about work, Contractuo is hiring enthusiastic developers and students that are looking for an internship. Working from home is not a problem. Interested? Click here for more info. 

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It's good food, sure - but don't eat where you work!

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