Posted

2020.03.24

Remote Work Wins: Communication, Accountability, Transparency

My newsfeed is currently dominated by global health crises, economic threats, and remote work tips. How to set up your space — How to collaborate — How to maintain work/life balance — Etc. There are dozens upon dozens of perfectly great tips on how to work from home out there, and while I do have an opinion on whether Zoom or GoToMeeting is the better video conferencing tool, I’ll spare you.

I do, however, want to share a message of hope during a truly unprecedented time.

While things are uncertain right now, over the past two weeks I have been impressed and inspired by people’s ability to adapt and carry on. The fact is, deep down we’re resilient.

We’re going through tumultuous change and living through adaptations we wouldn’t have thought possible even a month ago. Of course, while in the bigger picture work is only a tiny piece of our collective experience, in our industry I see more remote work wins than losses.

I’m proud of my team at Shift Lab, and impressed by the partners, clients and collaborators we interact with on a daily basis, because by the middle of last week, I was already seeing areas of early remote working success emerge:

Communication

Has it ever been more important to stay in touch? To stay clearly aware of what is happening to those around us? Probably not in recent history. And, at the same time, we’re all physically removed from each other. This sudden lack of social contact could be a shock that hurts everything from productivity to mental wellbeing. Especially for the many organizations where being in the same office is what held folks together.

The risk is that we’ll all burrow in and isolate.

But, already I see people checking in, and not just on their project work, but on how their teammates are feeling. And how they’re balancing bigger world issues. I see people taking the time to just take the time.

Our tools: Fortunately, there’s no end of technology solutions to converse with your coworkers remotely. Even just a few years ago, that was not the case. At Shift, we use Zoom. Slack is another critical piece of our team’s communications that lets us tag select people in messages to cut down on unnecessary notifications for group members.

Accountability

When you see someone in the office every day, it’s easy to check up on things without being too overbearing. But when we’re wrapped up in our own individual tasks and isolated physically from others, will everyone still deliver?

I have seen many calls for grace, for coworkers to remember that kids are home, dogs will bark, life and work are colliding, and so on. And, the implication is that not as much work may be getting done.

In reality, I see the work getting done — with the same quality and commitment as before and perhaps with a deeper sense of purpose. As we all see our friends and family members — across many industries — come to terms with loss of employment, those of us fortunate enough to continue working remotely also bring a sense of gratitude in this time of extreme uncertainty.

Surprisingly, there has been no dip in quality, no deadlines missed, no halfhearted work delivered. There is a sense of teamwork and true accountability that feels remarkable to me.

Our tools: Slack, Google Suite or Confluence make it simple to share information across workgroups and are a good jumping-off point for clear communication and collaboration.

Transparency

We all love to drop by someone’s desk to ask a question or check in on the progress of a project. Can we do this remotely? Yes, in fact. Because we have a team distributed across two offices, our team figured this out long ago. Today we are just honing the skill.

Productivity and collaboration tools make transparency so easy that it barely needs a mention. Even if you return to the office in just a few weeks, establishing a habit of transparency by tracking assignments through productivity tools can lead to better collaboration moving forward.

Our tools: Productivity solutions such as Basecamp or Jira keep our team aligned, and on task. They also help to show where an overall project is, and where it is stuck. To determine overall effectiveness, choosing tools that gather data and metrics are key, as is regular retrospective analysis.

The Weeks Ahead…

At Shift we’re fortunate to be tracking well on our deadlines, product launches and internal efforts. More importantly, our team is healthy, working together, and supporting and creating space for each other.

Even though last week felt like one of the longest and we missed the little things like our chairs, coffee stops and routines, we are also confident in our ability to continue getting things done. Remote work or otherwise.

While I can’t predict the unpredictable future, I am taking a moment to share my appreciation for a team, our partners, and a business community, that is rising to the occasion of the moment.


Jeremy Jackson

Jeremy Jackson is the founder of Shift Lab. He recently transitioned his team — across two locations — from 40% remote to full-time WFH.