Recognizing and Adapting to Remote Work Limitations

In Part 1 of our series on how culture affects remote work challenges, we identified how the team at Revelry uses trust to tackle overwork, accountability, and interruptions. In this post, we’ll address the limiting beliefs that can thwart visibility and team bonding.

At Revelry, the process we’ve set up for managing projects and communication has produced a productive, transparent culture that, in itself, solves most remote work limitations.

If your organization is hoping to achieve productivity and transparency while supporting remote work, this requires care and attention.

How do we overcome remote work challenges at Revelry?

Building and nurturing a culture that supports the remote team means living our core values. We challenge each other to weave them into process updates and daily work. The core values that we rely on to build our remote work culture are:

  • Earn and dispense trust
  • Fear is the mind killer
  • Work-life alliance

It takes more than words and a pretty poster, though. Here’s how we do it:

Using trust to recognize and adapt to limitations

remote work fearFEAR IS THE MIND KILLER
We are the fittest, most adaptable species in the known universe. As we recognize our current limitations, we also recognize that they are temporary, and we can change them if we push forward fearlessly.

We have a slackbot that reminds us that fear is the mind killer, indeed, each time any form of the word “fear” is used! We know that we have limitations. We encourage each other to move beyond our current limitations, call out a plan of action, and enlist the help of others.

Remote workers grapple with the issue of visibility

Without that visibility and physical presence, remote employees are also more likely to miss out on the day-to-day recognition awarded to in-office employees. So, this one is on you: Ask for feedback often.

As an organization, you can also work to solve this challenge. It’s important to clearly define expectations and deliverables. These expectations should include benchmarks or check-in points for both employee and manager to measure progress and achievements. The use of centralized, digital collaboration or project management tools gives greater visibility of everyone’s work.

It’s very challenging – but all the more worthwhile – to nurture inclusionary practices when you’re operating a hybrid remote culture. If you do have an office, but employees aren’t required to use it, you’ve got a hybrid remote culture. And if, like Revelry, some team members are too far away to ever be in the office, this challenge is for you.

If you’ve merely made an exception to allow folks to live and work outside of company headquarters, you’re setting yourself up for unhappy and disconnected employees.

Those project management tools – we use GitHub Issues – will get you halfway there, as I explained in Part One. But the hard work really happens in paying attention to your habits around disseminating information. If you’re not intentional about the way you manage this, then you’ll blame the remote work when your culture falls apart.

Practice radical information inclusion:

  • Refrain from using Direct Messages, ever, unless you’re discussing highly confidential and personal information.
  • Share meeting agendas ahead of time, where even those who aren’t participants can access them if interested.
  • Record your meetings. We use Zoom, and all of our recordings are accessible to the company.
  • Encourage an “all faces in all-hands” practice, even if several folks are gathered in the same room.
  • Remind each other to capture in-person conversations and share them with the team.

Skipping any of these items is what directly leads to the next challenge of remote work, which is:

Remote workers struggle with feelings of isolation

Even for those who love to write and embody the cat-furiously-typing emoji can still hit the glum wall of dehumanization when all of their work and interactions are written. Speaking of emoji, this is why there always needs to be a light-hearted element to team chat tools. Before you decide that having more than 500 custom Slack emoji is frivolous, ask yourself what better way to allow the team to express themselves and achieve that crucial “I can be me” work-life alliance?

So, there’s that – let folks be themselves. Don’t do the “get back to work” thing when a conversation drags on in Slack. You’ve established a culture of trust, and this means that you trust your team to put in the hours where needed and give their brains a break when needed. Studies have shown that small talk at work will improve your decision-making skills, how satisfied you are with your job, and build psychological safety for you to share your best and brightest ideas.

And if you work from home, be sure to communicate with your housemates just like you do with your teammates. Block off heads-down time and stress how important it is. Set up get-up-and-get-out time and ask others in your household to help keep you accountable. Breaking away from work to walk the dog, go for a ride on the bike, or read a bit of fiction is one of the most nurturing aspects of a flexible work schedule.

Other ways to utilize Slack – or company chat tools – to keep yourself out of remote worker loneliness is to create and participate in topic channels that nurture your soul and help you share your interests with your team. And ask company leadership to regularly give updates on the company’s vision, values, successes, and direction. We begin each all-hands call with “shout-outs”, although we also freely dispense shout-outs across any Slack channel whenever necessary.

Remote workers worry about team bonding

Get on a Zoom video chat and “cowork” with your teammates. Get out of the building and cowork for real. Make sure your company encourages and even facilitates joining meetups, forums, and in-real-life community opportunities to round out your socialization. Is there an opportunity for company sponsorships in your local community? There’s no reason that your brand can’t be among the supporters, even if you’re the only local employee. Managers, embrace the opportunity to create employee pride by getting involved hyperlocally.

At Revelry, we do happen to have a headquarters, and the bulk of the team is in New Orleans. But we’ve been intentional about including the entire team, even when something is happening in The Big Easy. We openly decided against setting up regional-only Slack channels. Home is where the heart is, so a @nola notification is in name only. And when New Orleans folks go out for po-boys and beer, we revel along with them because they care enough to share photos in our #watercooler.

We’re going to get better at this one, so let us know if you have tips: Create a virtual lunch train. Encourage the team to grab some time on a coworker’s calendar to get virtual coffee, lunch, or exchange parenting tips and gaming strategy.

Your team trusts you to call out when you need something. Trust your team to be there for you.

At Revelry, we apply our Lean Agile methodologies to platform innovation.

Have a look at our Lean Agile Processes and Tools.
Revel with us as we share how we build a culture
that overcomes common Remote Work Challenges.
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