From Best Practices to Remote Work Realities

At the start of 2020, our team was planning an aggressive educational campaign around remote work best practices. We had learned a *lot* about how to do it right through our experience building Sandy remotely, and we saw a growing trend of top-tier talent going freelance and leaving cities for greener/cheaper/more spacious pastures. If we truly wanted to build elastic freelance teams, we needed to find the best talent in every time zone and educate client partners about the benefits of a remote workforce. Saving money on office overhead, reducing carbon emissions, and widening potential recruiting nets all made a solid business case for remote work, but the question at the time was how to do it right.

Cut to: global pandemic. In a matter of weeks as Covid-19 swept across the country, WFH became the defacto option for almost everyone who works at a desk. Our best-laid plans about sharing WFH “tips and tricks” was quickly superseded by the entire mediasphere tackling topics from “How to Nail a Remote Job Interview” to “Top 10 Small-Space Desks”. All of a sudden, everyone seemed to be onboard with remote work – no commute, more family time, and full control over the AC!

Six months into the pandemic, there was visible exhaustion in the headlines. “How to balance distance learning AND working” and “What will the office look like next year?” were common themes that swirl around the fact that social distancing is killing the remote work vibe. Think about it: If you were able to send your kids off to school, have an (unmasked!) lunch meeting with a friend, and then grab a beer with your neighbor at 4:30 before the kids get home, you’d be thrilled with the flexibility that WFH offers. Right now, we’re dealing with the worst-case scenario: trapped at home, pulling “double duty”, and nothing feels like a safe escape.

BUT! It won’t always be like this. WFH will be better post-quarantine, we promise.

Major companies like Uber, Twitter, and Salesforce are shifting their policies to allow for their teams to work remotely indefinitely – this is a really, really good thing for work/life balance, reducing carbon emissions, and statistically, overall productivity.

As we enter the next phase of working from home we’re focused on sharing the best ways to optimize remote teams beyond ergonomic desks and Zoom backgrounds. This reading roundup explores the shifts – both fundamental and tactical – that are needed to get to Level 5 of Remote Work Nirvana.

Article 1: Do less.

This Fast Company article has had a profound impact on our approach to work AND our personal lives in the past few months. We are in the middle of a pandemic – there’s simply no way for a normal human to operate at 100% capacity, 100% of the time. Ruthless prioritization has helped our team inch forward through this incredibly rocky year (um, understatement much?) and learning to let go of the to-do lists that previously defined our self-worth is a lesson that will help us produce meaningful work in the post-pandemic world.

Try this surprising strategy for upping your excellence over the long haul of remote work — Fast Company

Article 2: Have fewer meetings.

Zoom fatigue is real, and while structured meetings are efficient, they’re not always the best forum to generate creative thinking. Since collaboration = productivity, remote leaders have to find new ways to create that “magic happens in the hallways” experience that comes from in-office chitchat.
Try this strategy to eliminate Zoom fatigue and help teams collaborate — Fast Company

Article 3: Commit to something. (Still one of the best advertising campaigns in modern memory out of Wieden + Kennedy)

2020 has been a hell of a year, and if it’s taught us anything, it’s that life is too short to sit on the sidelines. Really bad things are happening all around us – police are killing Black people for no good reason, we’re experiencing wild natural disasters brought on by global warming, and our country has been devastated by a virus that could have been contained by a coherent national response. (now you know how we *really* feel… whew.) The point is that activism happens at every level, and we stand to gain the most progress when corporations with billion-dollar budgets actually walk the walk of enacting change.

Employees who give a shit want to work for brands whose values align with their own, and smart brands want to hire talent that gives a shit. It’s simple: if you want your team to feel connected even while working from afar, rally around a common cause.

This is the thing employees want most from their employers — Fast Company

Article 4: Believe it’s possible.

There are hundreds of successful all-remote companies out there today. Automattic, the company behind WordPress (which is the foundation for a full third of websites on the Internet today), InVision, and Basecamp have all paved a clear path to get to that elusive Level 5.

TLDR: Strong WiFi and a good pair of headphones are just the starting point for a successful WFH setup. Any organization that really wants to tap into the power of a remote workforce should be looking for ways to improve collaboration, autonomy and leadership. Focus on what your people bring to the table: A team’s unique strengths, quirks and preferences all shape how much can be achieved together from afar.