Our WFH Best Practices
Because of the global coronavirus outbreak, more people are working remotely worldwide. We have experience working on remote teams so we're sharing some of our learnings. We'd love to hear yours.
Our first remote office opened in 2007 when a designer and a developer left our HQ office and moved to Durham. Ever since we've been fine-tuning our ability to collaborate across locations. Today, we have team members across the country in our four offices, and we have fully remote employees in Charleston, Kansas City, New York City, Dallas, and Charlottesville.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, a lot of people recently started working from their homes across the world, the country, and Viget. We wanted to share some of our best practices for being great teammates and doing great work, regardless of locale, and we’d love to hear yours in the comments.
Communicate Often and Write It Down
We want every person at Viget to be informed and connected. We do this in a few ways. We have a company Knowledge Base, which contains critical information including HR policies, office processes, brand guidelines, project resources, etc. We also have a well-organized Google Drive that everyone can access.
My favorite communication tool we use, however, is our Internal Lab Report. Every week, we create a Google Doc with HR updates, birthdays, upcoming events we’re attending, relevant publicity we or a client received, and timely updates on projects, sales, and recruiting. This report allows the entire team to have the same information, regardless of PTO schedules, and it provides a record that can be referenced weeks, months, or years later.
I have also found our Slack habits really helpful. We try to make our availability easily known, mostly via a passive Slack status. We each update our status daily, sometimes multiple times, so people can see if we’re working from home, out of the office for an appointment, in a meeting, or offline for a personal phone call. We also have a few Slack Channels we use very specifically to announce PTO, important announcements, and recently, one that is specific to the updating coronavirus situation.
Figure Out Your Boundaries
This looks different for everyone and can be an ever-changing target. Understanding your boundaries requires you to be honest with yourself – Are you easily distracted? Can you successfully work in pajama pants? Will your dog actually allow you to get work done? Does working from the couch result in good work, or do you need a designated work spot? For some, working from home requires setting boundaries to ensure the work gets done. For others, working from home requires setting a start and stop times to ensure you don’t overwork yourself.
Viget has a flexible work policy, so many of us work from home fairly often and have gotten our routines set up. As such, we have written about this before! Check out Trevor’s article about working remotely.
Show Your Face
When I first started at Viget, I’d never worked anywhere that used a Google Hangout for nearly every meeting. At first, I was tempted to call into meetings and leave the camera off because I found it exposing. Now, I can’t imagine not using it, and I’ve even embraced it in my personal life with friends and family. I realized the value in face-to-face conversations even in virtual form, the ability to see body language, and the connection you establish when you see each other's faces — even if your hair isn't perfect or you haven't arranged your plants just-so in the view behind you. Whenever possible, use your camera during a meeting. It increases trust, communication, and in my personal-not-backed-by-science-opinion, lightness, which frankly, I think we can all use a bit more of right now.
Create Shared Experiences
As a company with project teams often distributed across our four locations, cross-office experiences are vital to our culture, and we’ve spent years working to keep our remote offices in sync. A few of our ongoing group activities include a monthly virtual Book Club, our weekly full-team Free Lunch Friday tradition, Donut for Slack, and, of course, our Pointless Weekends.
The current global health crisis now requires almost all of the company to work remote, so we’ve gotten creative with our attempts to increase non-project time together, in order to keep up the vibes we’ve worked hard to create.
What we’ve recently started:
- Last Weekend this Morning - Monday mornings, we have an optional virtual coffee, where anyone who’d like to chat can join and share the latest gardening lesson or bingeable tv show. It lets us start our week off as we would when we’re all in the office — saying hello to each other.
- Virtual Happy Hours - We are a company that likes to socialize, and a bit of distance doesn’t stop us. This week, we set up an after-hours Happy Hour for St. Patrick’s Day.
- Daily Lunch Table- If you’ve ever visited our HQ office in Falls Church, you’ll notice our large kitchen table. We have an informal tradition of gathering around noon to eat together, whether it’s just a couple folks or the whole team. We now do this lunch virtually. So far, we’re mostly taking turns discussing who is eating what, and of course, sharing said recipes.
I crowdsourced some ideas from the Viget team, and here are some noteworthy takeaways:
"In remote meetings, minimize all your other windows and be fully present. It’s easy to allow your attention to accidentally drift if you see a new Slack channel light up, especially if you’re in a larger meeting. Suddenly, you find yourself multitasking. Treat the meeting as if you were there in person: unless you’re taking notes, minimize your other tabs, and give the conversation your full attention."
- Paul Koch
“I try to reach out to more folks I don’t consistently work with. Since there’s less interaction in general, I want to be more intentional about staying connected.”
- Laura Sweltz
“Good habits are hard to form and bad habits are hard to break, and it’s often hard to find the right time to make a change. Most of us are experiencing a disruption to our usual behaviors right now, but that doesn’t have to be entirely bad. Be deliberate now and when this is over, we might all end up with some new work habits worth keeping.”
- Emily Bloom
“I’ve found it helpful to create a physical space similar to the one I had at work. While this isn’t exactly possible, small things like setting up a laptop stand and second screen make it so I’m less likely to get distracted and wander to the couch or kitchen (aka the snack danger zone.).”
- Aubrey Lear
“It’s easy to get stuck in one spot all day, so be proactive about moving around, or creating excuses to do so. Whether that’s making yourself a cup of coffee, eating lunch away from your computer, or going for a quick walk outside for some fresh air. This will help reduce the risk of going stir crazy.”
True to Viget form, our remote work is all about “Progress, Not Perfection.” While remote collaboration is ingrained in our company, we’re looking for opportunities to fine-tune our approach and improve our habits.
We’d love to hear from you: What are your best practices? Lessons learned?