At interfacewerk, we've been trying our hand at being a "remote first" company for six years. This includes many learnings and also points that may have worked less well. Our office in Munich is just the hub where we meet from time to time for our academy days or workshops with customers. The team has always been spread across several countries. This means that our communication is usually asynchronous and decentralized. We're sure the office is not the only place to be productive - sometimes a workplace without distractions from colleagues and a change of scenery is even better.
We see today that our company culture based on flexible hours combined with remote work is super productive and we are not limited to local talent joining our team. We want to share our experience to encourage everyone. We truly believe that there is a long-term opportunity to work as a team from different locations - and still stay focused, collaborative and productive! The following are our key learnings from the past six years.
Prepare your workplace
When you work remotely, the good thing is that you can choose your workplace. You should be aware that when you work remotely, you are responsible for your own workplace and the equipment you need.
Since most jobs require internet and collaboration, find a place with a good and stable internet connection and a quiet corner for audio/screen conferencing - and also for the occasional video chat. This can be at home or in your mobile home, it doesn't matter.
Plan your day and communicate the plan
Let's face it, our usual behavioural mode at home (at least for me) is chill-out mode. If you want to work from home, you need to learn what is right for you to get into work/production mode. Setting goals for each day and planning is key to getting there. Prepare to work remotely, just as you would in the office. Set a set alarm, get breakfast, dress properly, stick to lunch and break times and use them for (outside) movement as much as you can. Find a routine that puts you in a productive mood. Don't leave things out of your daily routine just because you are not in the office. Things like cleaning, laundry, vacuuming or anything that doesn't involve work should be scheduled after or before work. You wouldn't randomly start cleaning the room while you are in the office, would you?
Check in in the morning, check out in the evening
To keep everyone on track, everyone should inform the team every morning in our chat about their goals for the day and their availability. That way we know everyone is up and healthy, and it's clear who needs support from whom today. When you are ready for the day, let the others know, update your tickets and clear up any last questions. Turn off the computer with the good feeling that you haven't left anyone hanging.
Be accessible & increase your online communication level
When we work remotely, we have a special obligation to use our company chat - in our case: carelessly. We believe that since you are not present in person, you have to compensate with an increased online presence. Setting up overlap hours where everyone is obliged to be online might be a good idea. For us it is 10:00-12:00.
Be online when you work, participate in discussions and engage others to collaborate with you when appropriate. Keeping communication going is an essential part of working remotely! Keeping up the conversation and engagement in online chats increases your
Stay in touch, use the video chat!
Our rule is to switch to video chat whenever a written conversation/discussion takes more than 3 minutes, is expected to take more than 3 minutes or is inherently too complex to express in text form. Don't even try to debug code via chat, just share your screen!
It is also important to see your colleagues, especially if you are away from your workplace for a long time. Don't forgo the "enable my video" in online conversations. Not only does it increase the efficiency of a conversation (more engagement and body language), but it also gives you the social benefit of interacting more naturally with your team.
More focus by turning off notifications
There is a limit to how much you should be bothered by notifications. The basic settings of the apps used should be set to a minimum of notifications (only mentions and direct messages, not for every channel in Slack).
It is even okay to mute them completely for a certain period of time so that you can concentrate on your work! This period is usually determined by how long the rest of your team can continue working without your help. For us, it's usually blocks of up to two hours where we disable notifications. If you turn off notifications, you should still have an emergency communication channel like SMS for important and urgent events - and your team should know this.
Keep your colleagues informed about your work
Especially if you are far away, it should be very transparent for your team how far you have got with your tasks. Update your tickets, tell your project managers or colleagues the current status, define new tasks and ToDo's in writing so that they can be easily followed up by anyone working on the same project as you. Remember that you can't have a quick chat at the coffee machine or share your ideas or progress over lunch, but write them down in the appropriate place.
Bonus: Avoid these common problems when working remotely
- Working in distracting places (loud noises, XBOX nearby, ...)
- Keeping your team in the dark about your progress
- Being unavailable to help your teammates for too long
- Not asking for help when you are unsure or have a problem
- Do not turn off your notifications when you need to concentrate for some time
- Don't buy employees high-quality headsets and webcams...
- Working in pyjamas ;-)
We hope this helps you. Let us know if you have any questions about it.