For the first half of 2020, employers worked hard to get their businesses and employees fully ramped up in a virtual world. Now, as we shift from thinking of remote work as a temporary fix to thinking of it as a cornerstone in the future of work, companies and leaders need to reimagine how we communicate and collaborate for the long haul.
Most of us are working remotely today, but we aren't doing it sustainably. It's hard to draw a line between work and life, and employees often talk about stressors like video fatigue, but few feel confident in how to combat it. Not to mention, I'm still hearing about putting kick-offs, offsites, and important decisions on hold until we get back to the office.
As leaders, we need to set the tone at the top that remote collaboration isn't going anywhere. Instead of trying to copy and paste our in-office communication into a virtual world, we need to figure out new ways of working that are inclusive and sustainable.
It's important to not add to the noise and clutter with loads of new tools, emails or meetings. Instead, start today by setting expectations with your team for how to collaborate and communicate remotely. If you're not sure, here are a few best practices to get you started.
Don't Create an "Always On" Culture
In May 2020, U.S. audiences spent a total of six billion minutes using top collaboration tools. It's always been tempting to check email after hours or read that new Slack notification while having dinner. But now it's even harder not to rack up those minutes. Work has, quite literally, come home with us. And if we're not intentional about how we use collaboration tools, it can quickly lead to burnout.
It's part of your job as a leader to set the tone with your team that they don't have to be available 24/7. So, lean into setting boundaries and helping your team do the same. Try scheduling emails if you're drafting them after hours, encouraging people to snooze Slack or message notifications at night, and adding statuses during breaks like "walking the dog" or "recharging" to practice leaving loudly. It'll remind people that just because they're at home, they shouldn't always be on.
Take a Hard Look at Your Meetings
It's easy to assume that the same methods of how we used to work can be copy and pasted into a remote world. Truth is, it doesn't work that way. Especially for meetings. Even before Covid-19, meetings were a source of frustration. It's estimated that American workers typically spend 220 million minutes per month just in meetings, and 63 percent don't have pre-planned agendas.
Encourage employees to analyze their calendars and get rid of meetings that don't add value. And, empower them to decide how they should participate by setting expectations beforehand. That could be sending an agenda, calling out if cameras should be on or off, or how you want the chat functionality to be used. I love how our chief information security officer and SVP of engineering started to listen to meetings while on a walk instead of tuning in on his laptop to help combat video fatigue.
Find New Ways to Whiteboard
If you miss jumping into a conference room and whiteboarding with your team, you're not alone. The good news is, visual brainstorming and problem-solving doesn't really require an office any more than it does a home office. It just takes some trial and error to get it right. There are a variety of collaboration tools out there for teams to share ideas, track progress, and solve challenges together. Tools like Miro, Asana, and Jamboard were built just for that. What matters is that you find the ones that cater to your team's work styles and are inclusive of different learning styles.
While technology plays an important role, it's also important to remember that communication should be human-centric. So, the best way to start is by simply asking employees how they like to work. This will go a long way for companies looking to not only navigate how to work in today's circumstances, but planning for a better future of work -- whether that's fully remote, back in the office, or a hybrid mix of the two.