"Working from home is a temporary situation, while remote working is an entirely different approach to getting things done" - Jason Aten
Lots of us, have been mostly working from home for over a year now. Some are happy, some frustrated and others are in between.
Working from home has its benefits, such as no need for commuting. On the other hand, we need to remember that we are working from home due to unexpected circumstances, we are going almost the same way as if we were on the offices, main differences are that meetings have moved online and that we use more messaging/chat apps to communicate internally.
Remote work is not new, and some companies have been mastering it for years now, Basecamp and Gitlab are great examples of it. Through trial and error, they have developed ways of perfecting remote work. And they have shared much of their philosophy online, here are some of the most important shifts to go from working from home to working remotely:
1. Asynchronous work
Asynchronous communication happens when information can be exchanged independent of time. Meetings are the most common form of synchronous communication, meaning that you need to be there in order to know what is happening.
Meetings shape our calendars, and since sometimes is hard to find suitable time for all people meetings are scheduled earliest in couple of weeks. We lose control, and we need to navigate the work in between meetings, which makes focusing and deep work hard. Is easy to see how meetings shape our workday and communication.
Not to forget that meetings are usually scheduled with the goal of making a decision, and we might still be using just a small part of it for making the decision. Also, 5 people in a room is not a 1-hour meeting, but a 5-hour meeting.
That is why in remote companies, meetings are restricted as much as possible. You might think now, so what is the alternative?
2. Write more, think more
"Internal communication based on long-form writing ... , leads to a reduction in meetings, video conferences, calls, or other real-time opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted." - Jason Fried
Speaking only helps who's in the room, writing helps everyone, including future employees, who can access the discussions and logic behind the decisions. Writing forces sharper understanding, you need to understand something to put it down in words.
"Writing is not the outcome of thinking; it is the medium in which thinking takes place" - Tiago Forte
In traditional companies, the email and slides are most of the writing we do, but those miss the point, and often lead to meetings.
Long form writing captures your thinking, the alternatives you considered, why you think proposal A is better than proposal B etc. It basically gives us a door to your thinking, which as a reader is much easier to understand, comment on or suggest. Substantial decisions start and end with an exchange of complete thoughts.
3. Clear communication
Poor communication creates more work, you need to explain yourself again, or creates misunderstandings. Thus, the skill of communication might arguably be the most important of all.
Communication is the biggest bottleneck OR leverage in getting what we want in life - Anita Amini
As any other skill, you need to practice it to improve it. You usually want to be clear and direct.
You might think of communication and think about different chat tools such as Microsoft teams or slack, but those do promote the ASAP culture that asynchronous companies try to run from. And ASAP (as soon as possible) devaluates any request that doesn't say is urgent, and by the time you realize everything is "urgent". Right now, should be the exception, not the rule.
The cost of interruption is huge, you ideally want to write thoughtfully about important topics to discuss and share them with the needed people so they can comment/add things on their own schedule. Is also good practice to summarize all once per day/week and then send those, instead of constant group chat messages that distracts everybody.
Where to start from
The easiest win is to replace status update meetings where somebody presents and others listen/ask questions with long form writing.
Sending an email could work, but we are in 2021 and there are much better tools to exchange thoughts, make comments etc.
As many people use Microsoft teams, it can be a good place to start with, by using the wiki function inside a team.
You can create a new page for each follow up meeting, people can comment specific sections of it, notify others etc.
Simple, and no need to limit how people best work by dragging them into a meeting, you know where the information is, and there is no need to go through emails or old word files to find the figures.
Go asynchronous one step at a time, experiment, see if it makes sense, convince the colleagues that there is a better way to work. Scape the presence prison!
If the environment that we work in has change, why our methods of working and communicating haven't?