COVID-19 has pushed companies across the country and around the world to work remotely. Fortunately, many of us in the tech industry are already accustomed to working remotely; BizStream already had a Work From Home (WFH) Policy in place, allowing our team members to WFH on Tuesdays and Thursdays, making the transition relatively smooth. Even then, there were still some adjustments our team had to make to keep running our best while working 100% remote. For those of you looking for some guidance, we're sharing our top tips for keeping productive, maintaining collaboration, and fostering company culture while your team is remote.
1. We Wanna See Your Face
At BizStream, our teams are running meetings as usual. That includes stand-ups, Level 10 Meetings
, and our weekly company-wide BizStream Pulse meeting. We strongly encourage everyone to have their video turned on during meetings. Being able to see your teammates makes it easier to connect and allows everyone to gauge facial expressions and cues.
- Our team likes to have fun with video conferencing by switching up our backgrounds.
- Utilize those individual audio features! Muting yourself when you're not actively speaking helps cuts down on unnecessary background noise.
2. Connect on a Personal Level
Working remotely can feel isolating. On a normal day, our office is buzzing with music, laughter, and conversations. As you can imagine, for many of us, this transition has been hard to get used to.
One way we've been keeping connected is by throwing out non-work related questions on Slack, which we've affectionately deemed our #QuarantineQuestion series. Some of our favorite engagement questions have been:
- Favorite Donut Poll
- What was your childhood dream job?
- What's your favorite streaming service, and why? Prime Video vs. Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Disney Plus vs. Other
- What is the weirdest meal you have had while on lockdown?
- What do you do to take breaks and recharge throughout the day while working from home?
During the first week, we kept things fun by sharing our home offices with each other in our version of MTV Cribs, dubbed BZS Cribs. Not only was it entertaining to see everyone’s setup, but it also helped team members get ideas for their own at home setups!
These small interactions can help team members feel connected with their team and can spur more conversations to combat loneliness. It's also a great way for us to learn a little bit more about each other on a personal level and a reminder that we’re all in this together!
3. Can We Hop On A Video Call?
Our office is intentionally designed to foster collaboration. While at the office, it’s really easy for team members to walk over to each other's desks for clarification on a specific task, a quick brainstorming session, or help with stubborn code. Now we rely on video calls. Instead of having long, drawn-out, typed conversations on Slack, we encourage our team members to have a video conversation. We find that we can solve problems quicker, avoid confusion, and keep the creativity flowing this way. And of course, there's the added bonus of having that bit of human connection!
Tip: Our favorite platforms for video chats are Zoom, Slack, and Hangouts. Each platform has great qualities, depending on what type of meeting you're holding.
4. Communication and Flexibility Are Our Friends
Many of us are still trying to navigate our new normal. That might mean a mixture of working full-time, homeschooling (since Michigan schools have closed for the year), and caring for loved ones. BizStream has always been extremely flexible with our team's work-life balance, which has set us up nicely for this moment. For us, flexibility and communication are what keeps things running smoothly and efficiently.
Flexibility to balance work-life with home-life helps to keep stress levels down, avoid burnout, and keep morale up. We try very hard to keep client meetings, important deadlines, and high-priority tasks on schedule, but anything beyond that, we make sure to leave open for tweaking. Maybe it would help a team member out by pushing a meeting a few hours, or maybe even to next week. If one of our team members is having an abnormally busy week, maybe another team member will step in and lighten their load. Or, perhaps a team member would prefer to work four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening, allowing time for them to help their kids with (virtual) school work.
So what's the key to making this all work? Communication! As you can imagine, this level of flexibility wouldn't work without everyone being on the same page.
Tips: Here are some ways we keep everyone aligned:
- Update your calendar. Indicate your working hours for the week and be sure to block out personal time or "out of the office" time. This gives other team members an idea of your plan for the day, week, etc. It also makes it easier to for others to respect your non-working time.
- Keep your Slack status current. Update your Slack status to show your plan for the day. The more specific the better!
- Keep your family updated. Let your family know your work hours for the day and, more specifically, when you'll be on a video call. And then cross your fingers for fewer interruptions ;)
5. Let's Party! (Virtually)
In normal times, our team would be enjoying Mixlology sessions, ice-cold beers at the end of the day, foosball games, and even a March Madness gathering at the local Dave & Busters (which sadly needed to be postponed due to COVID). Since we aren’t able to do any of those things at the moment, we now have a standing virtual happy hour every Friday. This allows us all to kick back and relax with our favorite beverages and people. We chat about things like our plans for the upcoming weekend, the difficulties we're all experiencing through COVID, how we’re staying physically active (it’s a given that CrossFit will dominate the conversation at some point), and more. We've even been able to celebrate two birthdays, shoutout to Julie and Ben
Tip: We prefer Zoom for this because of its gallery view feature. Depending on your CPU, you can display up to 49 participants on a single screen.
I hope these tips help reinvigorate you and your teams, maintain your team’s productivity, and keep your team feeling connected in this time of all remote work!
... and don't forget to have some fun with your team!