Coronavirus: how to become a remote worker overnight

Written on 
March 26, 2020

At Memory, we know “remote” works. We’ve been doing it since 2014, successfully scaling a global team across 12 time zones. But we also know our positive remote experience comes from a position of control – we’ve actively chosen to do it and have had the time to make it comfortable.

The effort to contain COVID-19 has triggered an extreme remote experiment, pushing millions of people into indefinite home working. Some will have no experience with home working, and those that do are unlikely to be prepared for the sheer pace and scale of change – particularly given the unique emotional context surrounding it.

We know that building a remote culture takes time, and that as businesses scramble to shore up their futures, the task of improvising remote structure will largely fall to employees. So we’ve pulled together our biggest learnings to help get you through these anxious early stages – a one-stop shop for gearing up for remote work. Without any rose-tinting, here's our best practical advice on how to work from home.

Setting up for remote work

Home working requires a tech infrastructure that goes well beyond a good Wi-Fi connection. This guide lays out the basics of a good home working set-up, but you should also consider these specifics:

Remote communication

Proactive, intentional communication lies at the heart of remote success. Without the visual cues and fluidity that comes with working in the same room, team interaction needs to be highly descriptive, structured and explicit. It will likely also be much more asynchronous than you’re used to.

➡️ We’ve laid out exactly how remote team communication works and the essential remote communication tools you’ll want to look into.

➡️ We’ve also shared the communication best practice we follow here at Memory to keep our digital collaboration effective and productive.

Productivity and motivation

Transitioning to teleworking isn’t as simple as just taking your laptop home. Without immediate management or tangible boundaries to your work, you will need to become your own boss — creating the right structures, environment and routines to stay productive, happy and healthy.

These remote time management strategies should help lay the essential groundwork – setting a productive structure for your work and helping you get stuck in. With a ton of unstructured time on your hands, you’ll want to be particularly sensitive to how you prioritize your work.  

Free of office distractions, you have a huge opportunity to do more productive deep work as a remote worker – just make sure schedule regular productive breaks to sustain it.  

Staying focused

Aside from working from a familiar home environment and creating new routines, remote working can spark its own unproductive behaviors. The anxiety to stay visible can pressure many employees to stay constant available – dropping work to respond immediately to new Slack pings, and routinely checking inboxes throughout the day.

This grazing approach to working can make it hard to get into flow states, where you produce your best work. To keep digital communication productive, take a look at anti-distraction apps and make sure you know how to block notifications when you need to.

Managing remote teams

It can be difficult switching from the ease of spontaneous in-person feedback, to the structure of remote team management. But it’s incredibly important to set up mechanisms for remote dialogue as soon as possible.

➡️ This cheat sheet lays out the main areas of remote team management you need to address.

➡️ This practical guide walks through how to manage remote employees – from making sure people have a fair workload and aren’t burning out, to offering the right support.

We’re not ashamed to admit we actually use our own time tracking tool Timely as part of this – as a remote team, it’s important to keep full visibility over all worked hours, overtime, workload and capacity.  

If you’re in the middle of recruitment, you’ll need to adapt your onboarding to remote working for the foreseeable future. Given the current uncertainty around almost everything, supporting employee mental health is also more critical than ever, so make sure you know what you can do to help.

Staying sane

For those with no experience of home working, implementing all the above overnight can be pretty daunting. It also takes special effort to stay connected to your peers and prioritize your wellbeing – especially given the uncertain duration of your new home working set-up.

Start by becoming aware of these common remote challenges you now face, and these ideas for solving them.

More than anything, actively seek out meaningful human contact every day. As a remote worker it can feel like you shouldn’t be talking about anything but work, but bonding is part of the job – take a look at these team building activities for remote teams and ideas for socializing virtually.

From everyone here at Memory, stay safe and be kind to yourself. For more specific advice on remote work best practice – at a company or individual level – please don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@memory.ai. We’re a free remote resource, so use us as much as you need.

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