Innumerable companies have recently gone through intense changes as employees all over the world suddenly started working from home. Here are some things Lucid was doing before the start of Covid-19 that helped us transition to working from home, as well as some things we’ve started doing to keep the company running smoothly.
Lucid already used Zoom, even when everyone was working in the office. This was partly because we have multiple offices, even in our headquarter state of Utah. Product and engineering were in one building, and sales and other departments were in another building. Even though the buildings were only a five-minute drive apart, and people could travel between them for meetings, conference calls often made more sense.
When on conference calls, it’s important to make sure that others have opportunities to talk. The bigger the group, the harder it can be for individuals to contribute. Make sure there are moments of pause, to make it easier for someone to jump in, and directly ask individuals for their thoughts. Having people mute their microphones when they aren’t speaking eliminates background noise, and also gives a way for people to indicate they have something to say.
Written documentation is extremely helpful to keep everyone on the same page. When software engineers did code reviews in the office, it wasn’t uncommon to communicate in-person to ask for clarification. Everyone was encouraged to make comments on the pull request summing up those conversations when they happened, so that other reviewers would know what the result of the discussion was and all the information could be in one place.
This habit of maintaining good documentation has been useful as we’ve transitioned to working remotely, because information about the code is all on the pull request. We can still have side conversations over Slack or Zoom, but as long as the main points are recorded and accessible, everyone can be aligned. I see this documentation being most effective in code reviews, but it can be useful in other situations as well.
Scheduling and coordination
Lucid uses Google Calendars to schedule meetings and events, and it’s useful regardless of where you’re working, as you can see what times other people already have blocked off, and try to schedule meetings at a time when people are free.
With teams working from home, individuals may need to adjust their schedules. Being transparent about schedules and availability can help teams coordinate. For instance, many households don’t have childcare, so parents need to alternate working and taking care of children. A team member’s hours may be significantly altered, but it’s easy to communicate that with the team through Google Calendars or a Slack status. Then, people can know if they should reach out to someone else if they have an urgent question, and team meetings can be scheduled at times that work best for everyone.
A company office is undeniably different from a home office. Lucid’s offices have ping pong tables, games, and open kitchens that make it easy to take a short break to clear your head for a few minutes before getting back to work. Not everything is practical in a home office. While you may not set up a ping pong table, other things may be easier, like preparing fun snacks to munch on while you work or personalizing your space. It’s important to do what you can to make your home office an enjoyable place to work.
Having a good work-space that is separate from your living space, if possible, is extremely helpful. My husband is currently working from a spare bedroom, and I set up a folding card table in our entry room that is now my workstation. I go to my table to work, and then at the end of the day, I can close my laptop and walk away from it, so that even though my work is in my house, my whole home does not become an office. Simple actions like closing your laptop can make it a bit easier to leave work and relax, even when you work from home.
If you can’t create a separate working space and have to work from the kitchen table or another place where you would normally relax, try creating a ritual for setting up and starting the day, and another one for when you finish, so that you can efficiently enter a working mindset and then switch back to using that space for non-work activities once you’re done. Even if you have a very small space, be creative and find ways to make a great workplace that works for you.
Lucid has a monthly budget for each team to do a team activity, typically done outside of the office. My team has done frisbee golf, an escape room, and knife-making at a local forge recently. These kinds of activities aren’t currently possible, so we’ve had creative brainstorms about what we can do instead. Our people and culture team also put together a fun list of ideas for teams to pull from. So far, my team has played online board games and done a YouTube drawing tutorial together, which everyone really enjoyed. Brainstorm with your team and see if you can come up with some creative team-building activities. These activities will help your team feel connected, which will help everyone enjoy the normal workday more.
Lucid has always communicated big announcements and team successes to the entire company, usually through company-wide meetings. It’s great to know what is happening in the broader company and to celebrate each others’ successes, as well as hear about and learn from the projects that didn’t go as planned. Lucid has had more frequent company meetings as we’ve gone remote, and the executives have been more active on Slack, sharing their own work-from-home tips and stories. This transparency is encouraging for people throughout the company, as we can see how others are doing and get ideas for ways to improve work on our teams.
When working remotely, you no longer have spontaneous interactions like you would when walking between meeting rooms or grabbing lunch in an office full of people. The minutes before and after meetings when people would normally socialize and catch up are harder to come by when employees are working remotely. Deliberately communicating and building relationships with people remotely might be difficult, but it is important. It may be worth starting some meetings with a few minutes of chatting, or setting up a lunch call to catch up with someone you don’t see as often anymore.
At the end of the day, make sure that you are communicating in a way that works well for your team. Everyone should feel involved and know what is happening, and hopefully people have a chance to connect and socialize a little bit as well.
Keep an open conversation going
Lucid has a Slack channel about remote work, where people have been posting ideas and inspiration. Some post their work from home setup. Others share articles or tips they’ve found helpful. For instance, someone posted about online fitness classes that people can try, and also shared an article from the CDC about how to manage stress and anxiety. It’s great to surface these ideas to the whole company, to build camaraderie and community during difficult times with everyone at a company, and not just your immediate team or department. It’s also important to talk more with your team—make sure that everyone feels like they are being heard, and encourage each other to try new things to make the remote experience as great as possible.
Some employees will enjoy working remotely more than others. There will be some challenges and some great successes. Be creative in addressing challenges. Regularly iterate and try new ideas to more effectively work together.
Share what your company is doing to make remote work awesome in the comments.