Our Team Has Been Working Remotely for Over 13 Years – Here’s How We Stay Productive (and Sane)

In 1915, an Irish explorer by the name of Ernest Shackleton ended up stuck in the Antarctic with his crew of 27 men. And for 16 months, the men rallied to survive. 

Despite the freezing cold temperatures and inhospitable environment, in the end, all of the men miraculously made it through. 

How? 

One reason was that Ernest set routines for everybody. He established structure. 

Each day, he made sure that his crew members had time to exercise, socially interact with one another, play games and eat together.

Having that structure and routine helped to keep everyone alive…and sane. 

Working from home is no different. In order to do it effectively, you need to have structure. 

Trust me, I know. Our team has always been 100% remote. And when I say 100%, I mean 100%—I’ve actually never even met most of my coworkers in person. 

Here are a few team habits that help us make it work…  

1. Daily Meetings 

To help combat any feelings of loneliness and provide a bit of structure to the day, our team meets on Google Hangouts every morning (except Fridays, which is reserved for Deep Work). 

In the first meeting, our kick-off call, we talk about anything and everything non-work related for 15-20 minutes, from TV shows to the latest news and world events (coronavirus has certainly dominated most of our conversations as of late!). 

After that, our marketing team comes together for a quick 10-minute Marketing rundown, where we discuss the tasks of the day and week. Once that’s over, our development team meets to go over tasks and collaborate.

Having those meetings on a daily basis helps us stay connected and ensure that everyone’s on the same page before starting the day. 

2. Video Required 

Speaking of meetings, all of us on the team are expected to be on video during those meetings. Doing so helps to ensure that we all stay focused and present. Because during audio-only calls, it’s all too easy to do other things and get distracted. 

Another reason for video? It helps us communicate better, since we’re able to pick up on one another’s non-verbal cues. 

3. Daily Collaboration Time 

With our team based all over the globe, finding a time to collaborate each day is crucial. Every day from 8:15AM to 12PM ET is reserved for collaboration (which means that team members must be on Slack and available to chat during that time). This helps to avoid miscommunication and the long delay in response time that would otherwise result.

4. Overcommunication 

On that note, we’re big believers in overcommunication. 

We try not to assume anything. So, for example, at the end of a meeting, we’ll sum up the next action steps. If one of us has a question or doubt about something, we ask or clarify rather than assuming. 

We also try to be very intentional about our messaging. So, for example, if assigning a task to a colleague, we try to think about the questions they might have and answer those questions in the initial message to help cut down on back and forth. We try to be as clear as possible in our messaging and send links, screenshots or videos whenever appropriate or helpful. 

5. The Right Tools 

Using the right tools can make all the difference when it comes to being productive. Here are a few of our favorites: 

  • Google Hangouts (for meetings) 
  • Slack (for collaboration) 
  • Teamwork (for project management) 
  • Google Drive (to manage all our files) 
  • Harvest (for time tracking on projects) 
  • CloudApp (for recording videos and taking screenshots) 

And the list goes on…

6. Established Boundaries 

When your home becomes your office, it can be easy to blur the lines between personal life and work. Many remote workers end up working more than their in-office counterparts as a result. 

That’s why it’s important to establish boundaries. When I’m working, I’m working. And once I log out of Slack, I’m no longer “in the office” or working. I don’t think about work or respond to emails outside of working hours. 

It’s easier said than done, I know. If your work computer is your personal computer, then try closing all work-related tabs as soon as you end the day. Remove work-related notifications and emails from your personal phone if you’re able to. And let your colleagues know that you need time to disconnect and they shouldn’t expect a response from you when you’re “out of the office.” 

7. Walking Meetings 

Walking has been proven to boost focus, productivity and creativity. Not to mention the health benefits. For that reason, some of my team members go for a walk outside during our internal meetings. 

Side Note: If you want to do walking meetings but background noise is an issue, check out Krisp, an app that mutes background noise during calls. It’s a total lifesaver. 

8. Daily Plans 

Before starting the day, every member of our team must submit a Daily Plan, which is a list of tasks that we plan to accomplish that day and how long we plan to spend on each task. Planning out our day helps us to determine what tasks deserve the most attention (80/20) and ensure that we’re maximizing the time that we have. 

Then at the end of the day, we each submit a Daily Recap, which is a list of the tasks that we accomplished that day and how long was spent on each task (which we track using Harvest). 

This helps us remain cognizant and intentional with our time. For example, If I find that I spent 20 hours writing a blog post that only resulted in a few views, then I know that that blog post wasn’t the best use of my time, and I can better allocate my time moving forward.

Going back to those boundaries, posting Daily Recaps also helps us psychologically check out of the office and end the workday.

9. Different Slack Channels

When working from home, you’re not running into your colleagues in the hall or break room, so you obviously don’t have the same type of social interaction that you have in the office. 

But that doesn’t mean that it can’t exist online. Au contraire. Our team has a water cooler channel, health/fitness channel and travel channel, where we check in with one another, post interesting articles and swap photos. We also have an Inspiration channel where we share (yup, you guessed it), things that inspire us in our work. 

Learn to Adapt 

Like it or not, the work from home movement isn’t going anywhere. So the best thing you can do is adapt. Hopefully my team’s tips have provided you with some ways you can do that. 

Sure, it will take some adjustment. And there will inevitably be some things that you’ll miss about the office. After all, virtual communication will never be the same as in-person communication. 

But, like our team, you just might be surprised to find that you’re even more productive (and happier) working from home than in the office.

Mary Blackiston

Mary is the Content Marketing Specialist for eScale. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, rock climbing, blogging, traveling, and soaking up as much eCommerce knowledge as she can.