Effective Remote Work Practices

Welcome to episode 69 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss successful strategies for working remotely.

Original Recording Date: 03-05-2020

Topics – Successful Remote Work Practices

0:57 – Some Context and Our Experiences

  • At present, Covid-19 is top of mind for employees and their companies. Events are getting cancelled, and many people are being encouraged to work remotely.
  • Both Nick and John have worked on remote teams as well as in offices and wanted to share ways to be successful when working remotely.
  • We collaborate remotely to record this podcast as well.
  • Some employers allow occasional remote work (i.e. once per week or more).
    • Keep in mind, remote work can be negotiated for when you accept a job.

4:01 – Be "At Work"

  • Get in the proper mindset and take work seriously even when working from home or elsewhere (i.e. a coffee shop). This is not a day off.
  • Create a dedicated space for your work. John recommends a separate, partitioned space, even if it is using room dividers.
    • The physical barrier creates psychological room to be at work.
  • Arrange things in your workspace in an ergonomically pleasing way to avoid injury.
  • Create normal work hours to build the habit (as if you’re physically in an office).
    • Without set work times defined, you will fail.
    • Build in a break for lunch. Put the work aside, and move to a different room. Don’t eat at your desk!
      • This allows a psychological break and promotes proper digestion.
  • Create the expectation that you are not available.
    • This is extremely important if you have a family / family members who will be home during the day. Setting the boundary early helps enforce the fact that proximity is not availability.
    • Being an effective knowledge worker requires uninterrupted concentration.
    • Plan on running errands during your normal lunch hour.
  • Prioritize work consistently
    • Nick likes the Time Management for Systems Administrators approach to setting task priorities (A, B, C).
      • John likes to do this as early in the day as possible. Remember that prioritization takes energy.
    • John shares thoughts on optimizing prioritization. This comes from Your Brain at Work as mentioned in Bonus Episode 08.
      • Prioritizing takes a great deal of brain energy, requiring access to long term memory.
      • Because of this, simplify your life to avoid decisions early in the morning.
        • John has done this with his wardrobe, for example.
        • Another thing to do is lay out toiletries in the order you will use them.
    • Get up and move!
      • Wouldn’t you get up and use the restroom or walk to the break room at an office? Your office is not as large, so build in ways to get more movement.
        • Lack of movement can lead to weight gain.
      • Movement stimulates brain activity. Take a walk, and let your mind wander.

20:04 – Camera On

  • John had a sales leader in his time at VMware that required camera on meetings once per week.
  • The culture at Google is camera on (whether in the office or working remotely), which was communicated as part of the culture during onboarding.
    • This drives different behavior than when it is not required.
      • Dressing professionally is important.
    • Nick stated he does not turn his camera on for meetings very often. John reiterates how much the decision is ingrained in culture of a team / company.
  • Working from home in a camera on culture drives proper hygiene as well (look professional for meetings even though not at the office).
  • John has heard of camera on work buddies to help coworkers hold one another accountable.

25:16 – Team Communication

  • Working remotely can remove some organic interactions which happen while working with others in the same office space.
    • Maybe there’s a way to recreate this digitally…
      • For groups
        • Slack channel
        • Group text
        • Audio chat
      • 1:1 chat with teammates
  • John felt like he did not communicate with the team enough when he was on a remote team.
    • Nick believes this is fostered by the manager of the remote team.
      • He has seen managers encourage reaching out to a new team member to get to know them and make them feel comfortable asking for help.
      • Consistent interaction with other members of a remote team is a cultural norm.

30:32 – Document Your Work

  • John finds this an effective form of self-accountability. Many times we forget where the day has gone and forget our accomplishments.
    • Documenting what we do as we finish it gives a better sense of accomplishment.
      • Keeping a work diary in Microsoft Word, OneNote, Evernote, or within the tool of your choice (format can be your choice as well).
    • Documenting major milestones help to show impacts of your work. This is especially helpful when it is time for performance reviews.
  • Calendar everything!
    • This is critical when working remotely. Block to get interrupted time for brainstorming or other focus activities.
    • This is another way to help document and look back on your day.
    • Could this be extremely challenging for people in some type of phone support / on-call role?
      • Managers can help by enforcing time for interrupted work.
  • Remember the documentation of work helps keep the resume updated consistently (as long as you do it, of course).
    • An interview is a different form of performance review.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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