Remote work is becoming more and more popular: to hire the best talent from across the world and keep up with the competition, startups and big companies alike are building distributed teams. However, transitioning from a colocated team to a remote environment can be still challenging—how can you organize your workday if you don’t have to be at the office 9 to 5? How do you establish relationships with new colleagues?
At Miro, we are focused on making remote work better—by building a platform for visual communication and by sharing our experiences as a remote team. Check out the second installment of posts where the Miro team shares their tried and true methods to be more productive while working remotely.
Director of demand & growth marketing
Experience working remotely:
more than 6 years
Favorite productivity tools (besides Miro):
Google Calendar, Slack, Wunderlist
Take advantage of tech for “passive” communication
When you work from home, it can feel like there is extra pressure to respond to messages right away. The truth is that it’s far more important to “close your office door” and focus by turning off Slack, or stepping away to get some fresh air. Instead of feeling guilty, let people discover where you are by setting up calendar blocks or updating your Slack status to let people know when you will be available or that you might be slow to respond due to another priority — typically, that’s all people want to know.
My team has also created a Huddle Board on Miro so that our work and results are discoverable by one another (and by anyone else at the company). Allowing people to “self serve” information creates the autonomy that leads to fewer dependencies and more focus.
Create rituals on the team
Our team works in 2-week sprints, so we gather around a board every other Monday for a retrospective and sprint planning. We also do regular standups to work through blockers.
Creating these rituals helps remote team members feel a sense of camaraderie and creates transparency. It also helps us build the psychological safety that’s so important on a high-performing team. We set ambitious goals, acknowledge what we can’t get done or need help with, and what could be better.
Also, as a remote manager, you have to take the extra step to make sure people know what you expect, and this standup helps to make sure we’re all on the same page about what our priorities are. From here, everyone feels empowered to move fast and get work done autonomously.
Avoid work on your phone
Mobile apps are an amazing way to stay connected on-the-go. However, as a remote worker, you’ll be tempted to keep up with notifications and messages at times when you can’t possibly be doing your best work. Open apps only when you’re truly ready to take on the day’s work. This could mean deleting apps from your phone (temporarily!) to get important downtime or plugging your phone in at night far, far away from your bedside table.
[rtb_inline_subscription id=”1″ size=”small” header=”Subscribe to learn more about managing remote and collocated teams” button=”black”]
Position: Lead Recruiter in the US
Experience working remotely: 8 months (since joining Miro)
Favorite productivity tools (besides Miro): Slack, Google Calendar, and my handy Miro notebook where I write down my to-do list and check items off as I finish them
Share your questions before the meeting
Working remotely and having my whole team in another country was completely new to me when I joined Miro. My team is in Europe, so I have a limited period each day where we can meet.
When you do meet with your teammates, it’s important to ask the right questions. Considering the limited time we have with each other, I like to make it as productive as possible – but also personable, because it can’t just be all work and no play. I’m always thinking about how to optimize each meeting. Now, we have a shared agenda with topics to discuss and action items.
Miro has been a godsend, and we rely on it faithfully. We can work asynchronously, answering notes on our boards in a timely manner, so the answers will be waiting by the time the others wake up. This ensures both teams, and everyone involved in the process, has visibility into what’s going on, with as much context as possible.
Set up a comfortable space
A quiet space is really important. I live with quite a few people, and sometimes the idea of “working from home” is not ideal. I also try to work in the kitchen or living room, to make sure my bedroom is tech-free.
Previously, I never liked the idea of working from home, because there are so many temptations such as jumping back into bed. However, what has helped me ease into it is getting ready every day like I’m going into work. It is like preparing for a video interview, where you won’t actually be seeing someone in person, but you should still look like you are. That has really helped me.
Don’t forget to rest
Whether I’m in the office or at home, I try to take little breaks to refresh my mind. If you’re like me and tend to schedule back-to-back meetings, those tiny breaks means so much. So I take short walks or play with my dog for a couple of minutes.
Position: Sales Development Representative
Experience working remotely: 5 months
Favorite productivity tools (besides Miro): Google Drive, Tasks in Salesforce
Set up clear working hours
What’s helped me a lot is having the same start time and end time, so my productivity is fairly predictable throughout the day. Some days start late and end late, and others start earlier, but having a set rhythm is important to keep myself on schedule. Then, I split my day up into blocks: in the morning, I answer emails, catch up on to-dos, have a 15-minute break every couple of hours, have lunch around noon, and finish the afternoon completing tasks I scheduled the day before. Then, I finish the day by planning out the next day.
Obviously, not every day is the same, but I try to follow a set structure with distinct time blocks for focused work to stay efficient and on track. Working remotely has its challenges and perks. You need to be internally motivated manage your time well, but you also have autonomy to create your own schedule and rhythm. The bottom line is that you can prioritize, work autonomously to get things done, and stay on top of what’s going on.
Position: Account Executive
Experience working remotely: 5 years
Favorite productivity tools (besides Miro): LeanKit, Trello, Slack, Zoom, MS Teams
Set time for informal meetings with your colleagues
I find it helpful having meetings with different people on your team, especially colleagues you don’t work with on a daily basis. You don’t need an agenda, but you can just check in to see what they’re doing and to stay connected. If they have problems, you can help them. It feels normal, like you’re in the office together.
Keep moving to stay motivated
Changing up your process can help you try new things, get new results, and then share the outcome with your colleagues. This also keeps you on your toes while working from home so it doesn’t feel too repetitive. I like to check out different work-friendly cafes from time to time to change the scenery and meet like-minded folks.
Establish a ritual to end your day
Make sure you take the right amount of breaks – sometimes when you work from home, you don’t take any breaks and just keep working. When you finish working for the day, leave your house, take a walk, and come back to your house, so you feel like you finished that chapter of the day. Then you can start living your life at home, instead of working.
Position: Customer Education Manager
Experience working remotely: 2 years
Favorite productivity tools (besides Miro): Loom, Pomello
Turn your camera on
I always keep a camera on for meetings. At my last company, we never turned our cameras on. Without the camera, you can forget people are human, and say things over video conferencing that you would never say if you were standing in the same room as them. Not rude, but abrasive. But if you’re looking at the person and you see their face, you remember that they’re human. That’s really important.
Schedule breaks after each call
I work in the Pacific Time Zone, so I try to schedule all of my calls in the morning. You have a call, and then you work for an hour but it takes you 15 minutes to start really getting into the task, and then you have another call.
When I do chores around the house, I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not working, but if I was at the office, I also wouldn’t be working all day. I’m actually less productive at the office. So, when I’m working from home I give myself the freedom to take a little break and play a game for 20 minutes. Your brain needs breaks, especially after something like a phone call with a customer.
I try to not schedule meetings on Fridays. Instead, I’ll go to a coffee shop and work for about 5 hours. It gets me out of the house. Instead of feeling cooped up, it feels like Friday. Because I don’t have any calls, I can work on projects all day.
Position: Account Executive
Experience working remotely: 4 years
Favorite productivity tools (except Miro): Evernote
Set clear boundaries between work and life
They say to only get into bed when you’re ready to sleep. Your bed should be a sacred area reserved exclusively for slumber. This is important to keep in mind for remote work. It feels so easy to wake up, grab your computer, and start working from bed in your pajamas. Don’t fall for it! Instead, get dressed for your day and move to an area defined as your “workspace,” where you also keep your computer. I always go into that space to work, even if it’s at midnight, so I don’t break the work/life barrier. Delineating clearly helps you become more productive while also allowing your place of comfort (your home) to not feel like a place of work.
Install extra ways to be accountable
Accountability can be the toughest part of remote work. Ideally, you can be a self-starter and self-motivated, but not everyone has developed those skills. So, it’s important to create ways to hold yourself accountable. A coworker and I created a cadence that revolved around verbalizing what we had to accomplish that day, so the next day, we could hold each other to task about our commitments. We were peers, and this wasn’t a management-driven directive. Owning the process ourselves really helped us stick to it, and it made a huge difference in my productivity.
Cluster your tasks
Visually organizing tasks with Post-It notes was one way I kept myself organized (beyond my CRM). I tried to be strategic in my placement of them. Above my computer (where I looked most) is where I kept in view things that had an immediate need. The space by my window is where I kept the things that I need to eventually get to. To the right side of my desk (away from my line of sight) were things that were important, but more a “want” than a “need.” I am a visual learner, and I tried to tailor my workspace to reflect that. Now I do the same thing in Miro without having to worry about throwing away the wrong note or the adhesive running out.