At a time when, due to the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus or Coronavirus, governments around the world are recommending avoiding large groups of people in public spaces, remote work emerges as an alternative to consider. That is why at Zenvia Conversion we decided to make public the guide that we have used for a long time to improve productivity in home environments. We invite you to read it and share it with everyone at your workplace.
Claims that open-plan offices encourage interaction between coworkers frequently ignore complaints about how these informal interruptions make it hard to do any focused work.
We’ve found that working remotely allows us to find the best talent for Zenvia Conversion, while improving our productivity.
- Avoid making calls from locations where you can be interrupted or interrupt others.
- Make it easy for others to see if you are OK to interrupt or if you don’t want to be disturbed.
- Set up a dedicated professional home office space with an ergonomically correct desk, good cameras and microphones, and a door you can close.
- Make sure the things you see in your office space are all work related to avoid procrastinating.
Do Not Disturb
- Use big headphones (even if you are not listening to music). People think twice before interrupting someone with big headphones.
- Have a sign on your desk that says “Busy/Available” if you work in a place with people that may interrupt you without realizing.
- Make sure you have good internet quality.
- You can test your speed by opening a terminal and entering the following command: ping 126.96.36.199
You should get a delay under 40 ms on average to be able to have a good call quality. If there are peaks of more than 100 ms, you have a bad connection and will probably have a very bad video call.
- ALWAYS ask every participant to use their own camera and individual headphones
How do others see you?
- For Video Calls, sit with your back to solid walls or whiteboards – Not glass walls, windows or mirrors.
- Can people clearly see expressions on your face? If not, re-position your camera, lighting, or yourself.
- Schedule every meeting as a video call
- Use group chat backchannel and nonverbal communication to speed up video calls.
- When a meeting attendee loses video or audio, use a backchannel to debug the problem while the meeting continues.
- The meeting moderator must actively ensure that everyone who raises their hand has a chance to speak in turn.
- If everyone in the group starts signaling to “Speed up” by moving their hands in circles, just move forward and skip over background information.
Own your calendar
- Keep your calendar accurate, including all non-meeting events and personal events. This helps others schedule meetings with you without calendar haggling.
- Use calendly for externals.
- Use timezone GMT-3 as default for scheduling inside the company.
- Setup your calendar for 30 minute meetings with small gaps of 15 minutes between each meeting.
- Alternate meeting days and “maker” days. It helps you have a more predictable week and you know when you are going to be able to work. If that’s not possible, at least try to break your day into big chunks of creative work vs. operative work.
- Keep a realistic calendar.
- If someone invites you to a meeting without explanation or agenda, politely decline it.
- Treat your calendar as an accurate Single Source of truth record of where you spend your time.
The main rule: If you repeatedly drop everything to help other people’s emergencies, you would be making a significant unproductive choice.
- If there is a real emergency, do what you can to help your coworkers.
- First, decide objectively if you think this is a genuine crisis.
- If it is a crisis, be clear about how much time commitment is likely needed so you can re-plan your other tasks.
About the meeting:
The main rule: Before organizing one, stop and ask: “Does this topic actually need a meeting?”
- Ask yourself, “How will I know if the meeting was a success?”
- Be very intentional about which invitees are required and which are welcome-if-curious.
- Don’t have more people into a meeting than you could feed with a big pizza.
- Every meeting must have a clear agenda into the calendar invite or into the L10 file
- Always document the output of the meeting and clear next steps in a file or tool. If something was a key decision for the company, it must be added to the SSOT (Wiki).
- Start and stop on TIME.
Meeting Moderator and team players
Main Rule: Setup a shared, editable agenda in advance into the calendar invite or other files, and have everyone append items to the agenda.
- Cancel meeting if shared agenda is empty
- The role is to prevent meeting hijacking or “coming-to-a-meeting-just-in-case-itis”
- Because everyone keeps the agenda open, they can see notes as they are being written.
- Before closing, take a look at the notes.
- In the end, copy the entire agenda into your group official SSOT (Wiki).
- The person who organized the meeting is the agenda owner.
SSOT (“single source of truth”) AKA WIKI
This is about fostering a shared human mindset and culture where everyone obsessively tracks all information for a given project or task in one well-defined location. When done consistently, the SSOT (Wiki) shares information rapidly and accurately to any interested human across the organization.
Main Rule: When you need information, look in the single source of truth before asking a human.
- If someone asks you for information that you know is already in the SSOT (Wiki), don’t repeat what is already written. Instead, respond with the link to that information.
- If someone has questions after reading your SSOT (Wiki), immediately update it with your response, so others will not need to ask you the same question.
- Encourage your team to follow these steps.
- As a group, be obsessively consistent about keeping the SSOT (Wiki) 100% up to date. Wherever you hear or discuss something that is important enough to tell others, add it to the SSOT (Wiki) immediately., Your work is not finished until you update the SSOT (Wiki).
- Don’t write a thesis. You don’t have time for that, and others don’t have time to read it. Instead, keep it short. Very Short. Use bullet points. Write the shortest update and cover all the important facts, accurate to the best of tour knowledge. Imagine the other person is reading on a smartphone.
- If you need detailed notes, first write a summary so the non-interested people don’t have to read everything.
- If someone offers to tell you the status of something, stop them and tell them you will read in the SSOT (Wiki) and then ask if you have any questions.
- If you still have questions after reading, ask them to update the SSOT (Wiki) with the answer.
- Start every day by reading your team’s private group chat channels in full and watch the Project Management tool to understand what everyone is doing.
About project management
- Ensure everyone has uploaded their priorities to the PM tool you use.
- Urgent – something that must be done today.
- High – This week
- Normal – Backlog.
Next time you want to contact someone, try asking yourself “What is the urgency if this situation, and what’s the appropriate communication channel for it?”
Prioritized communication channels from more to least urgent:
- In-person meet
- Cell Phone call
- Slack message/Project management tool mention
- Write like a journalist: the first paragraph gives the reader an overall context in the shortest possible number of words so readers can decide if they care enough to continue reading.
- Make the subject match the reality. If the subject changed during a thread, ask to open a new thread with a new subject.
- Avoid long threads where no one makes decisions and everyone throws ideas in. For that it’s better to open a slack conversation for ideas.
- Everyone uses the same group chat system
- Use public channels by default, private team channels when appropriate, and private one-one direct messages when needed. Group channel eliminates overhead and repetition errors due to multiple separate on to one chats.
- Communicate your status to the team (slack):
- I’m at the computer – Seconds.
- Be right back – 15 minutes
- Meeting – 30-60 minutes
- Do not disturb – Don’t expect an answer soon.
- Holidays – week or more.
- Be sure to write “Remote welcome” in the application form.
- Pay attention to the smallest connection problems during the interview. It is a red flag of the person not adapted to this type of work.
- Keep in mind that when your new hire starts, your team will be net negative one half-person for the first 3 months, because an existing team member needs to spend time helping the new hire get up to speed.
- Never hire people who might not work out. If you hire you will have 50% of a key employee lost for 3 months and will need to clean the unfinished work left behind when the new hire leaves.
- Moderate all channels
- Consider all chat temporary. Copy important discussions to SSOT (Wiki).
- Everyone must look at the team channel every day quickly to be updated on what happened the day before.
- Set explicit expectations on response times, so others can plan accordingly.
- If you repeatedly hire the wrong person, your team will lose confidence in your ability to attract and hire good people.
- Bring your team together once in a while.
When you are working and traveling at the same time
Sometimes it occurs that you want to have a trip to a vacation location with your friends or family but you are not on vacation.
In Zenvia Conversion, we consider this an option, but you have to ensure that:
- You will commit to your duties. People are expecting you to act the same way as you would perform if you are at your regular location. That means the same work hours and responsibilities.
- If you have to make some adjustments to your calendar and you need some flexibility you MUST ensure your manager approves it and your team will not be stuck or delayed because of this.
- You must update your calendar and set clear timelines where you are connected, at a suitable location in order to ensure you perform well (good internet, not a lot of noise)
- Being at the beach and answering WhatsApp is not considered working, nor being online. We will consider this a holiday.
- We are a flexible remote company, this doesn’t mean we can distort the concept.
All these recommendations are based on what we have learned over the years working with teams around the world. Remote work can be a great ally when it comes to scaling your company’s processes, but you must take into account many of these tips so that productivity is not affected.