Now that much of the world’s population is working from home, many are starting to realize the challenges of working remotely while still maintaining a sense of community.
On one hand, working remotely means not having to commute and getting to spend time with family and pets (not mutually exclusive). But it’s hard to ignore the inherent isolation some feel when spending much of the day inside the home. Many of us may be experiencing the challenges of working remotely for the first time. But, for regular remote workers, some of these obstacles are not new.
One such remote worker is Jeff Moravik, a community manager at VerticalScope. The decision to work remotely was an easy one for him to make. Why would he travel to a downtown office when he could stay in his lake-front home accompanied by his dogs? 🐕
VerticalScope runs and operates over 800 sites and has over 125 million users – a rather large community. But the VerticalScope team is large in its own right – its employees are spread out across 9 countries.
As a remote community manager working for VerticalScope, Jeff’s work connects him to both the online community and communities within the company itself.
“We have a pretty tight knit group of community management. We know each other very well,” says Jeff.
Here are 4 tips that Jeff has picked up to support his remote communities and that you can put into practice with your remote team!
Remote Tip #1: Align Your Remote Team with Daily Standups
One of the biggest challenges of remote work is overcoming the feeling of isolation and disconnection. Some members of Jeff’s team spend their days dealing with customer queues – virtually messaging back and forth. So it’s easy for them to feel like they are a one-man show.
To try to overcome this, Jeff participates in two daily standups – one for managers and one for the entire community management team. Prior to the standup, each team member adds their answers to three questions posed within the standup meeting agenda:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you going to do today?
- What are your blockers/challenges?
To keep the meeting as efficient as possible, each team member is expected to review the agenda (and their teammates’ points) before the meeting. Jeff’s team uses Fellow to do this. In that way, instead of going around the table and having people read what they wrote, team members are encouraged to ask any follow-up questions that they might have. On the calendar, these standups are scheduled for 30 minutes, but Jeff’s team usually completes them in 10-15 minutes! It’s a way to get a little bit of facetime while aligning with the rest of the team.
An added bonus of the daily standup video calls is that Jeff can gauge how his team is doing on a personal level. A person’s body language and tone of voice can provide hints as to how that person is feeling. Jeff describes this as a personal touch, “where you can kind of connect with someone and figure out where they’re at”. If Jeff notices something’s off with one of his team members, he likes to follow-up privately in a direct message.
According to Karyn Twaronite, EY’s Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer, seizing the small opportunities to connect is important for developing a sense of community among distributed coworkers.
Remote Tip #2: Share Your Status
A few weeks ago, Rebecca Snyder talked with us about how, as a remote worker, she uses customized emojis in Slack. Jeff’s team does something similar – with Slack statuses.
The VerticalScope team is spread out across the world, which inherently leads to different experiences. In a brick and mortar office, workers are able to see when someone is on their lunch break. This is more difficult to do when working remotely. So, some team members share what they are up to or what they are seeing by using statuses in Slack.
This may be as simple as adding an emoji of a burger or a specific place to signal that you are at lunch 🍔. Or you could choose an option to share your local weather. This might even be adding an icon to signal that you are in a meeting or in deep-work mode 👨💻. Perhaps using a palm tree as an indication that you are on vacation or a syringe to represent that you are at a doctor’s appointment.
Encouraging your remote teammates to update their Slack status can be a great way to build relationships and understand what everyone is working on.
Remote Tip #3: Make Use of Meeting Agendas to Prevent Information Loss
Jeff describes his role as “a traffic cop for a bunch of different departments”. He works with QA on user testing, with Creative for site banners, and with Product when developing new platforms – essentially with every department at some point.
With so many moving pieces and meetings throughout the day, it’s easy to get distracted, overwhelmed, and out of touch with your team.
To try to combat these challenges, Jeff asks his team to record their talking points and decisions in their meeting agendas.
If during a team meeting, Jeff or his team find themselves in a sidebar conversation (or they don’t have enough time to solve a problem), they’ve made it a habit to put that discussion topic in the next week’s production meeting notes. This helps keep people focused on the current initiative and reduces tangents.
When a product is in development or in testing, a lot can happen in between meetings – new bugs are identified or new issues discovered. Since it’s not super efficient to meet with others each time you encounter one of these obstacles, between meetings, Jeff regularly adds new things that have come up since the last meeting to the upcoming agenda.
With such a quick pace, it’s easy to forget about the small details. Use technology to your advantage and let Fellow do some of the remembering for you.
Remote Tip #4: Remove Your Team’s Roadblocks and Help Them Stay Focused
Jeff uses daily standups and one-on-one meetings to remove roadblocks for his team. He keeps his one-on-ones casual and fairly unstructured, telling his direct reports to jump in and lead the conversation however they like – as it is the employee’s meeting. Perhaps they need to rant and get something off their chest. Or maybe they would like to discuss a roadblock and how Jeff can help.
The nature of Jeff’s work attracts a lot of introverts – the type of people who are often drawn to online communities. Because of this, some members of Jeff’s team aren’t the most enthusiastic when it comes to the more personal aspects of one-on-ones.
When managing introverts, Rebecca Knight recommends asking questions like: “In your ideal workday? How many meetings do you attend? How do you like to get your work done? How do you recharge?” Knight also recommends sharing the meeting agenda in advance to let the introvert think about how to best convey their ideas.
. . .
In challenging times, it’s easy to recognize the importance of community. To quote Joni Mitchell – “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
For many of us, today’s world feels like a whole new world. But luckily for us, there are many remote workers (such as Jeff Moravik, Rebecca Snyder, and Justin Clark) from whom we can learn.
Most importantly, it’s about learning how your team works and how best to support them.
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