For most of Australia, working life has changed drastically (and quickly!) over the past couple of weeks. At Ento, the biggest shift has been the switch to working from home full-time. We know that so many of you are in the same boat so we’re sharing some of the strategies we’re implementing and the things we’re thinking about as we go.
There are plenty of great posts out there on how to work remotely, and rather than add to that volume, this post is focused around the extra considerations that come out of such a sudden shift to help you navigate this uncertain, ever-evolving situation.
Remember that everyone works differently
No one asked to be homebound for the foreseeable future and, while for some this is the dream, not everyone actually enjoys working from home. Remembering that, while a challenging time for business, this is also a super challenging time for everyone and extra empathy cannot possibly go astray.
For many people this is a shift that can be stressful for a variety of reasons:
- Home environments aren’t properly set up to work remotely – poor internet, no desk space, etc. impacting productivity.
- There could be kids running around, bothersome housemates who too, are forced to work remotely during this time.
- Isolation. For many, part of the work experience is the social aspects and the collaborative problem solving. For your more extroverted team members this might be a particularly challenging time.
At Ento, we’re tackling this by being kind to one another. Sounds simple but in a time of high stress, being empathetic with one another and understanding that things aren’t going to work as seamlessly as usual becomes extra important. It’s also important to be extra free and open with information (more on communication later) as providing easy access to information and decisions being made can help ease the burden caused by the disruption.
We’ve also encouraged everyone to take the equipment they need from the office – whether it’s a monitor or an office chair – it’s about enabling people to get set up and comfortable easily.
Learn from this experience
Some of the strategies you implement will work, others won’t. Be open about what you are doing, welcome feedback and be ready to adjust and change your approach as you go.
We’ve always had some flexibility to work from home (one day per fortnight per person) and we’re using this forced remote working situation to really test what works and what doesn’t. It’s also giving us the opportunity to look at all our business processes to remove redundancies and streamline things wherever we can.
We’re already seeing that we’ll come out of this experience with stronger processes and a new appreciation for what it takes to make remote working successful. This might mean we work remotely more frequently or conversely, no one will never want to work from home again! We’re all navigating this difficult time together, it’s all about trial and error.
Communication and connectedness is key!
The sudden shift to remote work (let alone shutdown/lockdown rules!) is undoubtedly going to lead to feelings of isolation for many people. Making sure everyone has access to support and feels connected is essential for our mental and general wellbeing.
As a starting point, we’ve decided to really lean in to communication with a bias toward oversharing as we adjust to remote work. We figure we’ll go hard to start and then peel back the parts that feel a little bit ‘much’.
So what does this look like?
Our teams are running their daily standups in the morning to discuss plans for the day and share any blockers they need help with. These were an existing practice – now just moved to virtual! What we’ve added is additional check ins later in the day. For some of us these are progress chats mid-afternoon, for others they are shared summaries of “the good, the bad and the ugly” of their days (the ugly: easy access to fridges!).
On a more personal level, managers are aiming for daily check-ins with team members to share information and discuss progress, with an equal sharing of feedback. These are open conversations to ensure we’re all feeling supported and comfortable with the work we are doing.
We’re utilising slack and video-conferencing to facilitate these conversations. We’ve pushed through the weirdness of video chat as it’s the closest thing to speaking face-to-face. It’s a great collaboration tool and it’s easier to gauge mannerisms and tone. Plus, we get to have a little sticky-beak into each other’s homes!
In an office, it’s so easy to swing by someone’s desk to ask a question, but communicating remotely forces us to be more deliberate about enlisting help and solving problems. Immediate answers can be a little harder to come by and reminding ourselves to be comfortable waiting for a response is important.
(Above) Tom from Ento finding a creative way to communicate a thank you
Keep up morale and engagement!
There’s no doubt, this time can be stressful and uncertain so we’re having a laugh while we get through it. We’re lucky enough to have a really optimistic, vibrant group of people here at Ento, so bringing a positive frame of mind to meetings is uplifting for the rest of the team.
We’re doing this by utilising a tool we are already familiar with – Slack. We’ve dramatically upped the use of our #random and #pics channels where we’re posting pictures of our kids, dogs, cats, lunches and our WFH set-ups; some ergonomically designed, others not so much. We’ve also started a ‘pic of the day’ thread with ideas including ‘what is your cat doing right now?’ ‘your toilet paper situation,’ ‘most annoying flatmate’ and ‘most interesting object within reach.’
We’re even considering implementing our regular Friday night drinks in a virtual format. Although it’s likely to be incredibly chaotic, keeping up social activity during self-isolation (albeit online) is paramount to staying positive and connected.
Fall back on current policies
Reviewing the policies you already have and highlighting those that can help people manage through the uncertainty and change can help make things seem a little more familiar. We’ve identified a number of our existing policies that are making the move to remote working a little more seamless:
- We actually have a dedicated Communication policy which provides a framework for communicating at Ento as we scale. This enables shared knowledge transferring, minimises unnecessary distraction and noise in slack and ensures meetings are meaningful.
- Our 1:1 policy still remains, even though this is no longer a ‘walking’ meeting. We use this time to discuss progress, how we’re feeling about our work, and flag any issues that have the potential to grow. It’s also an opportunity for our managers to better their team member’s motivations, pressure points, goals and overall work happiness.
- A fairly new, yet popular, policy at Ento is our Wellness policy. We believe wellness is a shared responsibility and ultimately, employees with a strong sense of wellness will want to stay with the business. This policy is intended to bring increased focus to wellness and the proactive support of mental health allows employees to access the tools that work best for them as an individual.
We’re each given $500 annually to invest in our wellness, which can be used to fund counselling sessions, gym memberships, a massage or floatation therapy – whatever you need to stay mentally healthy. The (proactive or reactive) support everyone needs is super individual and we’ve opted to put money behind enabling everyone access to what works for them. Mental health and wellbeing is so important for happiness and productivity, especially at a time as unsettling as now.
While the last few weeks have definitely been chaotic, we’ve also seen a huge amount of community spirit and camaraderie at Ento. Putting the wellbeing of our people at the forefront of our decisions has been central to how well everyone has rallied and made the best of the change. Hopefully some of our experience will help guide you!