You've likely already read a dozen articles today about “how to work from home” as COVID-19 continues to cause alarm and forces companies to keep employees out of the office. There are plenty of helpful tips out there: download Zoom for video conferencing, use Slack for real-time chat, have a dedicated workspace, etc.
And while these are all useful tools and recommendations, the reality is that many organizations today are scrambling to set up and support distributed workforces for the first time—virtualizing large teams or entire operations in a matter of days, while trying to maintain focus on big-picture items like corporate culture and company vision. For leaders who are used to sitting directly across from their teams every day, these can be tricky to navigate.
Braintrust is a remote-first organization that works with hundreds of people across 15 countries—most of whom have never met face-to-face. Many of the professionals in our network have 10+ years of experience working virtually or from a home office, and have helped support and shape organizational processes and structures that drive the same level of agility, production and efficiency found in traditional offices.
Full Disclosure: We’re in the business of connecting top tech talent with organizations looking to drive innovation via distributed teams—and if you want more info on that, you can find it here. The goal of this post is not to sell anything; we’re simply trying to share our collective expertise and insights to help others who are working through these transitions for the first time.
We’re committed to doing our part to help others during these difficult times; and because transparency is essential to the success of our organization, we’re opening up our own internal playbook to share the values and methods we employ every day to create accountability and meet our objectives as a virtual team.
Having a distributed team requires a level of trust, ownership and autonomy that might feel new to folks who have spent most of their career in an office. Our core values and tactics are central to the way we manage our daily work, and are regularly reinforced in team meetings and with recognition for team members that embody and demonstrate them.
These are some of the methods that we’ve learned and adapted over time to make remote work better than in person. These are things that we strive for as a team and as an organization—and they’re tactical enough to help us maintain a laser-focus on our priorities and produce the highest-quality work possible:
1. BRING YOUR BEST SELF.
We hire the best and the brightest then give them flexibility to work on their own terms. We expect all team members are going to bring their best self to work 99.9% of the time, and we provide the support needed to make it happen. We also expect all team members to act like owners—because they are. Empower your employees by providing clear areas of ownership and autonomy.
2. PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS.
Because we are an autonomous, distributed team, it is important that each piece of work we send for review, feedback, etc. is our very best take. Small mistakes, formatting issues, etc. are distracting and end up wasting valuable time. We all QA our own work to eliminate unnecessary back-and-forth.
3. PLAY THE BEST TEAM.
We think of ourselves as a professional sports team. We care deeply about the success of our teammates and the team as a whole, and we hire, promote and cut smartly to ensure we have top performers in every position.
4. OPERATE INDEPENDENTLY.
Our culture works best for those that can operate with a high degree of independence. We’re aligned on our goals and objectives as a company, and each person is expected to work in a highly autonomous way to execute. Plan, implement, ask questions, and iterate.
5. COMMUNICATE WITH CLARITY & CANDOR.
Communication is key for a distributed, highly autonomous team. We aim to over-communicate, ideally in the form of strategy docs + project status updates. We ask for and give candid feedback, especially when it’s difficult. We’re clear, concise, and focus on the “so what.”
We seek to distill and simplify even the most complex ideas down to their essence. Our success as a network is based on making the complex simple to understand and use. Enough said. :-)
7. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
Working in an office can be both physically and psychologically draining. Being remote offers the opportunity to set healthy routines that include exercise or meditation, mindfulness and more. Even the ability to step away from something for 10 minutes or work from a different room can improve focus.
8. PRACTICE DAILY GRATITUDE.
Positivity is contagious, regardless of location. We take advantage of high fives, scoreboards and small daily opportunities to recognize and congratulate one another for doing good work—it makes a big difference and helps us stay connected as a team.
As leaders and organizations navigate new waters and look to instill confidence in the face of uncertainty, it’s worth reinforcing—and potentially modernizing—the core values and principles you’ve set for your teams.
You may even find opportunities to increase efficiency and output when working from home, by creating time blocks dedicated to specific responsibilities, stacking meetings on a particular day rather than throughout the week, or by simply avoiding the multiple “hey do you have a minute?” requests that regularly pop up when sitting two desks away from a co-worker.
When we emerge on the other side of this curve, there will be a number of important lessons learned and no shortage of opportunities to continue adopting and supporting the practices that we’re now being forced to leverage.
Braintrust remains committed to continuing to work with our core team, advisors, clients and network to share insights and help those who are looking for additional information and resources.