By Kevin Aluwi
It’s been a trying couple of weeks since the Coronavirus outbreak. As governments and authorities encourage social distancing, many companies — Gojek included — have started to put a heightened emphasis on working from home. As an organization with a distributed workforce, we have offices in Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, and India, a remote strategy has always been embedded in our DNA. This post details some lessons and what we think are ‘best practices’ to follow in a Work from home (WFH) situation.
At the outset, it’s important to call out a key point: During this time of uncertainty, employees may not be at their productive best. There’s a lot of anxiety with family and friends, and rightly so. WFH requires high Accountability, but also Empathy and Trust. Be mindful, this is a stressful time for everyone. Trust your colleagues to do the best they can given the times.
Before we begin — context
Gojek has always been mindful of our employees’ health and wellbeing. We have unlimited sick leaves, and encourage employees to work where and when they are at their productive best. We have proven success — with functional leaders working fully remotely without compromising on effectively launching org-wide initiatives: career ladders, new hiring programs, even setting up an entire new function. But this is by all means not a comprehensive or a definitive guide. Think of this as a ‘beta’ document summarising some lessons in a bid to get feedback from you, our readers. We’re putting this out there so we can learn together to do better.
If you think we’ve missed out on something, please leave a comment — will help us a long way in fine-tuning our own practices. These are trying times, and we want to do what is right for everyone.
(1)The right environment
Office spaces provide designated areas employees start associating with work and focus. This may not be the case in a home environment, so it is important to recreate this space. Some ideal prerequisites include an area with plenty of light, minimal distractions and a comfortable desk and chair.
Working from home also potentially involves sharing the space with other family members / housemates. It’s important to set guidelines to indicate when you are at work and not to be disturbed — one team member for example set up a plush toy on a desk as a makeshift ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign!
Once a setup is established, don’t neglect the importance of taking breaks. The absence of colleagues and social interaction should not lead to long uninterrupted sessions. Set a timer to alert you if you’ve been continuously at your desk for over two hours. Take short breaks to stretch your legs. Use the time to also spend time with family, or work on personal projects that require the occasional check-in! There’s a silver lining to every scenario :)
This whole point might seem obvious and rather trivial, but is critical when you want focus, and don’t have your colleagues to ‘pair’ with you and nudge you.
(2) The right tools
Ensure the coordination tools used by your organisation / team are installed on your laptop and working properly. At Gojek we use Slack for messaging, Zoom for video conferencing, and Asana and JIRA for project coordination. Here are a few quick tips from our WFH Best Practices on how best to use them in a remote work scenario:
Over communicate: Set clear expectations and create WFH Rules of Engagement for your team. What cadences need to be synchronous vs. async? Set your Slack status to away every time you leave the computer for a break, and update it once you’re back. Clearly request responses to critical communications you send, and do the same to confirm you’ve received an update (even Slack’s emoji responses will do, as long as there is recorded acknowledgement).
Document everything: Meetings may become increasingly asynchronous, so it is important to document all the items discussed and assigned. Record key decisions in a centralized decision log. This can be done via written notes hosted in a common cloud folder, as well as tasks on Asana for accountability. Minimise communication gaps.
Choose the most high-context communication medium available: A lot gets lost in translation when you don’t have visual cues. Use video conferencing whenever possible. Failing video, (spotty connection) default to a phone call, then chat. In chat, don’t hesitate to use emojis liberally to convey your tone! ?
Pro tip: In Zoom preferences, set the option to video muted/off as the default — then manually enable them once you join a meeting. It can help avoid a few facepalms. Not everyone has the perfect Instagram workspace at home, so Zoom’s background masks will help.
(3) The right mindset
The shift to remote will be alien for a lot of us. Be respectful and considerate — everyone’s doing the best they can. Set up core work hours when the entire team is expected to be available and clearly define these on a calendar. Be mindful of each other’s calendars and schedule sensitively so all concerned parties can extract the maximum output from their workday.
Quantify what is being done at the end of each day, and by whom. Transparency is key here. You can shape this right at the beginning during daily team meetings. When social interactions with colleagues are virtual, you as a manager, or an employer, tend to worry about accountability. Maintain a notepad of things you did, what you’re working on, when others can expect work to be delivered, and when you will respond to messages or requests. This reduces anxiety and helps you plan your day. In the midst of all this, don’t forget to respect your own time as well. Define your working hours, and stop once they are up.
It’s equally easy to also overwork yourself when working from home. Be mindful of your on-screen time.
We spoke to a bunch of Gojek folks to get some of their actionable WFH hacks:
- If you find your attention span dwindling, take time off, browse your favorite social media app, go for a walk — get that Vitamin D in, talk to a friend/family member etc…
- Eat on time, eat healthy — set timelines for this on your calendar so you’re not skipping meals.
- Create a mini-team virtual group just for social interactions that do not discuss work — movies, books, art, interesting articles etc.
- Hydrate. Stretch every 30 minutes. Hydrate. Have strict timelines on when you eat. Do not sway here. Did we say hydrate? Hydrate.
- Team calls should start with something fun — a new fact you learnt, an interesting fact you learnt, or something interesting going on in team member’s lives outside of work.
- Change into a separate set of clothes during core working hours, even if they are just a different set of comfortable PJs. It helps delineate “work time” from “waking up” or “me time” when both are happening in the same place. It’s tempting to work in bed while wearing the clothes you slept in, but avoid this!
- Your calendar is sacred — set timers for food breaks, leisure walks, time off, family obligations etc.
- Call out good work! Do this more often than usual and with consistency. Start your meetings with kudos.
We’re trying to get better
This is an important shift in how organisations get work done. While this guide is a foundation to help us figure things out, we don’t have all the answers.
If you have significant experience with remote work, we’d like to hear your thoughts. Feel free to drop into our comments.
That’s all from us for now, stay safe!
P.S. Empathy & Trust — The two key words you want to keep in mind. ✌️