On 3rd January 2019, we announced -
"At Shimbi Labs, now everyone works from the location they choose. You will be invited to work wherever you're happiest and most productive."
It is almost a year since then.
In the last two weeks of December 2019, we are experiencing truly 100% remotely working team. No one is working at our headquarters in Pune, but few in Pune from Home, others in Udaipur, Ajmer, Kolkotta, Banglore, Mumbai in India. Tokyo and Fukuoka in Japan.
During this period, we experience many good things and experiencing some challenges too. With more people working remotely, everyone is experiencing that things change when there is no office to go. Working style, habits, and workflows change in a remote organization.
As the CEO of a fully remote company for a year, during the past year, I have learned a few things that have helped me make the most of remote work. I wish to share the experience with you, my team at Shimbi Labs, and all other organizations that are planning to go remote.
Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned.
1. Don't communicate but over-communicate.
How does the team, team leader, and customers know the current status of a project? How does anyone know your work plan for the day? If you are facing a problem? Or Need help or Collaborative efforts to overcome the issue.
If you are working in an office, these questions are often answered by walking to someone's desk or during lunch or coffee breaks. But in remote set up some of this communication can get lost unless you actively communicate.
At Shimbi Labs, we should also change from communicating to over-communicating by default for all that we do. We should also express how we are feeling with our current workload/team/schedule. Yes, over-communicating has an impact on our time. Still, it's too important to the health of the organization.
How to do this? Any format is ok as long as it is easy to use and easily accessible to your team.
We use MyProject - a project management system that helps us keep track of everything and keep them in one place. We DON'T USE EMAILS. Emails are the most unorganized way of managing anything important.
You have a new task - If understood, acknowledge it. Have queries ask immediately. Need help ask for it.
Have you made progress in a task? Leave an update.
Is your current task taking longer than expected? Update, and if required, reach out for help.
Have you found something unexpected that might delay the project? Share it with the team and the customer.
Do you have an idea on how to improve something? Open discussion for opinions.
Daily work report is a must. Your leader, your customer trust you so much that they offer you so much freedom and flexibility. It is your responsibility and obligation to write a detailed daily report.
MOST IMPORTANT - share information as clearly as possible.
Sometimes you might need to communicate the same thing more than once, then do it because every teammate has a different context in the project.
For example, if I've just completed a task, I might share:
The full context of the technical details with my engineering team.
The current status of the project after this task, with the project/product manager, the designer, and the customer.
The change that will bring potential workflow change for customers, then the customer support team.
Sharing information just makes everyone's life easy.
So don't just communicate but over-communicate.
2. Use your flexible schedule wisely
In a remote company, you have complete flexibility in the work schedule. No one is saying you need to work from 9 to 5. In a remote company, your output is way more important than which time of the day you are working. Your time is truly your own; try to use it to your advantage.
But at Shimbi Labs because we are too new to the remote working and many of us experiencing remote work for the first time. Earlier, we use to work together at the office for 9 to 5. So now the way we work at Shimbi Labs, we ask people to work from 8 am to 5 pm IST with a one-hour lunch break, but from anywhere they like.
This practice is to migrate from anywhere to anywhere, anytime. Once people are used to managing time and keep the balance between work and life, we wish them to make it a completely flexible work schedule as they want.
The easy start would be to experiment 4-hour overlap with the team and then wok any time. For example, official time remains 8 am to 5 pm IST, you may schedule your work some week from 1 pm to 9 pm, or 8 am to 12 pm and then 7 pm 11 pm because you have to take your spouse to hospital. Simply select any 4 hours to work with the team and balance 4 hours as per your schedule.
This experimentation also applies to where you work. Feel free to try different things and see what works better for you. It might be working from home, a co-working space, or an occasional walk to your favorite coffee shop or someday drop by to the Shimbi Labs Pune office. It's up to you to try different things and see how it feels, what works, and doesn't work.
4. If you feel off about something, say so
Feedback is vital for organization growth, in an office or a remote environment. Discussing over coffee in the office or chatting with friends outside work will likely not help to change anything in the organization. But giving honest and often feedback likely to bring change.
Depending on the kind of company you're working, you might need to adjust to being more or less direct while giving feedback. Some companies have a culture of feedback at every level, and others don't. Still, I find that sharing feedback early and often is a great exercise to improve as a professional and help the organization to grow. Plus, you're opening yourself to receive some feedback for yourself, which is even better.
Some tools that help us at Shimbi Labs are:
An anonymous feedback form.
We have Q & A with CEO and leaders every month, where you can submit questions anonymously.
In general, we work hard on the culture of welcoming feedback where everyone can share how they feel and what we could improve.
5. Make time for brainstorming and creativity
You are working in a knowledge-based technology company. Every day is a new day, with new technical challenges to face. New technological evolution happening around us. In such a case, continue learning is the only option to stay relevant and competent in the job. When you're in an office, ideas exchange and learning happen.
When you are working remotely, there's less opportunity to mix and talk and share experiences – you tend to focus on the task at hand. So it's important to take a step back from time to time and brainstorm ways to improve things. Learn new things.
When was the last time you took a few hours to think and plan what you wish to learn next? Make it a habit. Every few days, work on something new, learn something new.
Innovation comes from different places – expose yourself to new ideas. Books, conferences, talking with other people in the industry, podcasts, videos, and many other sources, and you don't know where the next good idea might come from. The good idea is to expose your mind to different people and companies to get new ideas that you can try.
Finally, you’re not alone – connect with others. It’s more comfortable to only working on your task, or not collaborate with others if it’s not strictly required.
Sooner or later, you will feel lonely. Loneliness is one of the biggest challenges that remote workers face. It is essential to acknowledge that isolation can affect our work and health.
When you’re mainly focused on output, it’s easy to forget that you have the opportunity to learn and collaborate with your teammates.
So how can you collaborate, learn, and give more than just your task?
Here are a few suggestions:
If the company hiring? Volunteer to help onboard new employees or even interviewing new candidates.
Try to come up with ideas to improve your and your team's effectiveness when working. It could automated tests, a Continuous Integration (CI) system with a quick deploy process, or better flows to communicate changes.
There are many more ways to learn, grow, and help the organization grow. It really doesn't matter where you are working or in which time zone you are working.
Do you have any other ideas bout making remote working efficient and fun? Please, share them in the comments section.
Till then, happy working wherever you are, we value you much.