Adjusting to a new normal: What we have learned from the first weeks of the work-from-home era

March 17, 2020

Read time 5 min

As the world adjusts to a new era of working from home, it has become clear that this is not just a two-week human experimentation. Instead, we might be facing months of remote work and team-building efforts. We at Reaktor have thought carefully about some key questions: How do we maintain the nimble nature of our teams? How do we keep the ideas flowing? And how do we socialize when we’re not meeting by the espresso machine?

As an agile tech company, our ways of working adapt to a situation like this more so than many other businesses. However, going fully remote is new to us as well. We truly value face time and are used to working very closely together, not only with each other but also with our clients.

Luckily, the world is full of wisdom and awesome resources for different remote scenarios. Our Slack channels have been bursting with tips on great tools, articles, and ideas. Since many teams are currently facing the same unusual situation, we want to share what we’ve found out so far. This is not an exhaustive list or the perfect recipe for remote work. We are learning as we go and we plan to keep you posted.

Choosing the right tools

Take your kanban board and other post-it walls online with platforms such as Miro or Mural. They can also work wonders when a team is having a daily, weekly or retrospective meeting. We have especially enjoyed Miro’s video conference feature when having dailies with teams of 3-10 people.

Choose the right video app for your team. Some apps that work for us: Slack calls, Google Meet and MS Teams. For smaller ad-hoc meetings, Whereby is also a nice option since it is super quick to set up. Some of us are even meeting in virtual reality, using Glue as a platform.

Stay connected. Some of our teams like to stay connected on Google Meet even when they are just quietly working on their own stuff. It feels nice to know that other people are grinding as well – and if an idea pops into your head, you can share it immediately.

Trust each other. Teams know what’s best for them. Give them the autonomy to find their flow and trust that they’ll make the right decisions based on experts’ advice and tips from colleagues.

Taking care of the community

Socialize online. At Reaktor, we have a 24/7 virtual cafe on Google Meet. People can pop in and out when they feel like it and have lunch or a quick break together. Some of our teams have also had coffee moments or after-work beers online. “Great for team spirit and inclusion,” said one Reaktorian after a team hangout on MS Teams.

Since weekly team dinners at the office are a huge part of our culture, we are currently experimenting with remote options for the tradition. One idea is to get together to play online games. Our teams in NYC are also having a WAN party this week.

Don’t forget the casual chitchat. Remember to talk about something else than business as well. For instance, we have Slack channels where Reaktorians can share photos and anecdotes of their pets and kids. They sure are enjoying remote work! We have also had video chats where team members introduced their favorite houseplants or did small musical performances. What’s not to like!

Keeping the projects up and running

Re-evaluate all your ways of working. Things that worked out well during the pre-corona era might not be suitable for the new reality. Don’t get stuck on old habits but instead innovate new ideas for staying connected. For instance, our coaches are doing remote trainings for clients at the moment.

Overcommunicate with clients. Make sure you are using the decreased face time efficiently and keeping tabs on the clients’ needs. Video calls with clients are just as important as the ones between team members. How are organizations handling this unprecedented situation? Are there new challenges we could help them with? 

Keep a positive attitude. The situation is stressful for everyone. Finding common ground between teams and clients is now more important than ever. 

Looking after mental ergonomics

Take care of yourself. In addition to having a good desk setup and taking breaks, remember to look after your mental wellbeing. This is a distressing situation that can cause anxiety, worry, and personal tragedies. In addition, shifting from open and communal offices to a fully remote setup can take its toll. It’s okay to feel bad and take a breather every once in a while. 

The best antidote for stress is doing things that take your mind away from all this. Remember to eat, sleep and exercise. And ask your coworkers how they are holding up. We need to make sure that everyone feels included and cared for.

Learn something new. Staying isolated for long periods of time can get boring pretty quickly. How about exercising your brain? Take the Elements of AI online course or try one of our puzzles. New challenges can keep your mind off current events at least for a while.

Do something else. The new normal should include non-corona related activities as well. Three tips:

  • Podcast: Dive into the internet culture with Reply All. Seriously, it’s good. So good, that the most recent episode has been called a bona fide masterpiece.
  • Book: As the whole situation is about adjusting to a new normal, re-evaluating our every day routines is in place. Great insights into how habits are formed provided by Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit.
  • Playlist: Keep you and your furry friends entertained by choosing your tunes with some help from Spotify for Pets. Yes, they prefer classical & soft rock. And yes, they’d like you to dance with them. 

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