Remote working: the pressure is about to build. How non-realtime communication will save the day.

UPDATE 2/4/2020 – On Sunday 29th March the deputy chief medical officer of the United Kingdom indicated that this ‘lockdown’, in some form or another, could last for 6 months, so now it’s even more important to consider how your organisation can be productive whilst being sensitive to the unprecedented demands on their employee’s attention.

Your team members are going to be under an immense amount of pressure, doing their work, homeschooling their children, looking after loved ones. In addition with all nonessential shops shutting their doors for the next 3 weeks the nation’s broadband infrastructure is going to be under immense pressure.

This is going to be a tipping point for how effective your remote working strategy is. You will notice that:

  • Some people will not be as responsive as you may like, either due to technology or pressure on their private lives.
  • Some people will not be able to connect to virtual meetings properly due to technical issues.

Your primary responsibility is to ensure that your team members are okay, there may be little you can physically do but noticing and supporting is the order of the day.

After that, you may need to consider going ‘async’ with your communication (asynchronous means not in real-time). 

First of all accept that people may not be able to work at the exact times you need them to; owning this will limit any anxiety you’ll have about whether someone is working or not.

Then follow the basic principles of remote working: 

  • Trust – Trust that your workforce will do the right things, it’s natural to want to interrupt them frequently to make sure they’re working but resist. Without trust your remote working experience will be poor and you’ll create stress for yourself and your team.
  • Clarity – Make it clear what you want you team to achieve and by when, allow your team the space to work towards those goals.
  • Transparency – find tools that allow you to create ways for your team to share their progress and to communicate with their colleagues and stakeholders. You can use Slack, Teams, Basecamp. You can even use Skype, if that’s all you’ve got.

If you follow the principles then it’s easy to consider:

  1. How you might use a screencast uploaded to your collaboration tool to set the work. No need for a meeting at 09.00 when your teammate is trying to get their kids online learning platform working.
  2. If you have a daily stand-up then follow Basecamp’s advice, flip the narrative to create daily checkouts, ask your teammates to post a video or voice memo at the end of **their** workday detailing what they did today and where you can find the work.
  3. If you have review meetings, then screen record yourself reviewing the documents/code/designs and post that to the document author.

These DO NOT need to be worthy of a James Cameron production, **the only important thing is that you are clear in what you’re trying to communicate**. Video works best, because you can show the things you are talking about.

Remember, no one likes videoing themselves but once you’ve done it a few times you’ll get used to it. I hated videoing myself so much that I challenged myself in January to vlog for a whole month! It was painful at first but I finally got used to it. While I’ll never be an ‘influencer’, I’m a lot more comfortable with the process.

There are lots of really great tools you can use. I work on a Mac and have used Quicktime, Snag it and Camtasia. 

Recently, I have started to use Loom for screen recording as it has a nice simple interface and automatically uploads to a web interface which I can share easily in Slack.

Regardless, find a tool that works for you, then start using it to move to non-realtime communication and ease the pressure on yourself and your teammates.

In December 2018 Gary Walker and I wrote a book called Ready for remote. We wrote it to help business adapt to the changing work environment caused by remote working.

If you need any further tips then drop me or Gary Walker a note and we’ll be happy to assist. Don’t forget you can see some more useful content on Or if you fancy, our book Ready for remote is available on Amazon.

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