Remote Work

We are committed to being a remote-first organisation. We are continuing to learn and evolve, so this guide answers some obvious questions and helps you answer some not-so-obvious ones

We shifted from being a community-led group in a much-loved space to working remotely almost overnight, in response to Covid-19. As a result of that, we try to make sure that the bonds that exist stay strong, and the new bonds we form have the same potency. These become the building blocks of the culture we want to grow. To contribute to this positive culture, here are guidelines for all of us.

Work and productivity

Office setup:

There is a one time work from home setup fund, that is given to people once they mail in requesting for it. The idea is that you use it to upgrade your work from home infrastructure. For example, get a table and chair, or a light, or a router for stronger wifi, as opposed to paying some of the monthly wifi bills.

Setting up a designated work space helps to demarcate work area from other living areas at home. Digitally as well, we recommend a different browser or a different set of screens for work.

Check off from this list if you have everything you need to function normally:

  • Your laptop in good working condition

  • All the tools, logins, etc. to be able to function optimally

  • A decent wifi connection

  • In case of wifi outage, a robust phone connection to hotspot off of, while you take the wifi service provider to task

  • A sturdy table and chair that will support 8 hours of comfortable sitting

  • If you share your home space with others, and need to tell them this is work, not a vacation, please read this and this. You might need to ward off folks at home assuming that physical availability at home means availability to do chores. You might want to introduce the new normal gently to folks you live with.

If you have trouble figuring any of this, please raise that issue and let’s see what we can do to help you.

For an extremely comprehensive guide, check out the Coronavirus Tech Handbook.

Working hours:

Our lives have not changed much in this regard. We've had the option for people to start and finish work at their convenience when were all at the same physical office space. Now too, some of us start and close early, others start and close late. Across geographies, we would like people to have a 50% overlap with those of us keeping 9am-5pm IST working hours.

Time off:

If anyone needs time off, they first let their manager know on slack/ during a conversation. Then, they plan it on the leave management tool, and proceed to take time off.

We encourage people to take a week off some time to rest and recharge. Even if there is no travel during Covid times, there is value in taking time off. We try to plan this in such a way that the entire team takes time off, with clients informed, so that there are no external reasons to log back in to work during the time.

Managing your workflow:

Working remotely, you would need to manage your workflow on your own, and sync with your team and manager at whatever interval your team works with - daily/ alternate days/ weekly etc.

A good way to ensure you are on top of your deliverables is to make a list of MITs - Most Important Things and go through them. Always remember, support is only a Slack message away. You are remote, not alone.

In the office, our natural workflow is to finish a chunk of work, step away from your desk to go and catch up with colleagues for a short break and return refreshed. Since you can't really pull that off on Slack, applying the Pomodoro technique consciously helps you get the circulation going, refresh your mind, reduce fatigue, and gives you the freedom to do what you'd like in that break, including checking your phone for messages.

Deep work:

If you need to be signal unavailability for calls or conversation, please indicate that in your calendars by blocking time off for deep work, and indicate that on your Slack as well, with that as your status for the time you want to block.

What changes

Greater intentionality: Distance requires this. What would’ve been assumed, understood etc. now will not be. As a default, over-communicate with your team and your leads. In time, you will get used to each other’s new styles. You will either ramp up some of the details that you were sharing because they were well-received, or reduce intensity on other details that are not needed. Assuming that “nothing changes” is a mistake. Proactively ask others what they need from you, in this situation.

Team meetings: Teams will decide on daily standups on Zoom. Make sure you’re there by default. If you aren’t going to be, let others know in advance, and do what is needed to make sure there isn’t a dependency on you in that call. In these calls, talk about what you’re doing that day and what you got done with the day before.

Client calls: Leads will have daily standups with clients and will update the rest of the team on these. Make sure you’re updated on what’s going on. It’s all too easy to get lost in the details of your own work and lose track of the larger picture.

Team meetings: Teams meet once a week on Zoom.

Townhalls: Townhalls happen on Zoom every Friday at 4pm, as usual.

Commute! (What commute? Exactly!)

What doesn’t change

Your work: The work itself, deliverables etc. stays unchanged, as does the pace of work

Water cooler talk: All we need is to take it to the #random channel.

Setting up a routine: Getting ready and dressed for work helps, starting and closing at scheduled times helps, taking time off for mealtimes, breaks etc. helps.

What becomes Schrödinger's Cat…in that it changes and doesn’t change

Breaks: You’ll have to be mindful about taking breaks. You can’t wait anymore, for someone to come and call you to take a break. You’ll have to DIY a short walk to maybe first make, and then drink some coffee. Staying hydrated is important and you’ll have to get your own bottles of water and refill them too.

Saying good morning and bye for the day: When you’re logging in for the day, chirp up - not just so others know when you’re on from but also because you don’t feel like you’re alone, working in the void.

Lunch: At noon, take a quick break to evaluate what you need to do, so you’re able to dig into lunch at 1pm.

Communication

Here are the golden rules of communicating with clarity when working remotely:

  • Make sure your immediate team knows of your time and energy availability in the immediate future, for collaborations & conversations.

  • Make your work public. Use Notion, all the other platforms your work requires, so that others are aware of where your energy is being spent.

  • There is a hierarchy of communication channels. The map broadly is:

    • Phone for any urgent communication.

    • Slack for general announcements to all/ casual conversations/ team specific updates, calls for meetings etc.

    • Email for more formal communication, such as org-wide tasks, announcements etc.

    • Block time for conversations, even if they are for 15 minutes.

    • The fortnightly scheduled 1-1s sound like they are not urgent - and they aren't, but they are important, for you to understand the others you work with. So, keep those meetings as much as possible.

    • Other folks work is visible on Notion. If you are curious about what they are upto, head over there and look. Follow it up with questions to those people and further conversations.

  • Share milestones of your work with others. Make it public. Celebrate good work done by others too. Creating a culture of appreciation is all of our responsibility

  • Overcommunicate. In general, not being in the same space would mean that we all would need more context, more reference, more time to warm up. Give yourselves and those working with you these luxuries.

    • Watch your tone, add context statements help take the doubt out of email, slack and other typed communication. Emails do have a tone - intended or not. Read this lovely piece on the topic. The lack of emotions associated with a face-to-face or voice conversation means that emails are assumed to be stern. To avoid this, watch out for tone and add context to explain the situation (Ex. "If you don't send it in over the next hour, we will miss the deadline" vs. "The client has to make a decision by 4pm this evening. They are depending on our data as input. If we send that in the next hour, they can go through it and make their decision on time."

    • All bad news to be communicated on call/ video calls or if possible, in person. Avoid the allure of sharing any bad news (think, delays to agreed-upon timelines, change in scope of work, unplanned leave, development feedback on performance, etc.)

Protocol for calls:

Assess if the call is needed at all. Assess if the time you've requested is needed or can it be made shorter. Assess if you can finish sharing all you intended in that time, while giving others adequate time to process and respond to you. Confirm with the others that this time works for them. Now, schedule the call.

Get to the call on time. In case you foresee delays, inform the others/ the meeting convener as soon as you can. Check if they have read the information.

Be mindful of closing calls on time. If your meeting is spilling over, check if the other person is okay with the delay. In case they are not, reschedule the rest for another time.

Video on call:

When working with others: People have the right to keep their video off on call. Please be mindful to not ask someone to switch their video on or ask for reasons to support why their video is off. It is okay to be the one person with video switched off, in a call with 30 others who have videos on. Shaming people whose cameras are off is a strict no-no. If you are in a call with one other person, and they request that they want to keep their camera off, switch yours also off in solidarity.

There could be situations that require video to be on. For instance, training workshops, that mimic real-life workshops, where facial expressions are required input for the facilitator, and exercises like role-plays might be planned. If you are unable to switch the video on owing to connectivity issues, inform the facilitator as soon as you get on the call.

Look inward: Connections are formed best when we get a chance to mimic real in-person conversations. A video call helps with that. If you have a tendency to keep your video at all times, or most of the time, be mindful of that. What can you do instead, to create and build on that connection with others?

Boundaries:

Defining your working hours:

It is easy to slide into a place where you don't have demarcations between work and life. This is not good for you or for the organisation. To make sure that you don't let these boundaries blur, put up rituals for starting and wrapping up your day. What used to be commute can be replaced by something much nicer, for example, finishing and clearing up breakfast can be the ritual for starting your day and a closing ritual could be saying bye on slack, closing the work browser, closing your laptop and stepping out for a stretch and a 5-minute walk.

Being inclusive: A new kind of inclusion is needed. We need to be mindful of different kinds of connectivity issues, zoom backgrounds varying between well-designed spaces to cramped living quarters, movement of pets/ children/ errant partners in towels in the background and more. One of the best outcomes of the pandemic has been that the sound of a neighbour's pressure cooker whistle, incessant barks of the streetie outside, construction work are all normalised during work calls.

Bonus: Those of you have endured the tortures of commuting in Bangalore could also give yourself a reward for escaping that reality - maybe an extended meal or a chat with a friend in the time that you would've spent commuting.