I believe that work is a thing you “do”, not a place you go and that it’s the future of workplace practices. Since launching Quiip in 2010 the business has functioned solely as a distributed team.
What is a distributed team? Quiip uses the term “distributed” because we have no “central” headquarters. Our chief executive and general manager each work from separate co-working spaces and the remainder of the team operate from around Australia and the globe.
Over the last four-and-a-half years our team has gained valuable experience and insights into distributed work practices.
Here are the five biggest challenges and our top tips for overcoming them:
Put simply, if you’re not self-disciplined, you might not be suited to working from home. Most people work from home so they can get that work/life “mash-up” we’re all craving, however, it’s important that you manage that integration properly. Working from home adds a number of potential distractions, whether that’s kids, pets, sunshine, laundry, or the fact that there isn’t someone looking over your shoulder. The truth, however, is that workplaces are often equally, if not more distracting with endless meetings to constant minor interruptions and everything in between.
In a distributed team, individuals need to manage their time properly. You need to be honest with yourself and understand that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution but that getting the perfect ‘fit’ for your work-style is completely your choice and responsibility.
- Define your workspace. It doesn’t need to be the same each day, but make sure that it ticks the boxes of reliable Wi-Fi (with a back-up), power and not too loud (or too quiet for some). Co-working spaces can be a great option, libraries if you don’t need to take calls, or the right type of cafe.
- Establish a routine. One of the excellent up-sides to remote work is that you can often adapt to your personal needs, whether that’s a morning jog, making a nice lunch, or doing the school run at 3pm.
- Suggested tools: Pomodoro Technique, batching emails, David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology.
2. Switching off
Yay, I can work in my pyjamas! Draped in cats! It’s true… but not having that clear separation between work and home means you may be tempted to work a little when you shouldn’t, and vice versa. Whilst many organisations are fearful their employees won’t do enough work, the more likely risk is that your employees might overwork and be unable to switch-off, leading to burnout.
- Schedule work.
- Develop a routine. This might be as simple as getting into work clothes, creating a separate office space.
- Organisation. Find apps, lists, ways to get to-dos out of your head and into clear action lists that you can prioritise and use to create tomorrow’s workflow.
- Again, be honest with yourself about what you can achieve given the amount of time. Time management is as much about the space around a task as filling up the diary.
- Suggested tools: Flux.
3. Social interaction
Now that you don’t have to commute, you have all of this extra free time that you can spend with your family, your friends, and working on those side projects you never got around to working on. When you work at home, however, it can be socially isolating.
- Get involved on social networks. Make time to comment on workmates’ posts on Yammer/Facebook etc.
- Use time you’ve saved to join the local orchestra, poker club, 80s improv dance group-thang and pursue them with abandon.
- Co-working spaces – another good reason to join one, even if only once or twice a week, is to make friends who understand the peaks and troughs of distributed work and can support you when you’re stressed or join you on your coffee breaks.
With no walk to the bus-stop, it can be easy to neglect your physical (and mental) health! So this means exercise and downtime, aka self-care.
- Know yourself and your limits, what motivates you. Ensure you stop when you need to and give yourself a pat on the back, chocolate biccy or wrestle the kids in the backyard to break up your workday. You wouldn’t work non-stop in the office so use the distractions of home for good.
- Be aware of your environment. Take phone calls walking outside, stretch, stand and type. Just listen to your body.
- Work breaks into your routine and be as strict taking them as you are with your working hours.
- Exercise! Find a buddy or group to train with, it will increase your chances of keeping up the fitness routine and add to your social life too!
5. Communication and connectivity
As an entirely distributed team at Quiip we rely on many platforms to keep in touch, with Yammer, HangOuts and email being our primary methods.
If you work as part of an organisation that has a central office it can be challenging to keep in touch with news and not feel left out of communication.
- Be present.
- Make checking in on the social side of your workplace a part of your daily routine.
When it comes to connectivity, reliable internet is obviously a must. But occasionally trouble strikes whether it’s a blackout or general connectivity issues.
- Have a dongle or three at your disposal, charged and at the ready. Know where you can go to access reliable internet.
Alison Michalk is the chief executive of social media and online community management business Quiip.