Working well from home

Aer Lingus and Ryanair are throwing some serious shade at each other on  Twitter

It’s been a while since I wrote but I wanted to write about this WFH topic.  This question keeps coming up everywhere I go now.  Almost everyone in the tech world think that the office culture has seen its last days. I have heard this from engineers, product managers, leaders and founders. I have also noticed that this opinion changes significantly based on what role people play in their company and how. 

WFH seems to be best option for individuals who work alone or in smaller teams when the no of lines of communication is limited to complete a task. It’s the same with leadership roles. If you are managing a small team, it seems like WFH is definitely workable. If you are managing larger teams, it’s going to be a challenge unless you have a really good middle management team that can break your team into smaller teams. However you look at it, the one thing you definitely need is a good self motivated work ethic to be successful in this WFH set up.    

If you are pro-WFH, these are the best practices I’d recommend: 

  • Get a clear picture of what your team’s goals are and what your role looks like.  Come up with a roadmap together for a given time period.
  • Communicate any change in plan for the day, week, month even with your manager whenever you feel you need to do something else. 
  • Message your status at the end of every day even if your manager doesn’t ask you for it.  Include your learnings for the day too.  Keep in mind that sending this report also lets your manager be on the same page as you are.  Good reports trigger an asynchronous brain storming session.  It makes your manager think and give you better feedback.  Otherwise she/he is just hoping you’d do your job a certain way and might be disappointed if you don’t even for legit reasons.    
  • WFH culture limits your manager as much as it limits you in providing feedback.  So, you have to self-evaluate constantly by asking “how can I do my job better?” Or “How can I achieve my goals better and faster?” And include your thoughts in your daily report.  This can help you in two ways. 
    • a) Your work might become more impactful or
    • b) on the flip side,  you might stop yourself from going in the wrong direction. 
  • If you are part of a team, include all stakeholders in all your discussions and not just your reporting manager.  In teams, your work is always dependent on the other and vice versa.  Certain assumptions you made needs to be validated by your manager and team.  Just like how you want to stop going in the wrong direction and waste time, it’s equally your responsibility to stop your teammate from going in the wrong direction too.
  • People in your team look for immediate validations because that’s what they are used to when you work in an office.  Delay in responding can cause the whole team to move slow. So, stay on top of your slack or email or whatever channel you use.  When you are taking a break, let your team know you are taking a break.  
  • For managers, it’s even more important you are available most of the time. Your direct reports need you more than ever now.  
  • Also, as managers, you just need to hire well. This is true even otherwise but even more so in a WFH set up. Hire self motivated people and smart thinkers because they are taking your team forward with smart decisions on their own.  
  • Zoom etiquette: Always set an agenda before starting a zoom meeting.  Validate this agenda with your manager to see if these discussion points are in line with your company/team goals.  Don’t just set an agenda and schedule a meeting.  Always validate! If you don’t, you will just end up wasting everyone’s time discussing things that don’t really matter. Even worse, your team might waste time working on things that don’t matter, after the call.    
  • Zoom fatigue: If the above are done well on a daily basis, there won’t be a need for many zoom calls. The goal is to be on the same page as everyone.

If you do all of the above while working during the pandemic, I think you will become so good at working in a team or leading a team that when things go back to normal, you will be a rockstar in an office environment (if that ever becomes the case).