4 Insights From a Remote-First Team During Pandemic

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4 Insights From a Remote-First Team During Pandemic

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4 Insights From a Remote-First Team During Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed our reality pretty fast and rather brutal. We're already 6 months into it and it's is a perfect time to share what we, as a remote-first team, learned during these trying times.

By Agata Lesniak
August 17, 2020

Imagine having a dream in which you are locked in your flat, and you’re not allowed to go out for a walk or meet people. The streets of your city are empty, and the only thing you hear through your window is the ambulance siren. Your office is closed, and there is no official information when will you be able to come back to work or if you indeed still have a job. All of a sudden, you wake up and realize it was only a dream.

Sounds familiar? That is the situation most people experienced at least once during the global pandemic state this year.

The consequences of international lockdown are felt in pretty much every country and industry. You could observe a trend of cost reduction in huge companies, which unfortunately led to thousands of dismissals. For those who couldn’t change the business orientation or switch entirely to online activity, these are tough times.

Most, if not all, companies have been forced to work more flexibly or at least partially remote. Even if the remote work revolution doesn’t refer to your company, I bet you’ve experienced the pandemic effect in a similar way.

As the remote-first company, we didn’t need to change much. Nevertheless, as a bunch of international folks, living and working in different setups, we do have a couple of insights to share.

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Remote doesn’t mean free from mental health challenges

If you introduced the remote work to your organization long before COVID-19 pandemic came, you’ve hit the jackpot. You already have internal processes, communication rules, and tools to help you ease up the teamwork. That’s a kind of company shield for the turbulent times. But what about shields protecting your employees?

Lockdown hits remote workers hard too. Since we usually treat our homes as an office, for many of us it’s especially important to go out and relax each and every day. We’re taking breaks to go for a walk, go shopping, or hanging out with friends for lunch. In other words, that’s how most remote workers take care of their mental hygiene.

Getting rid of all the stress relievers at the same time is a problem for mental health. When you add the fear of a deadly disease to the loop, the problem gets much more severe. In the long run, constant anxiety, changing a lot of habits, and monotony leads to burnout and depression.

As an employer, you can’t fight these directly. What you can do (and what you should do) is to support your team and provide transparent information about how the pandemic influences the company. Even if it’s a negative impact, be honest with your team. That’s the only way to reduce their stress and concerns about work-related issues.

One of the core values in Bejamas is transparency, and that’s related to our communication. For each quarter, we prepare a summary of individual team efforts and share them with the rest of the company. We encourage Bejamers to ask questions and discuss the quarter summaries freely. This was especially important this year after the first quarter when we all struggled with the uncertainty pandemic brought. Speaking openly about the challenges we’re facing as a business at the moment strengthened our bond as a team.

The decline of work organization

And the Oscar goes to all working parents during the pandemic.

The first public places that were closed immediately due to the pandemic outbreak are schools, kindergartens, and nurseries. Grandparents can’t help as they are in the COVID-19 high-risk group. You can’t leave your children with a babysitter either. So, many decided to work and be a parent at the same time. And the deadline for the project is just around the corner.

If you’re a remote worker, the flexibility of the work schedule certainly helps. Although it’s hard to focus 100% on your work with your child playing next to you, you can sync your plan with your partner to manage it. The goal is not to lose the effectiveness you had before the pandemic.

And since we’re all playing by ear more than planning during the pandemic, it’s almost impossible to avoid working overtime. With so many in-house distractions, we’re extending our work time. If you don’t prioritize your tasks and plan your day, you’ll end up exhausted and frustrated.

One of our internal rules is to avoid long, no-agenda meetings. They are time-consuming and have a tendency to mess with your plan for the day. In Bejamas, we’re all working in different setups and timezones. We’re working parents too. Respecting individual schedules is crucial to good cooperation in a diverse team like ours.

Please help, I’m drowning!

We were getting flooded by the amount of remote-how content on the Internet. According to Moz, only in the US, we’re seeing hundreds of remote tips keyword articles published every day since February 2020.

The sheer amount of content makes it challenging for writers as well. I mean, what more can you write about the remote work that is not already mentioned? So, if you go through some of the new articles created during the pandemic, you’ll notice the majority of them are, unfortunately, copies.

The pandemic seems to be a fertile ground that raised a number of new and old remote-work experts and coaches. They are ready to help you with implementing a new, remote-work environment in your company and also regularly share their knowledge for free. While (in a way) this is awesome, it’s also risky to trust many new faces who have never worked remotely before COVID-19 time.

It is far better to spend more time researching to find valuable pieces and insights from the innovators of remote work, such as Buffer, GitLab, or Hotjar. They were doing great things for remote communities long before the pandemic.

From the very beginning, our idea was to share useful and quality tech-related, work-related, first-hand content for the Jamstack community, focused on solving clients’ and developers’ problems. Share the experience and lead by example. The approach didn’t change due to the pandemic. Being transparent with what we do and how we do it still is the right direction for us.

Face-to-face contact at the level of 0

It’s not a myth, remote workers have a life offline too! Although we intentionally transform our speaking conversations to writing that doesn’t mean we prefer it more. It’s usually quite the opposite. If we have an opportunity to stay in the same location, we are more likely to meet face-to-face with colleagues rather than Slack-talk or have a call.

The same goes for remote-working companies. Even if the team doesn’t meet regularly, that doesn’t mean we don’t do it at all. One company retreat per year has become somewhat of a standard, and it’s a great thing. Mix the party with brainstorming and team-building games and you are most certainly making the best out of this event.

In that regard, we have a making of a great tradition. So far, we’ve visited Sicily and Malaga. While it would be an awesome thing to pull (with our team being significantly bigger than the last year) because of an imminent threat of COVID-19 we had to postpone our company retreat for now.

Our online events, however, make up the loss of the retreat. No, we’re not Zooooming but playing online games and Discord chatting. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how good it is.

The old (new) reality?

The pandemic transformed our reality pretty fast and rather brutal. The trend of remote work and life became more potent than ever before. There is no other, better, set up to follow in this crisis. At the same time, we’ve discovered that not everyone is able to work remotely.

Individually, besides expertise, adaptability, and a positive attitude turned out to be the most desirable skills for companies when looking for remote employees.

Company vise, if you claimed to be a transparent business but failed to spread the word about the company condition during COVID-19 with your team, it may be a high time to rethink your core values.

It was a trying time for us as well. Despite many obstacles pandemic laid before us, we’ve managed to overcome them as a team. A much stronger team than we were before.

BTW we really could use your help to ship better work for our clients and make our retreats much more interesting. Check out our careers page for open positions.

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About author

Agata Lesniak

People Ops and JAMcruiter in Bejamas. HR activist, teamwork protagonist, after work - sportiest.

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