Remote Work Best Practices for 2022

December 13, 2021

The number of remote employees working from home 5+ days per week rose from 17% to a 44% after the pandemic hit (Source: Statista), and over 26% of the workforce in the USA will likely remain remote. Is this your business’s first time doing remote or hybrid work? At Blue Sky, we’ve been a 100% remote company since the company was founded 10 years ago.

While the rest of the world pivoted to adapt to a remote work environment, it was business as usual for Blue Sky, and our methods include a series of best practices for our team to scale as we grow.

This article will spill the secret sauce: what do you need to have a thriving work-from-home environment? What does it take to be a successful 100% remote company?

Remote Work Statistics You Need to Know

First, some statistics about remote work. Although it hasn’t been the perfect fit for everyone, remote work is likely going to be a request many employees will make moving forward.

If you aren’t already working from home or cultivating a healthy hybrid environment, it will come back to bite you eventually as more potential employees express interest in hybrid or remote environments.

7 Tips to Successfully Work in a Remote Environment

#1. A Single Project Management Tool & Source of Truth

Our project management tool of choice is Asana. This scalable, flexible, and powerful project management tool allows the entire team to communicate and manage projects online. For your own team, we’d recommend a tool like Asana that has the following capabilities:

  • Ability to create subtasks to assign due dates to specific team members
  • A dashboard for team members to see their daily due tasks
  • An inbox to see activity in projects you’re following and mentions by team members
  • Add tags or project IDs to tasks and subtasks
  • “@” team members to tag them in relevant conversations and tasks
  • Copy/paste task links in emails, meeting invites, or within other subtasks
  • Add outbound links to comments and task descriptions, including links to Dropbox
  • Copy/paste screenshots into comments
  • Clone templates and subtasks, carrying over subtask and description details to standardize commonly replicated tasks

One of our favorite capabilities in Asana is the ability to seamlessly communicate and organize tasks per project, tag, or team member. It allows us to have true overhead visibility on all active (and completed!) projects within the same platform.

NOTE: Similar project management tools we’ve seen our clients use include Slack, Monday.com, Jira, and Trello, but we have a clear bias for Asana!

#2. Standardized Processes

Within Asana, Blue Sky has not only standardized how to name projects and tasks, but how we communicate with each other. Some key parts of our communication mix include:

  • Always link attachments via their Google doc or Dropbox link to avoid having multiple versions of the same document in the Asana task
  • Carry on the parent task name to all relevant subtask names.
    • For example, if the project is called “[CLIENT]: New Website”, then all subtasks within this parent task will include the parent task name, like:
      • [CLIENT]: New Website – Design Due for Internal Review
      • [CLIENT]: New Website – Present Staging Site for Approval
      • [CLIENT]: New Website – Programming Due
      • [CLIENT]: New Website – Go Live Checklist

Blue Sky also implements the use of cloneable templates for projects your team does often. A few examples include geospatial mapping projects, new website projects, new Google or Facebook Ad account creation, and new employee onboarding.

Our Asana also includes links and guidelines for commonly asked HR questions, including written policies for PTO/Vacation, communication guidelines, and timekeeping expectations.

Standardized processes for communicating and project management are key to thriving in a digital environment, and in our case, our standards are set and communicated with Asana.

#3. Standardized Training and Onboarding

A little different from overall process standardization, this is specifically about expectations for training and onboarding.

Blue Sky uses a template that ensures all new employees are onboarded with the same training and taught the same best practices. At BSM, established team members share the load of training to let the newbie meet as many people as possible during remote onboarding.

Training can take place in person in a co-workspace or remotely via a screenshare in Google Chat or Zoom, and each new employee is able to continue to ask questions about a specific onboarding task within their training project.

#4. Positive, Communicative Work Culture Online and Offline

There is no room for toxicity in an online work culture – unlike the rest of the internet, there’s no place for it when you’re communicating with your team in a tool like Asana. Not only is it unproductive, but there are little offline opportunities to resolve issues face to face.

Instead, Blue Sky’s culture revolves around promoting an open and positive work culture offline and online. This includes:

  • Recognizing and thanking employee accomplishments via email to share with the rest of the team.
    • “Congrats to [Employee names] for launching a new website for [client name]!”
    • “[Client] had nothing but praise for [employee name] during our last client meeting. Congrats and well done.”
  • Watching tone of voice when writing emails and comments in Asana. Part of onboarding for our team is reading an article on Psychology Today, “Don't Type at Me Like That! Email and Emotions: Emails have feelings too.” In verbal conversation, tone, body language, and volume help convey your intentions, but in digital communication, we are relying exclusively on text.
  • Using a standard tool to use for chatting online with employees. Instead of some team members using Skype while others use Microsoft Teams, we standardize by having all team members use Google suite tools. In this case, our team expertly uses Google Chat to ping team members or launch screenshares.

Blue Sky also plans regular offline team meetings and team building activities. Team building meet ups have ranged from axe throwing, to karaoke in a beach house, to Octoberfest in a local bier garden. Our team has also taken team trips to New Orleans, Colorado, Cabo Mexico, and New York City. Offline team building is core to keeping a strong culture, even for activities as seemingly simple as a baby shower.

#5. A Cloud Share Drive with Standardized Naming Conventions

Committing to a secure cloud share drive is important for client and company security. Our tool of choice is Dropbox, but we’ve seen clients have success with tools like Microsoft OneDrive, Box, or Google Drive.

The important thing is to standardize WHICH share drive you use and adopt processes to standardize how the share drive is used.

  • Standardize how you file documents and creative. Will you organize your files by client? By project? By team member? Decide how to organize your documents and have all team members abide by the same organizational standard.
  • Standardize how files are named to find relevant files quickly. Our internal naming convention includes the date the file was created, the name of the client, a short name to describe the document, and a version number.
  • Confirm that all team members are trained in securely sharing documents from the share drive.

#6. Healthy Boundaries

The Blue Sky team is available to other team members and clients during set office hours between 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

During this time, team members are expected to respond to client inquiries, team member questions in Asana, and emails to vendors. With a flexible work environment, some team members can answer emails and make up work hours during off-hours. However, Blue Sky’s culture also respects boundaries: outside of business hours, employees are generally not expected to respond to the team or clients unless in the case of an emergency.

Owl Labs reports that, “75% of people have experienced burnout at work, with 40% saying that they’ve experienced burnout specifically while working during the COVID-19 pandemic.” To avoid burnout, it’s important to have healthy boundaries, especially when working from home.

One of our employees likes to say, “We work at 100% when the laptop is on. When the laptop is off, the laptop is OFF. The foot is down. Work is not happening.” Eat lunch with your laptop off. Set a time to stop working every day. These boundaries are critical in establishing a healthy work-life balance.

#7. Screenshare and Secure, Cloud-Based Tech Stack

Master the screen share and cloud-based collaboration tools like Google Docs, JamBoard, Google Chat (previously Meet). You CAN collaborate effectively online, but it does take the right set of tools, and every team is different. While some teams prefer the flexibility and connectivity of tools like Slack, other teams may prefer to collaborate with live chatting.

What Soft Skills are Good to Have when Working Online?

Soft skills are an important part of working online. You need the discipline and adaptability to scale how you work online. The most important soft skills for working online include:

  • Written Communication Skills: How you say it online is just as important as what you’re saying. Know basic written rules for online communication, like ALL CAPS generally means SHOUTING. Online communication does not account for vocal tone and body language, so be aware of when your words may be taken out of context. One resource we share with all new team members is an article from PsychologyToday, “Don't Type at Me Like That! Email and Emotions.”
  • When the Written Word is not Enough: Sometimes, you just need a call or a screen share or a video call (or an in-person co-work) with both clients and team members to be most effective. Know when it’s time to draw the line at written communication.
  • Self-Awareness: Know what you can take on and can't do and don’t be afraid to say “no” if you need to. Be aware of your boundaries so that you know when (and who) to ask for help with your work online.
  • Clarity: Be clear in your words, intentions, and expectations. While this is true for all workplaces, it’s especially important in a remote environment where trust and clarity is critical to get work done.
  • Office Equipment: Communication may be online, but you’re operating in the real world! Does your workplace offer office equipment and gear to help you complete your work? How is your laptop performance? Do you need a printer or an ergonomic chair to improve your workstation?
  • Autonomy: Remote work requires a high level of autonomy and discipline. If you are the type that requires hand-holding to complete your work, remote work might not be for you.
  • Empathy: Though true for all workplaces, it is easy to forget that the names on your screen are connected to REAL people. Never forget that there is a co-worker and real person on the other side of the screen intercepting your work.

Words of Wisdom from the Team

"Hire smart people and let them flesh out the remote ecosystem with you. It's got to be a living breathing thing or it will die." - Michelle LeBlanc

"Discipline and the ability to have solid work-life boundaries. Once my laptop is off after office hours, it's off. Work is done. I also am strict with myself about breaks and work hours."

- Carolyn, Google Ads Team, HubSpot Team

"Self-awareness ranks at the top of the list for me coupled with a strong work ethic. You have to know yourself and know what you can and what you can't take on. Being able to say no and asking for help are key in a remote environment"

- Sara, Creative Team

 

"Be present for work and being present for your personal life when it's time - or rather, take work time as seriously as you would if you were in the office, but also respecting your personal time by closing the computer at quitting time. Not forgetting that they are people on the other side of the computer screen and taking time to connect with your coworkers in a video call or coworking spaces to get to know the people you work with, even if you don't have a water cooler or a hallway to see them in."

- Kate, Social Ads Team, Brand Team

“Strong communication skills are one of my top essentials for remote work. Building relationships with clients and colleagues virtually requires clear language and an understanding of written tone to ensure everyone is on the same page.”

- Bridget, Brand Team

“It’s important to be able to solve problems on your own. When working on a project, being able to research solutions to any potential issues or obstacles is critical to being more efficient. And it often leads to the discovery of new ideas and more innovative methods and approaches."

- Tiffany, Creative Team

"Know yourself and your stress limits. Taking breaks, running quick errands, and going for walks are all part of managing stress well when work and home start to blend together."

- Colton, Brand Team

"Remote work can be more unpredictable than an office environment, so being adaptable to new or unexpected situations that may arise is important. It's also important to find the balance between completing tasks and taking initiative to check in regularly with coworkers."

- Mandy, SEO Team

"Being able to focus on your tasks is important when working remote. Have a daily routine, use a list to help keep you organized and limit distractions."

- Danielle, Brand Team

"Strong communication skills is top of the list, followed by equally strong boundaries. You need to know how to effectively communicate with clients and coworkers to achieve goals and establish good rapport. You also need to know your boundaries and establish a healthy work-life balance with your "office' just steps away at all times. Those tasks will be there in the morning, I promise."

- Carrie, Brand Team

"It is important to have a strong work ethic and team mentality when working remotely. Communicate frequently to keep projects moving and utilize skill sets across the team. It is also helpful to have a dedicated workspace where you can close the door to focus and also separate work from home at the end of the day."

- Lauren, Creative Team, Brand Team

"You have to be a self-starter and have the motivation to complete your work without having daily instruction."

- Maddi, Brand Team

 

"It's easy to get caught up in task triage mode. Recognize that it's valuable to spend time connecting with other team members outside of tasks and the daily grind to combat isolation and a sense that it all falls on you personally to do."

- Megan, Social Ads Team, Brand Team

"Knowing when to pick up the phone to sort out confusion. Some things can be explained or settled via email or project management programs, but sometimes you just need a "face to face" discussion to clear up the confusion via phone call or screenshare. This is often a huge time saver and helps both parties communicate with each other more effectively in the future."

- Yvonne, Social Ads Team, Admin Team

 

Interested in Working with Blue Sky?

Blue Sky Marketing has always been a remote company with a hybrid approach – our client meet ups are fun and engaging, and our digital approach is proactive and clear. Interested in taking your digital marketing to the next level? Let’s talk.

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Marketing Strategy Implemented Flawlessy, Blue Sky Marketing is a full-service digital marketing agency providing strategic marketing consulting with a focus on proactive communication · and relationship-building.
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