Remote work tips from Efficiency Canada
Communications and Media Lead
Lynsey graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a degree in Anthropology and Social Studies of Science, and is currently completing her dissertation for a Master’s in Science Communication and Public Engagement at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
She has previously worked at the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
From staying connected, to sharing an office with kids and pets, here is how we work together from afar
When Efficiency Canada was created at the end of 2018, we set a goal of becoming the truly National voice for energy efficiency, which means that sometimes we have to work nimbly and — of course — efficiently across six time zones. Being a flexible workplace is also an important part of our commitment to be #Equalby30. In the last year, members of our team have had home, co-working space, and ersatz hotel room offices in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, London, Montreal, Moncton, and Halifax, all of this is in addition to our core centre of operations at Carleton in Ottawa.
Along the way, we’ve managed to pick up a few tricks for mastering remote work, which — in times like these — can really come in handy. So without further ado, here are some tips from our team on keeping things rolling smoothly, from a distance.
1. TALK EVERY DAY
(but not just on email)
Rain or shine, our team has a standing meeting on google hangouts every day at 11:00 EST. During this meeting, we each go over our top three priorities, and then, in reverse order, ask any questions we have for other members of the team. This 15-minute daily connection maintains personal links between all of us, requires everyone engage in active listening, saves unnecessary email, and keeps the organization working together towards common priorities.
In between daily meetings, we keep a “virtual office” in Slack. This is a place for everything from tracking campaigns, to water cooler talk.
Our executive director Corey Diamond recommends the book Death by Meeting (h/t to the fine folks at Realized Worth) for learning to keep meetings and communication meaningful, useful, and yes, efficient.
2. EMBRACE FLEXIBILITY
(but keep a detailed workplan)
Take your appointment with the doctor, pick up your kids at the bus, and call the bank during the workday. What’s important is getting the work done and keeping your colleagues informed of what you’re up to, not counting hours at your desk. Trust that your colleagues are all adults and understand their priorities and deadlines, and understand that we all do better work when we aren’t stressed or unhealthy. That said, schedule the email with your brilliant 11 pm insights to arrive the next morning, to help everyone maintain appropriate work-life boundaries.
The correlate to all this flexibility is keeping detailed and transparent workplans, with short-, medium- and long-term tasks that are coordinated with agreed-upon organizational objectives. Make regular time with management to check in on, update, and monitor your workplan progress, and be accountable to the workplan. This segues nicely into our next tip…
3. BE TRANSPARENT
(perhaps even radically so)
The people who have designed many of the daily experiences we have — like standing in line, waiting for a web page to load, or dealing with a frozen computer — have known this for a long time: radical transparency about what you are working on, how long it will take you, and what goes in to the work makes everyone less anxious.
Ping the Slack thread with your drafts, update your colleagues about your project milestones, curate the group calendar with important deadlines, and use collaborative document formats and tools. Everyone is less anxious when they are informed.
4. MAKE LIFE ERGONOMIC
(comfortable, but not pyjamas comfortable)
Any veteran of working from home will tell you the key to productivity is routine. This means waking up, showering, getting dressed, having a coffee and/or a meal, and creating a designated space to transition from “home mode” to “work mode.”
Personally, I live in a one-room apartment with a dog, two cats, and a partner who also works from home, so this means I work from a desk near the sleeping area, sometimes with noise-cancelling headphones. My partner, a journalist, usually takes his interviews in the kitchen area. Out of habit, we often we don’t talk much until 4 pm, despite being in the same room.
A light and super-ergonomic home office for a laptop worker can be cobbled together with a desk cart and a kneeling chair: bonus points for your back if the desk converts to standing position!
5. MAKE TIME FOR FUN, AND LEARN TOGETHER
(join us in learning things too!)
The #random channel in our Slack workspace sometimes features two guys making pools in the middle of the forest, and that’s ok. In an office, you get to know your colleagues over lunch. In a home office, you get to know them over the internet. Part of being human is wanting to connect with people around you about non-work things.
In the spirit of connecting with the broader world, every Friday, one member of our team leads a “Discovery Session,” where we discuss the latest research or interesting tips and tricks from outside of our sector, and how these apply to our areas of work. Sometimes we share these on LinkedIn. It is easy to get laser-focussed on your projects and forget that there are always developments happening outside of your bubble that can make you better at what you do.
We’ll be opening our Discovery Sessions as a webinar every Friday while social distancing measures are enacted. Come learn with us!
When: Mar 27, 2020 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada), repeating every Friday for six weeks.
Topic: Efficiency Canada Discovery Session
Register in advance for this webinar.