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Working Remotely for the Good of All

By March 10, 2020

By: Devi Thomas, Work-from-Home Pro & Jon Fee, Work-from-Home Novice

Recently our work lives as we know it came to a grinding pause when our corporate policy called for the safety of our workforce as the #1 priority and we began reinventing office life.

In the U.S. alone, 4.7 million or 3.4% of the population work remotely, according to FlexJobs. That number is expected to increase in the wake of novel coronavirus, COVID-19. At Salesforce, 16% of our employees already make up our Ohana-At-Home (remote workforce).

So two of us at Salesforce, (Devi, who works from home 90% of the time, and Jon, who rarely does so) engaged in some virtual “water cooler” talk asking ourselves, “what makes remote working work anyway?”

Here’s what we learned:

Pro Tip #1: Connect often and in real-time

Working from Home is Both Art and Science

It is both about providing the flexibility to be available to your teams while knowing intuitively when your work day is over. This is particularly true if your desk is just a floor or a few feet away from your kitchen, your bedroom or your dining room. Yet not being in-person creates an innate need to connect with our teams often and in timely ways.

Jon (manages three remote employees ): I use chat or text frequently to check in with my remote team. I prefer video on calls and always go to the screen first. It’s the only way to make sure we are making sure all voices in the “room” are equal.

Devi (manages a team who are co-located in San Francisco): I will do random phone check-ins throughout the week to talk through challenging projects or navigate a process with a colleague. The agile communications are critical. I don’t know where I would be without chat. It is faster than email, real time and ensures that I have coordinated cross-functions very efficiently.

Pro Tip #2: Relationship-building is key

Community is Productive and Necessary

Many workers, particularly in marketing and creative jobs, will swear that there is nothing better than in person brainstorming and mind-melding to bring ideas to life. But we feel we’ve been able to do this effectively just by running our virtual meetings as check-in and ideation moments. Rather than get through an agenda quickly, we like to use the time to establish where our minds, thoughts and ideal states live. This is a quick way to establish a sense of community and a shared lexicon with teams who are not in person. Icebreakers, going round the room, and fun lightning rounds should be a part of team meetings no matter where you are dialing in from. Consider starting a meeting by having people vote on the theme song that best fits your team. You’re guaranteed to hear some singing.

We’re also really excited about our active Power of Us community – our customers and partners are all active on our Power of Us Hub, so we feel like we are able to keep in touch and feel the pulse even if in-person events are cancelled.

Devi: I don’t miss being in person at all. I’ve been able to retain a sense of community with teams by checking in frequently on team health, 1:1 relationship-building, and connecting on culture as much as I check in on work to-dos. Relationships are critical to making sure we can have the right conversations at any time.

Jon: Working with teams in Europe and all over the U.S., has meant finding synergies and ways to ideate across time zones and often making important decisions on the phone. That’s important to realize that as a global team, we follow plans with decision makers and executors on different continents. Respect, trust and over-communication are the key to making this work. It’s also important to get crystal clear on who is doing what and when it is getting delivered.

Remote work - video chat

Jon Fee from always goes to the camera first to make sure all voices are equal.

Pro Tip #3: Define Boundaries

Technology is your friend. Now, please log off.
Determining the best time to leave your desk is something that remote-at-home employees can struggle with. When you’re at home, the desks around you don’t start to empty, the vacuum cleaners don’t hum around you cleaning on the night shift and the motion-sensor lights don’t turn off. You have to set the best desk hours that work for you in your at-home routine. That often means shutting off both phone and computer to have dinner with your family or starting an evening activity. The same technology that makes remote working so easy can also easily hold you captive for long hours if you are not careful.

Devi: I have a meeting on my calendar that reminds me about dinner with the family. This is important as I work on the east coast for a company that is on the west coast. So it’s easy to think that since they’re not eating dinner now, I don’t need to as well. That thinking is not healthy. I recommend holding yourself accountable for pockets in the day where you check in to your “home life” and completely check out of your work zone.

Jon: I don’t enjoy working from home as much because I miss the office “buzz“. With coronavirus, I’m learning from my remote teammates like Devi that I need a space that is my own, I need to set boundaries with my family (especially my kids), and I need to move around and feel like I am not tethered to my computer all day.

Devi: For this reason, I invested in a cheap but effective standing desk and you should too.

Jon: You are right. And move around and stretch between meetings or while on calls when we can.

Devi: Most importantly, we need to remember to shut down and log off. Our brains need rest to go again the next day.

Devi Thomas

Devi Thomas, works from home almost full-time, and has learned that relationships are key.

Pro Tip #4: Make sure you have a 2.0 toolbox

Enablement technology is a game changer.

Today the number of tech solutions to increase collaboration, education, and operational efficiency are countless and very cost effective. But like anything else, proliferation increases options, but not necessarily usage. We are all creatures of habit with “go tos” for tech.

Devi: Your ability to connect with people is only as good as your WiFi connection – this is the most important tool. Reliable internet means don’t miss a single idea.

Jon: When I’m home I don’t feel like I miss a beat because of collaboration tools like Quip, Google’s G-Suite, virtual education platforms like Trailhead, and an awesome VPN connection!

For the Good of All

There is no doubt that public health is the most important reason to embrace working from home in these next few weeks. Here are some links to tips and tricks, we are going to use to make the most of our remote-working experience. We hope you do too.