By: Laurel Farrer
Distractions are the Achilles heel of remote workers. We get away from the office, so we can focus without pesky office mates and unnecessary meetings, only to realize that the untethered life can be just as chaotic. If you’re a digital nomad, there are travel plans to be made and hotspots to find. For work-from-homers, it’s laundry piles, pets, kids, and doorbells. Even the “escape” to the coffee shop or coworking office can be disappointing when a noisy neighbor chooses a seat nearby.
These distractions can be stressful for employees, but for managers, they can be downright frustrating. Postponing a meeting for a nomad to find a wifi hotspot or worrying a client might hear children fighting in the background during an important call can strain a relationship and inhibit trust.
We suggest you prevent these interruptions before they ever happen by articulating your meeting expectations in your company’s onboarding handbook.
Here are three ideas to consider that may help you clarify your expectations.
Implement a system of prioritization for appointments, which should articulate the level of attention needed for that meeting. For example, a proposal call to a potential client might be a “High” appointment during which all participants need to seclude themselves in a silent room with a professional background. On the other hand, a quick design approval might be a “Low” appointment when participants can be eating lunch or riding on the train while they connect. These types can often be rescheduled if a conflict pops up.
Encourage each employee to communicate what their usual office hours are, based on your company’s canonical time zone. This allows remote workers to block their time according to their unique daily and weekly needs and not be tempted to attend a meeting during a time they are likely to be interrupted. These hours can be shared in the employee directory and enforced with a “Do Not Disturb” setting on their profile.
Outline what your baseline environmental expectations are for phone and video calls, such as audio quality, video background, and/or punctuality. Remember, when it comes to remote work, assume nothing. Over-communication can save you a lot of time and frustration, so don’t be afraid to include small details like, “Please mute yourself on conference calls when you’re not speaking.”
Remember that a crucial element of supporting and providing work flexibility is to be flexible. As you collaborate, be willing to roll with the punches as a team members utilize their freedom and flexibility. Then, if you need to control the environmental factors for a certain project or client, you can plan an on-site sprint or meeting in a location that meets your criteria.
Remotip #13: Avoid distractions by clarifying expectations for your remote workers.
Laurel Farrer is the COO here at Yonder. She always has a notebook and pen within arm's reach, never sits with both feet on the floor, and drives (safely) without depth perception.