Working Remotely as a Virtual Team

by | Career Advice

Here at Big Interview, we believe in working remotely as a virtual team. This is an approach that has worked well for us since we launched in 2012.

We’ve founded our business on finding talented, motivated people to fill the roles we need, and then let them do what they’re best at without micro-managing.

Like most virtual teams, we stay in contact with platforms like Slack and Zoom and check in weekly with team and individual meetings.

We have a positive company culture, great collaboration, fresh ideas and perspectives, and a lot of productivity — all accomplished virtually with a team all over the world.

With so many now working from home–many for the first time–we thought we would ask some of our team members for their best advice on working remotely as part of a virtual team. Below are their thoughts and tips on what works well for them.

(Balancing working from home and childcare is a challenge many are facing during this time as well. We will be discussing these challenges and offering some thoughts in our next blog post.)

First up, we will hear from…

Caleb
Senior Video Editor
Olympia, Washington

1. Take Some Time Away and Come Back With Fresh Eyes

Especially if you’re working on something very detail-oriented. I do a lot of animations, and after so many hours it all just starts looking horrible sometimes. If you can go for a walk and come back and re-visit it with fresh eyes, it can be really helpful. You may see something you missed before about how to improve.

2. Prioritize Staying Active

I’ve built a regular yoga practice into my daily routine the past couple of years. It really helps to stay active and refresh after a long day of staring at the computer.

3. Don’t Get Lost in Emails

I started only checking my email twice a day and have found it really helpful. Obviously this wouldn’t work if your role is in something like Sales, where timely responses are very important. But as a video editor, most people I work with are fine if they get a response within 24 hours, so I will check in once in the morning as I’m getting started and once in the evening as I’m wrapping up my day.

4. Separation of Church and State

I no longer have a separate room to use as an office, but I make sure that anything that is on or in my desk is work-related. There’s nothing that I use in my personal life in this space, so it helps to keep them separate.

5. Keep Track of Your Progress

Some days it can feel like you’re not getting much done, but I create task lists in a program called Notion that I can record all my progress in. It’s great to look back at the days and weeks and see all that I’ve done. Plus, it’s a great way to stay organized and on track.

Summer
Director of Client Relations
Albuquerque, New Mexico

1. Take Advantage of Your Flexibility

You often hear people say you should get up and dressed and put on your makeup and everything like you would in a typical job, but take advantage of the flexibility that working from home offers you. It’s very important to set aside specific workspaces and times, but those things can be done on the schedule that works best for you. If you don’t have to be perfectly made up at 6 a.m., then don’t push yourself too hard about it.

2. Self-Control is a Must

While flexibility is a huge perk of working remotely, self-control and self-discipline are essential. For instance, if you’re prone to snacking, maybe don’t work in the kitchen and schedule specific break/snack times. Or if you’re easily distracted, have the self-discipline to stay on track and put your time in.

3. Your Productivity Will Spike

If you’ve never worked from home before, you may be surprised when things that would have taken you all day in an office will only take a couple of hours at home. Without the noise, co-worker small talk, and general distractions of the office, you can be much more focused for much longer and get more done.

Abbey
Customer Success Manager
Denver, CO

1. Make Your Work Day “Real”

Though it’s not required, I work at a co-working space part of the time (pre-COVID-19, of course.) When I’m not at the co-working space, it’s important to make the workday feel “real” by creating a separate workspace at home. Having a different workspace helps you leave your work at the end of the day and transition into your personal life.

2. Don’t Neglect Personal Care

Don’t neglect your personal hygiene and try not to rock yoga pants every day. Do whatever you need to do in the morning to make your day feel like a workday.

3. Keep Your Schedule

Find the schedule that works for you and stick to it. Let your co-workers know what your schedule is so that they know when you’re available. And make sure you schedule at least one break throughout the day! It’s all too easy just to work through lunch without stopping, but schedule break times for your own sanity.

Alia
Senior Writer
Seattle, WA

1. Be Task-Oriented

Some people find it helpful to set aside chunks of time to work and schedule themselves with work time and break time. I find it more productive to work from task to task. For instance, I’ll tell myself, “I’ll complete this task and then make some coffee, then I’ll complete this task and break for lunch.” It feels more productive and less restrictive.

2. Make Lists

Every Sunday night I sit down and write out a list of tasks to complete for the coming week, including a list for meetings and long-term projects. Then I tackle the list day by day and get it all completed. This helps me a) not forget things and accidentally let them fall through the cracks and b) gives me some choice in the task for every day. For instance, if I’m having a hard time focusing one day, it won’t be a great day for detail-oriented copy editing work, so I’d choose something else from the list to do that day. Everything gets done without having to force myself to do a task that I’m just not feeling in that moment.

3. Be Responsive

Since the rest of my team can’t see me in an office to ask if I got such and such email, I try to be very responsive with communication to let the team know I’ve received what they sent. Sometimes this is just a thumbs up emoji in Slack, but it’s far better to let everyone know where you’re at than to be unresponsive and possibly be holding up their work as a result.

4. Tie Up Loose Ends

I start every day by responding to any messages that came in while I was away and addressing anything that needs my attention. Half of our team is in Romania, so because of the time difference, I often need to look over some things first thing in the morning so that other team members can continue their work. Once I feel like my plate is clean of any loose ends, I can begin my task list for the day.

Adam
Video Editor
Denver, CO

1. Get Feedback From Outside Sources

In an office, you can ask your co-workers for feedback and advice that can be missing when you work from home. Asking the advice and opinion of my partner helps me get that positive affirmation that I’m not getting on a physical/visual level since I’m not in an office.

2. Bookend Your Day With Signifiers

Getting up in the morning, making coffee, letting the dogs out and taking a shower all help my brain to recognize that it’s time to work. Getting ready like I would if I were going into the office helps me feel better about myself. And at the end of the day, I put my portable workstation away to signify that the workday is over.

3. Utilize Creative Workspaces

Work somewhere that you wouldn’t be able to in a million years at the office. It makes your experience feel special as opposed to monotonous. Getting outside with my pups or just sitting out on the porch can really clear the cobwebs and help me get over hurdles.

Conclusion

It may take a little while for you to get into a routine and find what works best for you. Enjoy the perks and flexibility of your new situation and learn to be mindful of the things you need to help you succeed. Common pitfalls like feeling lonely and having issues with self-motivation can come up, but you will find ways to work around them and operate at your best.