How to Be Effective and communicate with Your Team
If you’re new to working remotely, you’re probably excited to get started. If not, you should be! Skipping
the commute and working from home is a great perk! But that’s not to say that working from home is
necessarily easy. I’m sure that you’ll find, as I have, that working remotely has its own unique
challenges. I’ve been working remotely since mid-March and these are a few of the things that I’ve
1. Set up your workspace
When working remotely, you may feel drawn to the spaces in your home where you feel most
comfortable, like the couch or your bed. Resist the temptation! These spaces are great for rest and
relaxation, not for a productive workday.
If your next thought is to work at the kitchen table, think again. If you set to work in the kitchen, you’ll
need to clear everything away before lunch and set up again afterward. The ideal workspace is a
dedicated home office, but if you don’t have one of those, don’t worry; you can set up a desk in your
bedroom, living room, or really any room.
The important thing is that your workspace should be for work and only for work. If you can, try to pick a
room with a door that you can close to block out noise or other distractions from the rest of your
Once you’ve found a room where you can set up your workspace, put some thought into how to make it
comfortable. You’ll be spending a lot of time sitting at your desk, so be careful to consider ergonomics
when choosing a chair. If you’re uncomfortable, or worse, if you’re in pain, you won’t be able to give
your full focus to your work.
Next, think about other things that will make your workday easier. If you’re a software developer like I
am, you probably switch contexts a lot and need to have your eyes on several programs at once, such as
an IDE, a browser, a mobile emulator, and real-time communication tools, like Slack. If that’s the case,
consider investing in an additional monitor or two.
You might also want to invest in monitor risers, a desk fan, an ergonomic mouse, a wireless keyboard,
noise-canceling headphones, or anything else that will help to keep you comfortable and focused on
your work. Don’t forget basic office supplies, like sticky notes, pens, and highlighters; having everything
that you need within arm’s reach will reduce interruptions.
2. Structure your day
When working from the company office, your workday is nicely bookended by your commute. Traveling
to and from work is a routine that gives you time to mentally prepare for the workday ahead and time to
unwind afterward. When working from home, you should establish morning and evening routines that
help you to transition into and out of your workday.
If you’re like me, you may find it helpful to wake up early so that you have time for a little morning
exercise before breakfast. I also like to make a coffee before the daily standup meeting. Once I have my
coffee mug in hand, I feel ready to get to work.
When structuring your workday, you should also consider when you’ll want to take breaks. When
working at the company office, I would often walk to the café down the street for an afternoon coffee,
so I do the same thing when working from home, except I brew it myself. It may seem counterintuitive,
but taking breaks can make you more productive, as this article in The Globe and Mail explains.
You’ve probably never cooked lunch in your office kitchenette and you shouldn’t cook lunch when
working from home either. To make the most of your lunch break, you can prepare your meals in
advance. On the weekends, I like to prep salads for my weekday lunches, but you can prepare whatever
you like best. There is no shortage of meal prep ideas online.
3. Set some ground rules
If you live with other people, it’s a good idea to establish some boundaries during working hours.
Otherwise, your roommates or loved ones may forget that, although you’re physically at home, you’re
mentally at work. Have a conversation with your household and set some rules to reduce interruptions
4. Communicate with care
Real-time communication tools, like Slack, are essential for remote collaboration, but they aren’t
perfect. Written language can easily be misinterpreted because it lacks tone of voice, hand gestures,
body language, and subtle facial expressions. If you communicate with your team primarily through text,
you should take care to write exactly what you mean.
Conversations on Slack may feel very much like a conversation in person because your teammates
often reply to messages immediately, but you should be cautious of writing in the brief, incomplete
sentences that we use when talking. To reduce misunderstandings with your team, try to write in full
sentences. You can also use emojis and gifs to clarify your meaning. Conveniently, Slack integrates with
Giphy. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so give it a try!
If you ask a teammate for help with debugging code or some other technical issue, try to provide as
much context as you can. Your teammate will be better able to help you if you share screenshots, gifs,
or videos of the problem. I like to use CloudApp to easily share gifs and videos with teammates.
Whether your teammates help you solve the problem or not, make sure to express your appreciation for
their time and effort.
If one of your teammates writes something to you that might be interpreted negatively, always give
them the benefit of the doubt. Remember, writing clearly is difficult and can be time-consuming. If a
Slack conversation is getting a bit long, suggest a video call or screen sharing. Being able to see and hear
your teammates can quickly clear up any miscommunication.
5. Have fun
Building and maintaining team spirit can be challenging when working remotely, but it is far from
impossible. If your company has a Slack channel for random discussion or occasionally plays online
games, make sure that you participate. One of my favorite online games to play with my team is
skribbl.io. Your team can join a video call while you play so that you can chat and share a laugh
together. What games do you like to play with your team? You can let me know in the comments below.