How We Improved Teamwork Online by Encouraging Remote WorkHarmonie SpaldingLast Updated: November 12, 2014
We had to listen to our own observation:
“35% less work gets done on Friday than on Monday.”
We had seen it while digging through the aggregated productivity data for all the teams that use Flow. It’s standard for teams to get less done on Friday.
But is there anything we can do about improving our teamwork both online and in office?
We wanted to try answering this, so we thought about how we might shake up Fridays. Laying down rules, targets, or structure were off the table–that’s just not how we work. Instead, we wanted to try something that would make people happier and put them in a better position to do good work.
The Birth of Remote Day
We decided to try working remotely on Fridays. It would break up the end of the work week, allow us to tweak our work habits, and help us focus during a day that tends to be distracting.
On Remote Fridays, every team member is encouraged to work from wherever they want—be that from home, a coffee shop, the couches, or their office desk.
It’s completely optional, and doesn’t change any of our existing policies. Every team member is already encouraged to work wherever and whenever they want.
We’ve been at it for over 8 weeks, and are still running with it. Here’s what we’ve learned.
The first Remote Friday was fun. A bunch of us found a new spot to work from and made a point of being more present than before on internal chat and Flow task discussions. Some of us even shared remote selfies.
It felt like having a remote day made our online teamwork more lively and engaging. We talked a lot more online about work and other things.
After that initial bump, we gradually returned to our regular level of communication.
When we checked in to see how Remote Day was going, almost half the team said they felt more productive. Others added that it would take some time to get the hang of remote work. The rest didn’t feel any more productive.
Team members said things like:
“I feel like a lot of my distractions live at home; however once I settle in, I do better work there. I get really distracted by other humans.”
“Employee happiness wise I like it, but productivity wise, I’d say I’m about the same level of productivity at home vs the office.”
“Yeah… with no one else in the office it’s nice and quiet”
This confirmed to us that everyone has their own preference for getting “in the zone.” Some people love the flexibility of working from wherever, while others prefer the structure of office hours. It depends on the person and no single schedule can be chosen for everybody.
But actively encouraging remote work actually got some of us doing it. More of us now work from outside the office throughout the week–not only on Fridays!
We now work however we like. We’re dispersed across the office, the city, and elsewhere. Knowing that there’s no chain on our desk and no one is tracking our movements is liberating. It frees us up to do good work.
In the end, what improved our teamwork online was realizing that it’s not important how each person prefers to work, what matters is the freedom to make that decision ourselves.
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