What Can We Learn and Adopt from Google’s Remote Work Policy?
There are many good reasons why even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Google ranks first as the happiest workplace in the US. The tech giant invests in analyzing employee behavior, which allows it to consistently improve its management practices. What’s even more impressive is how Google maintains this positive work environment across over 150 locations around the world. With most of Google’s employees collaborating across distances, the company remains one of the best places to work.
Fortunately, Google’s remote work policy is available on the Internet for everyone to see. The tech company understands that with distributed work, people need initiatives that will make them feel more connected and engaged. In this article, we’ll discuss the best takeaways from Google’s work-from-home policy:
Tip 1: Schedule and Attend Regular Team Meetings
In the work-from-home setup, there are fewer interactions between colleagues. One way to alleviate feelings of isolation is by scheduling regular team meetings. It is important to hold them even when there isn’t any urgent matter to discuss. Indeed, remote work thrives in written communication. Even so, a lot can get lost through that medium. People can easily misinterpret tone and humor, especially since they won’t see the other person’s face or hear their voice.
Meanwhile, in virtual meetings, people get the chance to see emotional cues that they would otherwise miss in emails. They are one of the ways to build rapport and encourage engagement. You can even hold team-building events on Zoom to strengthen the relationship between your employees. However, be careful not to schedule too many meetings, as they may become disruptive instead of helpful.
Tip 2: Be Present
On Distributed Work @Google Playbooks, the tech giant mentioned that in a virtual workplace, some engagement signals can be lost. This is especially true when workers are focused intently on their devices or when they mute their microphones during meetings. So, employees must take measures to ensure that they stay engaged. For instance, make sure that others can see you by checking that your camera is switched on. You should only mute your microphone in practical situations. However, when someone’s speaking, you should give verbal and non-verbal signals that show your presence. For example, you can nod or say, “Yeah, that’s great!”
Tip 3: Acknowledge Differences
People may or may not like to be visible or recognized, depending on their cultural background. This can also influence how they act or how they interpret other people’s actions. Unfortunately, in the remote work environment, little is said about diversity, especially since employees rarely come to the office. Not everyone is aware that someone’s culture can affect their experiences, behavior, and manner of working. This is also the reason why having an effective diversity training program is essential in any workplace.
Here are some practices that can encourage employees to appreciate each other’s differences:
- Always remember that acceptable remote work behaviors may vary across cultures and identities.
- Attend the diversity training provided by your company. Be open to share any interesting information about your culture (i.e., phrases in your language, cultural traditions, and holidays).
- During meetings, discuss how remote employees can be supported, heard, and included.
Tip 4: Check On Your Colleagues
Of course, we must give our co-workers space and time to perform their work diligently. However, Google’s remote work policy encourages employees to check on their colleagues from time to time. They can send short, encouraging messages, funny photos, or interesting news articles to each other. Having virtual coffee breaks can be a great way to catch up without the stress of work. You can use this time to have a friendly chat with your co-workers. Try exchanging some self-development tips during the conversation to make it more fun and engaging.
Tip 5: Recognize Your Co-Workers
While working in a physical office is often difficult, it can be even more challenging to work remotely. You would be surprised as to how much a simple ‘thank you’ or commendation can make your colleague’s day. What’s great about showing appreciation is that the benefits work both ways. Research has shown that being grateful can bring higher levels of subjective well-being and happiness. Whenever appropriate, share kudos or congratulate any co-worker who’s had an achievement. You can also take advantage of the company’s employee recognition program to show your appreciation.
Tip 6: Establish the Norms
It’s not enough to have unspoken rules in a remote team. When employees are distributed geographically and expectations are not explicitly stated, people can get confused. Thankfully, there are many ways to mitigate this problem. For instance, the team can discuss, set, and write down norms for decision-making and communication. Management should establish a suitable time zone that the team will follow. Moreover, it is crucial for everyone to communicate openly and frequently. It’s essential for employees to know that they can get the information they need promptly. Here are other recommended work-from-home practices:
- Promote task ownership among team members. It should be clear when a task should be forwarded if someone is unavailable.
- Determine the best way to share task information. Choose the ideal project management app for the team.
- Clarify everyone’s off-hours based on the agreed time zone.
- Discuss how often team members will stay in touch and have meetings.
After establishing the norms, the manager must document them and ensure that everyone is on the same page. This way, you can reduce confusion and stress within the team. Moreover, because each member is accountable, team productivity can improve.
Tip 7: Choose the Best Communication Channel
It’s also critical to choose the right communication medium for every situation. Google recommends having video calls for detailed or sensitive discussions when working from home. Now, for clarifying simple matters and for quick check-ins, sending messages or short emails would suffice. It’s essential to recognize the difference between trivial and sensitive matters. Excessive calls can make your colleagues feel burnt out. Also, it can be a waste of time to exchange multiple messages when the matter can be resolved through a five-minute call.
Pro Tip: If you want to increase productivity, use Traqq. This tool monitors the apps you use and the websites you visit. When you go to the dashboard, you will see the amount of time you spend on each activity. This way, you can easily identify unproductive activities and get rid of them.
Tip 8: Prioritize Mental and Physical Health
Unfortunately, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. In the remote work setup, many of us may feel isolated. In such an environment, you should prioritize your well-being. Here are some tips that Google recommends:
- Create physical boundaries between your home and work life.
- Set up a comfortable office space inside your house.
- Set limits on your work hours.
- Take short breaks after every hour.
Managing your tasks can be even more challenging when you’re working from home. Your domestic duties can easily overlap with your responsibilities at work. There are many ways to prioritize your tasks, but one of the best ways to do so is through time blocking. Identify your peak productive times, then schedule cognitive-intensive tasks around those hours. If you’re starting to feel like you’re about to hit a slump, work on easy projects.
If you want to identify your peak productive times with ease, use Traqq. This tool also monitors your activity levels based on your keyboard movements and mouse clicks and scrolls. On the dashboard, you will see the times when you’re powering through your tasks. High activity will be coded as green, normal activity as yellow, and low activity as red. What’s great about Traqq is that you can download it and access all its features for free. So, you can have a tool that will boost your remote team’s productivity without paying monthly fees.