How to thrive while working from home: tips from a company that has already done it successfully
We recently caught up with Adam Griffith, managing director at Luminary, one of the longest standing independent digital agencies, who has been leading a successful remote team since he moved to rural Australia four years ago.
Creating a thriving working environment at home is a new challenge that many of us are consumed with right now. There are many hollow articles out there full of productivity tips but the truth is no matter how many articles you read, it will be a steep learning curve for many organisations.
For Luminary, one of the key learnings from its transition to remote work was remembering to include people who weren’t in the office in decisions and important communication. With most businesses now working from home, Griffith says there is an onus on people to try a bit harder in terms of making sure to loop one another into conversations and also to make yourself ‘visible’ as a remote worker.
“You have to recognise that people can’t see you when you’re working remotely. It’s about making sure your status is up to date in your calendar and instant messaging, and reminding people when you aren’t there. We have a Slack channel where people can say, ‘Hey I’m going out for lunch,’ so people don’t wonder where you are.”
Another key is ensuring that you have a good working environment at home, which includes assessing the quality of your audio, having a stable internet connection and comfortable office furniture, because Griffith says you will notice if it’s a bad setup.
One of the primary worries for many businesses is how to keep a remote team motivated but Griffith believes motivation isn’t simply about location:
“I’m not sure that simply being in an office is what motivates people. The most important thing is being connected – that feeling of being heard or listened to. You need to give people ways to constantly connect. That might be through Hangouts, online get-togethers or Friday training sessions. Feeling a lack of connection is a real de-motivator.”
As for keeping teams accountable, he says it starts with employing the right people who fit your culture and who take responsibility for their work. Beyond that, company leaders must clearly outline what is important, particularly in terms of how people communicate and deliver their work.
“You need to be clear about expectations around things like having people logging their time and checking in at the start and the end of the day. Having people say what they’ve achieved for the day is not just about accountability, it’s about being recognised for what they’ve done and feeling a sense of accomplishment.”
From a marketing perspective, a remote team is absolutely capable of being creative and collaborative by distance. Luminary achieves this with regular virtual check-ins where the team can discuss marketing initiatives in progress and workshop new ideas. This is possible with a good tech set up and the right programs. Griffith says working by distance might even give employees more space for big ideas.
“In fact the office environment can even stifle creativity because of the general noise and distractions. David Ogilvy famously said he never wrote anything in the office. His point was that it’s hard to find the space to do any deep thinking in the office, and that’s where real creativity comes from.”
Things may become more challenging when you’re part of a big team, in which some employees can get lost during virtual meetings. To avoid this, Griffith encourages his team to use video wherever possible and for the person leading the session to go around the ‘room’ so nobody incidentally dominates the video conference.
There are many positive things that can come from working from home according to Griffith, including fostering a culture of better communication with clear written and verbal communication as well as being able to service clients remotely.
“We’re familiar with the best tools available to facilitate remote working, which means we’re able to pass those learnings on to clients. Being able to easily advise and lead our clients when they’re not in the same location gives them a great deal of confidence. It has also opened us up to work with clients outside of Melbourne.”
Beyond that, a good remote set up enables good employees to live wherever they desire:
“One of the best things to come out of Luminary enabling remote work is the ability for people to live wherever they want to live. We’ve had our design director spend 18 months in Amsterdam, a front end developer move to the country and several team members move interstate for various reasons. There are so many examples of enabling people to live where they want to live. The other part of that is being able to employ people wherever they are – so you get to choose the best talent, regardless of where they live.”
And don’t forget, says Griffith, that working remotely means your team has an added bonus of upping their .gif game!
Good resources for working from home:
Adam Griffith is a managing director at Luminary.