Working Remotely for the First Time? Here Are 5 Tips From Our All-Remote Team

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This is the first in a series of posts about remote work.

In the wake of COVID-19, people around the world are taking extraordinary measures to curb its spread. One striking change for many people is suddenly finding themselves working remotely, and often in close quarters with young children, partners, and family.

At DuckDuckGo, we’ve always been a remote-first company with team members scattered around the world. As these strange times bring new challenges, we wanted to take a moment to share some helpful tips and words of encouragement, directly from some of our staff.

Tip #1. If you and your partner are both working remotely, be kind to yourself and to your newest coworker.

“Try to coordinate your schedules so you’re not on calls at the same time, but otherwise my best advice is to pretend they're not your partner for 8 hours and they’re just someone who sits on their computer near you at a coffee shop. If you wouldn’t tell that person in the coffee shop to quiet down or criticize them for not picking up their cereal bowl right away, then maybe don’t tell your partner to. And take at least 30 minutes when you’re done working to do something for yourself in order to reset into ‘non-work’ mode.” – Mary, U.S., Content & Communications

“Both my husband and I are drawn to the news like moths to a flame, which is pretty exhausting right now. While we’re both trying to work from home, we’ve agreed to only check-in on the news during our designated lunch break instead of letting ourselves get swept up in every article we see online while we’re trying to get work done. I’ve found it helps me keep my psychological energy intact and it also means we’re both less prone to having side conversations about COVID-19 that stir up anxiety and distract from our work.” – Azad, U.S., User Insights

Illustration of couple working remotely from their home

Tip #2. If your little ones are at home with you, pre-planning what your day looks like can help ensure that you'll be able to tackle some to-do items.

“Try and work out a schedule for the day to the best of your ability. If you're fortunate to have a partner with you, plan your day the night before so you can take kid duty in shifts, i.e., "I have calls from 12 - 2:30pm ET that I need to attend. Can you adjust your schedule? I can take the morning shift from 9 - 12pm ET." Be proactive in communication with your team if you'll be offline for chunks at a time. But, in general...give yourself a break! It's really hard to manage all of this at once, so try to take some of the pressure off yourself. I have been feeling guilty about having my phone or computer with me instead of being fully present with my baby but it's a different situation when I'm spending 12 hours with her a day vs. the regular 5. Plus, she gets to witness what a working mom looks like so maybe subconsciously, it will inspire her. And, finally...remember to thank any childcare providers you usually rely on that love your babies!”– Kristina, U.S., People Operations

“A bit of planning with your spouse goes a long way. It's very hard to get focused work done while also providing kids some structure and fielding their inevitable needs, questions, and interruptions. So, basically one person gets to do focused work at time. In our house, certain things are always "mommy questions" or "daddy questions" and those interruptions are fine, but someone has to be running point at any given time.” – Tim, U.S., Product

Illustration of woman working on her laptop while her child reads a book

"My husband is an engineering manager, and luckily both of our employers are understanding, but we're juggling working from home with our 3-year-old son, which has been interesting. We had a bit of a bumpy start but now we work in shifts. And if you need to turn the TV on for your kid in order to do something quick on email, don't feel too guilty. Also, it's occasionally nice to let my son say hi to coworkers on an internal call. He's lonely without play dates, so I think it helps alleviate tension for everyone. We are all struggling together." – Diana, Canada, Partnerships

Tip #3. As we practice social distancing, it can be cathartic and morale-boosting to create a dedicated time and space to connect with coworkers about non-work topics.

“One of the biggest challenges with remote work is the ease by which you can slip into an isolated routine. This can lead to feeling highly engaged with your work, but less so with your colleagues. To combat this, try to cultivate relationships. Our CEO created ‘Neighbors’ five years ago and we still keep it up to this day. Each Friday, our team members meet up in groups of four in a Zoom video call to chat about their lives outside of work. It’s a great forcing function that creates consistent opportunities for impromptu connection. And deepening connections like this is proven to increase effectiveness and satisfaction. It’s a win-win.” – Jaryd, U.S., People Operations

Illustration of two people connecting virtually through video chat

Tip #4. Right now, a little dose of normalcy can go a long way. If you're able to spend some time outdoors, and keep a safe distance of 6 feet from other people, take the opportunity to clear your mind so you're more focused when you're working indoors.

"Sunshine is underrated. Going outside for even five minutes to drink a glass of water, take in some air, and get a few deep breaths helps to calm my inner voice." – Brad, France, Product

"We live in a place where we can safely go outside without being near other people, so we're trying to get outside as much as possible. Tons of walks, scooter rides, bike rides, at least one in the AM and one in the PM. I think it helps all of us stay sane to be moving our bodies and getting fresh air." – Beah, U.S., Product  

Tip #5. Remember that the situation we’re all in right now is rapidly unfolding and with so much to juggle, flexibility with yourself and your team is key.

"Of course, with the current situation, it feels a bit harder to focus than usual. The biggest thing I have taken away over these last few weeks is to be understanding and respectful of people's time and bandwidth. There's other stuff going on for everyone right now outside of work, and so part of focusing is actually allowing myself to de-focus a bit. I'm usually a lot harder on myself than I'm being during this time; but easing up and giving myself (and my coworkers) needed space is improving my quality of work and working relationships." – Lily, Nomadic, Content & Communications

Illustration of woman taking a break from work to meditate

“Due to these increased restrictions, many of us have been thrown into unexpected situations. You may remember a viral interview of a BBC One expert trying to manage a similar situation and how that went. Please be patient with your coworkers who may be adjusting to more complicated work-from-home configurations! In other words, COVID-19 is putting the idea of work-life balance to the test for many people. One of DuckDuckGo’s benefits is “Work Whenever, Wherever” and we remind everyone that it is okay to adjust your schedules to accommodate your needs. We operate asynchronously the majority of the time, which requires us to communicate proactively. Reach out if you need to alter your schedule or workload in light of these changes. It's important to be mindful of deadlines and to leverage your peers and colleagues for support if necessary. We've got your back!” – Mike, U.S., People Operations

And remember, distance doesn't have to weaken camaraderie. In fact, remote work often brings about new ways of collaborating and connecting that can make eventual in-person time more enriching.

We hope that some of these perspectives resonate with you as you’re navigating new terrain. If you want to share your recent remote working experiences or have questions for our team, reach out to us on Twitter!

Working Remotely for the First Time? Here Are 5 Tips From Our All-Remote Team
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