Creating remote work rituals that stick

Remote work lends people a certain amount of freedom in how they go about doing their jobs, so it’s not surprising that an asynchronous style of working would be one of the side effects of not working from a centralized location.

But it’s not always good for employees. In this arrangement, people often end up working more, and meeting culture takes over because people can no longer see their colleagues in an office setting, which is a natural habitat for collaboration and communication.

And when you’re talking to people online, understanding each other is usually more difficult because you’re less in tune with what’s happening in their lives at that moment. Jumping on a call with someone also doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

Ultimately, to reduce the number of meetings so people can focus on other tasks, employees need to find new ways to foster a culture of open communication and collaboration, and individuals and teams need to introduce boundaries and rituals into their workday.

The routines people create are negotiated over time, but it’s something we’ve come to take for granted. Any organization hoping to scale can create rituals that engage people in their work and inspire them to be their best selves.

Structure work routines around people

Ultimately, asynchronous work only serves you when you compartmentalize phases of work with your team.

With remote work comes hours of video conferencing calls and employees who’ll show up and not contribute a single word. People will often refrain from unmuting their mics and many won’t turn their cameras on, leaving the speaker with only a dark screen to talk to.

Making matters worse, on a call with a lot of attendees, important information can be left undiscussed. Even setting up a quick five-minute clarifying call can be tough to negotiate sometimes.

To trigger active listening and get people invested in a meeting, try a Socratic dialogue structure. In this approach, a moderator will ask participants to summarize what the previous speaker said and encourage them to build on top of the full conversation.

Conversations like this involve examples, definitions, subquestions and assumptions, and help people look for arguments that prove a point instead of validating their opinions. It’s a proven way to kick-start constructive dialogue and get multiple perspectives on a topic so that you can arrive at a shared viewpoint. It also shows employees that every perspective is valuable, which fosters an environment of trust.

If there is an elephant in the room, bring it to people’s attention and put their minds at ease before it becomes a larger issue. It’s key to remain open and proceed with sensitivity and accept that others may not agree with your opinions. Leaders should be the role models here and should ask questions and encourage team members to speak up and take initiative.