If remote work was a growing trend before the pandemic, today, it is a paradigm that is here to stay. And in addition to the fabulous sense of freedom that comes with having a certain autonomy over our working hours, there is the challenge of establishing new habits to maintain a balance between professional and personal life — which are increasingly intertwined.
For many, there is no longer a difference between leisure and productivity time. Perhaps common among artists and creatives, it is something utterly new to most. Relaxed working hours, fewer strict time constraints, and proximity to an intimacy that might have once been entirely separated from the office blur the boundaries. So, maintaining clarity and focus can be a little tricky. How many times have you got up today to have another snack? Is the neighbour looking out of the window again?
newkinco is a completely remote agency, always has been. Over time we have learned a few tricks, ways of doing things that help us to do a better job, relate to each other while avoiding friction and, ultimately, be happier while working.
We have gathered these 16 tips and want to share them with you — maybe they can help you in your daily routine or give you comfort for any given moment. Plus, you can also find out who is who in our team.
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1- Rituals for Freedom Management
I can still hear my mother saying: “freedom and responsibility are like two sides of the same coin — the more freedom you get, the more responsibility you’ll have”. This is most true when working remotely. Yes, having a fully remote position means a lot of freedom. But without responsibility, that freedom is doomed.
Training the “ability to respond” to the infinity of possibilities is crucial; from the way you structure your day, your hours and your tasks, to the tools able to help you manage your distraction level (I use a TOCA Sleeve to keep me out of social media and chats).
Implementing small rituals that bring meaning to the structure of your day is also a great way to ride with freedom. For example, I start the workday by watering my (many) plants in the studio and never ever look at individual tasks before setting myself a concise priority-oriented TO DO list for that day — once I get a tangible overview, I can start.
2 — Soul Kitchen for Creative Spark
There is something about kitchens that attracts people. If someone sets a house party they can meticulously plan the dance floor, the dining area, the chill-out space… but go to the kitchen and you’ll find the most interesting people having the most intriguing conversations: the kitchen is the soul of the party, don’t be fooled. This is no different in the working space. It is in this “in-between” room, over coffee and an informal vibe that enlightened ideas come about.
Setting up a virtual Kitchen space, where you can “bump” into colleagues, explore ideas and connect without the pressure of a scheduled meeting, is powerful. This collective soul space works great as a complement to result-driven meetings, allowing listening to one another to be joyful and for creative ideas to reveal themselves. Want to measure the soul level of your team? Ask yourself “how often do you laugh together”?
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3 — List, tick, delete, repeat
Having a daily kanban board/to-do list with all of your tasks so you can prioritise in order of urgency and/or enjoyment level in order to manage your mood throughout the day. I like to put my ‘fun’ tasks at the end of the day so that I have something to look forward to and spike my energy for the last push into the evening.
Plus, it feels great to tick everything off the list, and if you still have stuff left at the end of the day, you can pop it on the top of the list for the next.
4 — Find your body
It’s also good to punctuate your tasks with an embodiment exercise after you complete each one; go outside for 5 minutes in the sun or rain, take 10 deep breaths with both your feet firmly planted on the ground, do some stretches, pound your chest with a closed fist to open the lung channels (its a Chinese medicine thing), sing a song, have a dance, drink a glass of water, any of the above and then get onto the next task. You will feel more connected to your body and brain and will be much more effective and productive so that you can fully relax when your workday is over and it’s your time to rest and be present with your life.
5 — Design your flow
The beauty of remote work, especially when you are dealing with aligning across multiple time zones, is that you can design a schedule that fits in with your life. I work in the mornings early, take a break to be with my baby in the middle of the day, and then work later into the evening when all is quiet and (almost) still.
6 — Relaxed social
Catching up with your colleagues/friends on a channel in your communication app. We use discord. It is super easy and simple to connect across work tasks and also on a more personal level, for social events, after work meet-ups, sharing memes or embodiment tips… super fast, easy and efficient.
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7 — A common purpose
There is a reason why we always use the expression “let’s sync”: in order to have clarity about the work, it is essential to always keep in mind what the shared direction is. What is the purpose of everything we do?
Defining it beforehand, remembering it and sharing it with the people who join the team will help everyone to have more autonomy in day-to-day decisions, as their decisions will reflect that common purpose.
8 — A clear process
Shared structure and clear workflows give the possibility to communicate both synchronously and asynchronously. For example, the organisation of files should be reflected in all shared communication channels, in the wiki and the task management tools.
9 — Ephemeral spaces to connect
Being connected is essential. Creating ephemeral spaces where team members can easily find each other will help remove barriers and communication will flow more smoothly. And so, in a way, feel each other’s presence.
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10 — Use new tools
Playing around with new tools while communicating remotely can arouse an explorative state of mind and thus bring one in presence and give refreshing ideas as well. It could be a funny fake (or IRL!) background in Zoom, face filter, moving meetings into virtual spaces like Topia.io, Mozilla Hubs or online games, or simply mad outfit for a video call that one would never dare to wear IRL.
11- Forget rules when it comes to routines
I think it’s exciting to experiment with the daily structure of existence. For a while, I moved all my social life to the mornings and worked in the evenings, which surprisingly deepened my relationships, because I’m more emotionally available in the first part of the day and more creative in the second. Another thing I found out for myself is that I’m very focused and feel great if I skip the breakfast (which obviously conflicts with the previous experiment, oops)
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12 — Balance between flexibility and rigour planning
When it comes to self-directed work, it is very important to set up your daily goals if you want to achieve and be disciplined to work on this in specific time frames. However, when it comes to remote teamwork, you need to adapt to your team and be flexible to meet and collaborate with them. Finding the right balance between these working modes is essential to work fully remote in an efficient way.
13 — Setup a professional workspace
Working remotely enables you to design your professional and private life with a high degree of personal freedom and flexibility. Having sometimes a call from a sunny terrace or answering emails from the beach is nice and part of this lifestyle, but should not be the rule. Working regularly in a well-equipped office environment with the right chair, laptop stand etc. will bring you more focused work and in the long term less pain for your neck, shoulders and back.
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14 — Synchronise with different time zones
One of the things I love most about working remotely is the possibility to grab my computer, a backpack (suitcase, ha) and suddenly appear in another part of the world. With other travellers on the team, we often find ourselves in different time zones, so we have to set the moments when we can work together.
For me, the key is to navigate the different schedules: if one day you have to work at 8 pm, use the morning to discover your new city or have time for yourself. It’s inspiring to have the prospect of a new place at an unexpected time on any given day of the week. At the same time, save a few days to flow with the general rhythm of the city to feel part of it. These different paces will allow you to enjoy your trip and, at the same time, stay connected with your team.
15 — Live like a tree
Invoking the powerful roots of a tree may contradict my earlier globe-trotter advice, but what I am referring to is living life and work in an organic way. Just as there are different natural rhythms in the seasons, there are also different rhythms of daily work, especially if you have a creative role.
If one day you prefer to keep working at a steady pace because the spark is on, do so, and the next day dedicate more time for yourself. If you’re stuck and can’t come up with a single line, let yourself go and maybe do a little ritual (meditating for 10 minutes or chatting for a while in the corner shop, anything goes if it works for you). Listen to the signs of your mind and body, and adjust your rhythms accordingly: your balance is also important to keep the flow in the team.
16 — Co-inhabit the shared spaces
Promise, I’ll try to keep it short. :) Just that it is nice to feel the presence of the members of your team. Inspiration channels are a great way to share our current references, digital hang-outs might be the place for unexpected chitchat and virtual worlds are a fabulous way to discover how to relate to each other in the shape of a turtle. Create some nice virtual patios and feel free to use them: they will help make the physical distance way shorter.
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Some references: There is no right and wrong, but in short, you need to have a clear purpose and a structure to support it. Here are some of the methodologies and tools we use:
The PARA Method, by Thiago Forte from Fortelabs, a scalable way to organise things across platforms
Discord, a community-first communication tool to help structure day to day communications.
Notion, to structure the information and for project management.
OKRs, we love them as an accountability and goal setting tool.