Tips from SupConf 2017: How to Make Remote-Work Work For You

Tips from SupConf 2017: How to Make Remote-Work Work For You

This month TextExpander helped to sponsor the support community-driven event, SupConf. This conference comes out of the Support Driven community, a place for workers in customer service and support to gather and trade tips, find mentors, and share support stories with peers. We’re new to Support Driven, but it has been a great place for support team tips. Nothing like a room full of people who help others for a living for getting some advice.

We want to thank Scott Tran for running Support Driven, and for throwing a great conference, it was our pleasure to be a part of it.

SupConf was held in Atlanta this year, and covered: various support topics, remote work, even stealthy ways to get your way in a corporate setting.

Some of the topics which really spoke to us were tips on remote work, such as those in Katharine McCarthy’s talk. We’re a completely remote team here at Smile, and many of the attendees and speakers are in the same boat (about 80%) and having the same issues. Plus, nothing is more productivity hack-y than learning from others’ best practices.

Here are some remote work tips, none of which include flying everyone out to meet each other:

  • DO have video chats, you know, with the video on. You get much more human interaction with sight as well as sound.
  • DON’T mute everyone during video chats (exceptions for passing garbage trucks). Sight and sound are how we communicate, both are important. And nothing is sadder than saying a joke and getting silence ??
  • DO share personal photos and details with each other; it builds relationships. We have a #water_cooler channel for that in Slack. It’s hard to stress the importance of being able to “be yourself” through chat and email with coworkers and have them know when your joking and when you’re serious.
  • DO have small enough meetings that everyone can see everyone’s face in the video conference. If the team is huge, make sure to have smaller breakout meetings. It’s easier to get to know people in a more intimate setting.
  • DO super quick frequent check-ins, such as a daily 15-minute chat to discuss the issues of that day.
  • DO have fun and casual get-togethers online and not only for work.
  • DO monthly lunches. The successful theme for these lunches from Katharine’s talk were employee focused. Each lunch the topic is “All About (Team name here)” so each team member has a spotlight to talk about what they are into, and everyone else can learn more about them.
  • DON’T let the team ignore each other. Especially with some people in an office and some remote, it’s easy for the remotes to feel isolated and left out of the fun loop and the important information loop.

We definitely respect the power of video conferencing here. Zoom.us, GoToMeeting, BlueJeans, Skype, and Google Hangouts are some of the group video services we’ve tried out, with Slack video as the simple one-on-one for quick chats. We all love and hate different services, so the search goes on.

As for people dealing with the transition from office work to remote work, there are a couple of scenarios:

  • You’re happy alone in your room.
    • Cool, you win at remote work. No distractions just focused concentration time. Just remember to turn your Slack notifications back on occasionally.
  • You miss people.
    • Try a coffee shop a few times a week, or a co-working space full-time to be near others. And Slack helps keep the communication flowing.

Even within Smile, we have differing opinions on how remote work effects us.

I started my own company so that I don’t have to go to an office.

Greg, Co-Founder

What I’ve learned from 10 years of working from home, I miss people.

Philip, Co-Founder

At first working from home drove me crazy, so I rented a co-working space. I liked it, but after a while I found myself working from home more often than not, and just going out to meet friends.

Mike, Sales and Business Development

I enjoy sinking into my comfortable, quiet shell. But, I work to find more things to do out of the house, so I don’t forget how to interact with people. It is a skill, which only gets better with practice.

Maia, Marketing

SupConf also addressed the introvert/extrovert divide by having a quiet room for work or decompression, and two-sided wristbands. Flip the wristband to the yellow side to encourage people to speak with you, flip it to the black side to let people know you need some time to yourself. A convenient signal for a crowded event space.

If you’re interested in learning more about SupConf, read their Mega post.

If you’re in the support profession, you should definitely check out Support Driven.

Thanks to everyone we met for being so welcoming. It was great meeting the TextExpander fans in the audience; we love you too!

If you want to get in touch, just tweet us @TextExpander. If you want to talk with the TextExpander rep you met at SupConf, Maia is @maia in Support Driven Slack.

And now, the pictures.

Scott Tran
Thanks to Scott Tran for a great conference, and for the Support Driven community!
Maia, Matt
Forgot to make a funny face, sorry Matt. ?
pocket
TextExpander screen cloth as fashion accessory
chimp
MailChimp Offices tour! Thank you Freddie ?
magnets
Where’s the Slack version of magnet poetry?
group selfie
After hours fun with new friends: Snack, Gerald, Dave
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