Humanizing Remote Work

The sudden move to remote work has thrown quite a few proverbial wrenches into people’s lives, and especially for those who don’t have experience with remote work. The main thing I find lacking is human connection and here I propose one way that may help teams bring it back.

There is a lot written on how to go about remote work (for example this), and tools to use such as Slack, task management tools, video chat tools and more, but there is one aspect to doing remote work that I believe makes a huge difference in improving connection between people when working remotely that isn’t talked about enough.

The idea is simple: bring together a team by using a voice chat room that has the “push to talk” feature. This is the secret sauce.

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What makes “push to talk” so great is that it allows a team to join a voice chat room, and feel like they’re together in a room, as they can easily press a button to address someone, while still having the advantage of not always having an active microphone that picks up everything that happens in their home. There is a good chance that you also experienced some pain around muting and un-muting yourself in a meeting, which is also fixed by this wonderful feature.

Having this setup allows the team to discuss things on the fly, which often results in cross-pollination of ideas, and significantly reduces the need for emails, as things can be quickly addressed as they come up, while still providing the flexibility to get some independent work time and dodge out by muting the channel, or moving to a different one.

Often times when time is scheduled to dicuss business related things, it’s difficult to squeeze in off-topic conversations to connect on a personal level with colleagues. The “humanizing” part is that with a voice chat room, there are many more opportunities to have “water cooler” conversations, exchange some kind words which helps maintain the morale of the team, and reduces how isolated the team feels. This is especially important right now, as we deal with a pandemic.

I’ve spent a few years doing work remotely, and this was one tool that unlocked a new level of efficiency and enjoyment in remote work. Funny enough, this is how we used to connect when we played games together in high school, using software like Teamspeak and Ventrilo. Some of these individuals I’m friends with to this day, and I’ve never met them in person.

Some other apps that have this feature are Discord and Mumble

Written on September 26, 2020