Remote working: Cloud experts share their best practices

By Nicola Wright

Digital transformation has been on the to-do list of countless businesses for some time.

But because of recent events, many companies have been forced to virtualize what they can practically overnight.  

The stakes involved with going digital have suddenly become impossibly high; it’s not just about being more efficient or competitive anymore; now, many businesses are having to rely on online infrastructure just to survive.  

Implementing the right tools and processes is only half the battle, however.

If you are one of the businesses that have suddenly found themselves operating with a remote workforce, you have to be confident not only that your staff has the skills to make the most of these digital tools, but also that they remain productive, engaged, and connected in this strange and challenging time. 

We chatted with some cloud experts and long-time work-from-homers to get their insight on how to make the best of remote working.  

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Hiro Nishimura is a Technical Writer, Instructor, and founder  AWS Newbies who specializes in introducing Amazon Web Services to beginners. She’s been working remotely part-time for years, and like many others, has recently gone full WFH. She shared some of her top tips on looking after yourself and your team as you adjust to remote working.  


Over the past few months, much of the world’s workforce has begun to work remotely full-time.

Even those who’ve been told for years that “there’s no way your job can be done remotely” are somehow suddenly able to work remotely.  

There are many “pros” to working from home; more time, more flexibility, and more money saved. You might be shaving hours off your workday by cutting out the daily commute.

You might be enjoying having the freedom to shift around your schedule to fit in walks, laundry, or coffee breaks during the day. You might be saving $10 a day by preparing your lunch at home instead of running out for takeout. Ah, freedom from the cubicle! It’s a dream come true! 

However, there are also a few challenges that are undoubtedly beginning to impact those of us who find ourselves working from home, especially those who’re new to working remotely for extended periods of time.

Truth be told, though I’ve been working remotely part-time for a long time and fully remote for almost a whole year, I was not prepared for the impact of “working through a global pandemic” on my life and work.  

“This will be a piece of cake! I’ve been working remotely for months, and I rarely go anywhere anyways!” Or so I thought a month ago. It turns out that sentiment was extremely naive.”

But there ARE things we can do to help ourselves and our teams working remotely to encourage physical AND mental health during these difficult times. 

Personally, I think there are three main components to successful remote work as a team: communication, mental health, and physical health.  

 1. Communication 

As you might suspect, communication as a remote team takes a lot more mindful effort and work than onsite contact. It’s challenging to communicate nuance and tone through text, and from years of texting and tweeting, we are inclined to use fewer words, which may come off as abrupt.

We all hate sending or reading emails, and sigh at the “unread” number in our inbox every morning.  Unfortunately, with the whole team working remotely, communicating effectively via words on the screen becomes extremely important. 

Communication within your team can be improved substantially by making sure every member is extra vigilant about how their messages may come across to the recipient. During times of high stress, we tend to read into words a lot more than we usually do.

Re-reading any message before clicking “send” and asking yourself, “How would they feel when they read this?” may be a key ingredient in preventing misunderstandings and unnecessary frustrations. 

Another way to improve your team’s communication and lower frustration levels may be to instate a daily stand-up to check in with your whole team as a group.

As a manager, having a daily stand-up can help you assess the morale level of your team, amount and types of work being tackled, and potential blockers that may prevent your organization from hitting their goals. Just make sure you set clear expectations and time limits, so you don’t end up having 30-minute stand-ups!  

Between team members, a daily stand-up will facilitate communication and visibility into the different projects each member is working on.

Assessing potential and current blockers at the start of the day and the end of the day would also be a great way for managers to help maintain smooth collaborations between team members while helping to alleviate frustration and loss of productivity. 

Working with a distributed team, one thing I found helpful was my one-on-one check-in via phone or video chat with my manager every few days.

As a manager, checking in with individual team members at least once a day via text messaging, and through video chat at least once every two or three days would go a long way to facilitating better communication and overall grasp of your team’s situation and spirits.  

 A little time on each check-in should be devoted to talking about how each member is feeling and touching on their wider life.

While these mundane chit-chats come naturally in the office, they’re harder to have when everyone is working from home—being mindful of how the small pockets of communication that used to occur effortlessly can help your employees feel like they’re still part of the team. 

2. Mental health 

Tied together with communication is mental health. Many of us are not used to being alone or away from social interaction for long periods of time. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can be crippling. 

Good communication between team members during work hours may go a long way in helping maintain team morale.

We’re all stressed, and if you’re a manager, it might seem like the stresses of the whole team are on your shoulders. When a team member vents to you, sometimes you just want to scream because isn’t it obvious that YOU are overwhelmed too?

Take a moment, close your laptop, and brew yourself another cup of coffee.

One of the benefits of remote work is that often, your responses can be delayed. A mantra I’m trying to adapt (sometimes successfully, other times not so much) is “respond, not react.”

As unfair as it may be, at these trying times, your team is looking up to you for guidance and help. We see you, and appreciate you, managers! 

3. Physical health 

Finally, physical comfort and health is another essential component to keeping your remote team’s morale high. Encourage your team to exercise, or at least get up from the desk once an hour and walk around their home.

You might even exercise “together,” holding a daily plank challenge or encouraging everyone to get out of the house at 11am and take a five-minute walk around the block.

If your company has the budget, creating a pool of funds to upgrade your team’s work-from-home situations would be a fabulous way to increase the comfort level of your team.

Anything from providing monitors to ergonomic chairs to external keyboards could go a long way in upping your team members’ productivity levels.  

Your employees are dealing with a lot right now; don’t expect the same level of productivity as “usual.” Have empathy and patience, both for your team and yourself. 

Top tips for remote working

Hungry for more? We asked some more cloud pros to give us their best practices and quick and dirty tips to help remote workers be at the top of their game wherever they are: 


 

 

Take this opportunity to invert your culture. It’s not enough to tolerate remote working. We need to change to a set of processes and tools where people working from home are just as included and efficient.

Julio Faerman


I’ve been working at home for five years now, and my team is all remote workers as well. However, friends of mine that are not used to this way of life have struggled.

“I’ve heard of virtual coffee breaks and virtual happy hours taking place as a way to maintain interaction. Offering some form of IM tool is a good way to keep people talking and engaged.

Marc Weaver 


Make sure to talk with your people a couple of times a day face-to-face; seeing each other’s faces is important for morale, and just typing a question is not enough.

“Try organizing virtual events that aren’t related to work. For those old enough, you probably remember those famous LAN parties; search for a nice game that you can play online and do it together.

“Drinking beer over Zoom sounds weird, but surprisingly it works. Share your issues together; don’t hide when people ask you if everything is fine, and tell the truth if it’s not.

Efi Merdler-Kravitz


Make sure you have a comfortable home office. It’s easy to skimp on spending money on things like a nice desk or chair, and computer accessories like a mouse and keyboard.

“Considering how much time you spend interacting with these items, it’s worth setting aside a budget to make sure these items are high-quality and will help make you productive.

Trevor Sullivan


Care about and listen to each other! Having a daily routine within the team helps—if you had a coffee with your colleague every day at 2:30pm in the office, then do a video call at 2:30pm and still drink coffee together.

“We can be happy about the way how technology helps us to be connected but still keep the distance, so use this!

“For managers, I think it’s important to be empathic and understand the diverse situations people are in and how people react differently. There’s no “one rule fits all” in such situations, it needs to be about flexibility and being able to adapt to the needs of the team.”

Markus Ostertag

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