Google Recommendations for Effective Remote Work

Google loves analyzing employee behavior. You can argue that’s paid off handsomely—the company regularly ranks high as a best place to work, and its management practices (such as OKRs) are emulated by other firms.

As befitting a tech behemoth, Google has offices in 150 cities all over the world, which means that many of its employees collaborate across vast distances; some 38 percent of meetings involve two (or more) cities, and 30 percent take place across two (or more) time zones. That can make work difficult—and it robs many employees of the chance to firmly bond with colleagues.

Fortunately, Google recognized the problem, and surveyed its employees to figure out the exact pain points when it comes to remote work. Here are the company’s recommendations for making “distributed work feel more connected and enjoyable,” according to a new corporate blog post:

Get to Know Each Other as People

Colleagues—especially those who live and work thousands of miles from one another—should chat with one another. Per the blog post: “Instead of jumping right into an agenda, allow some time at the top of the meeting for an open-ended question, like ‘what did you do this weekend?’”

Set Boundaries

Nobody wants to wake up and find that someone on the other side of the world had scheduled a meeting for 5 A.M. their time. When collaborating remotely with colleagues, make sure that everyone’s happy with meeting and communication times: “Instead of making assumptions about preferred working hours, take the time to ask your co-workers when they like to take meetings; some may opt for a certain time of day if given a choice or like to disconnect completely from their computers at other times.”

Forge In-Person and Virtual Connections

Limiting interactions to emails and messaging isn’t a great idea: “Managers should provide clear guidelines and opportunities for team members to travel for in person meetings. On a video call, express reactions to coworkers ideas noticeably to indicate they’re being heard.”

Beyond Google: The Benefits of Remote Work

In the 2019 Dice Salary Survey, some 78 percent of tech pros said they considered remote work an important perk, even though only 49 percent report having it as an option from their employer. “This 24 percent gap is the second-largest between a desired benefit and what employers broadly are offering, which ties into overall employee satisfaction,” the survey reported. “[Fifty-five] percent of people who said they’re satisfied at their job have remote and flex options, whereas only 33 percent (who are said they’re dissatisfied with their job) have the benefit.”

But remote work is something that tech pros and managers need to manage carefully. Working from home is wonderful (especially if your preferred “desk” is your couch) but it can also lead to isolation and disconnect from colleagues. As Google suggests, one potential solution is making a conscious effort to forge connections—both online and in-person.