Have you had the experience of working with someone on your team who broadcasts everything they are doing throughout the day on group emails, chat, or online meetings? It’s a common occurrence, but it can rub people the wrong way. It comes across as bragging and isn’t beneficial to the rest of the team.
The notion of “Working Out Loud” is an important concept to understand if you want to build good relationships with your teammates. @PilarOrti talks about this phrase on her blog about remote work. “Working Out Loud” in remote or virtual teams is the practice of making your work visible in a way that is of use to you and/or others. In the “virtual team space”, we have adopted this concept as the need to deliberately and regularly communicate about the progress and process of our work, but it isn’t always necessary.
Why do people work out loud?
In remote work, it is very challenging to get work noticed until it’s complete and passes the quality bar. This is because the work is done in isolation and often ends up “out-of-sight and out-of-mind.” The way managers know what you’re doing is through looking at productivity data, getting status updates or doing daily check-ins.
The fear of not being recognized for work is what causes some people to over-communicate. You are a node in a network and developing your personal brand online (what Google says about you) is becoming very important. What is your personal brand saying about you? What is your story? People share their work as part of developing this brand in a remote work environment.
Working in a physical office makes it easier for work to get noticed. As Anthony Coppedge points out in his blog post about remote work, “The skills and techniques of remote management are different from office management, as office managers often value physical proximity as a proxy for team effectiveness, while remote managers value performance over a visible presence.”
The question becomes: how do you communicate without oversharing or annoying other team members?
How to update without annoying
To prevent annoying your team, you should start by asking yourself: what would be useful for others to know? If it’s part of your work on the cloud you don’t need to tell anyone because the work is there and if anyone wants to see what you’re working on, it’s all accessible online. However, there are some instances where sharing would be useful.
For example, is the point to share your work progress? To have accountability? Each goal requires a different communication process. If it’s progress related maybe you want to communicate on Trello. If it’s a part of a thought process maybe you want to write a blog post. Whenever you want to share your work, it’s important to think about why you’re doing it and the best communication method.
Carpool, a consulting agency specializing in how information flows through an organization, has a great process for updates. They use Facebook Workplace for all their internal communications. In Workplace, they have a group called “What I’m Doing Today.” Each morning employee’s go to the group to tell everyone what they plan on doing for the day. They make it brief usually using phrases written in 20 seconds or less. This inspires conversations about daily activities and blockers.
For many tasks, sending a daily status email or having daily check-in meetings is a better way of communicating what you are doing. Keeping chat status updated also provides an accurate view of what you are doing in case someone needs to reach you.
Working out loud: digital meets physical
A good visual representation of remote work status in a virtual office is Sococo. Sococo is an online workplace where distributed teams come to work together each day, side-by-side. Their application even has a feature that replicates the coffee machine in the digital space.
This allows you to view the status of team members in a more traditional way. In a physical office, team members visit a coffee machine is a location where a lot of spontaneous conversations occur. If you look in the Rec Room in the Sococo virtual office, a bunch of teammates are just catching up. When people go to the Rec Room others know they are available for casual conversations. In contrast, people in Silent Den want more privacy to focus on their work and teammates know not to bother them. Sococo also gives you the option to close your virtual office door if you need to concentrate and not be disturbed.
In an online review of Sococo Mike G. says, “Sococo is the next level, you practically feel that you are in an office or meeting room, side to side with the people you need to do business. You can do calls pretty quickly, from 2 to 50 people, or send messages to all of them. You can even screen share or share your camera, just with one click, and in less than a second.”
Working out loud effectively
Working out loud doesn’t need to be a negative thing. It fosters openness and collaboration, which is good for organizations. It’s all about building a purposeful network, a new way of working and improving productivity.
You can start by taking one thing every week or month and post it on the intranet or group for others to see. This creates a collision point for others to collaborate. A lot of time can be lost in remote work communications because of isolationism and this is a more social way of working.
You also need to plan communication activities to give them your full attention. For example, plan your social media activity not as a multi-tasking activity but as a scheduled event done with discipline and attention.
Next, focus on creating a strategy around curation. By this, we mean how you interact with corporate messages. In a large organization, you can get quickly overwhelmed by the volume of information. You should organize emails and alerts to a manageable level to give it your full attention.
A strategy to get this type of focus is:
Finding a way to get only the information you want
Determining what information is necessary for your job
Technology alone won’t solve it. It’s critical to also use a sharing strategy. You need to determine the value of different types of information for the individual and the organization. Then, you’ll be able to properly manage all the information that comes your way.
A major shift in the workplace is coming with the increase in millennials who adopt the working out loud practice very easily. They expect openness and collaboration and many organizations already practice it. The bottom line is that technology by default is more open and culture needs to catch up. Working openly and collaboratively will become the new work standard. To adapt, we have to use the right tools and systems to work out loud better, together.