Best Practices to Stay Connected & Productive during COVID-19 Crisis: Q&A with Matt Loop, Slack’s Head of APAC

April 29, 20201:16 pm752 views
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As work-from-home policies widely implemented during the Coronavirus pandemic, businesses have seen the usage of remote tools services skyrocketing. Online communication platforms like Zoom become essential for many households and organisations, to communicate both personally and professionally. Albeit technology helps us stay connected, in these times of uncertainty, anxiety and crisis, it is difficult to help employees keep their work engagement and productivity. 

On that matter, we sat in a candid interview with Matt Loop, Slack’s Head of APAC. Here, Matt shares the best practices to ensure productivity and transparency in this difficult time.  

RemoteWorker Tech reported that Slack is experiencing massive growth as a result of the great shift towards remote working. Mr Loop, as the new head of APAC at Slack, can you share your strategy in making the best of this opportunity?

In my role, I work to help teams of all sizes across the region collaborate productively and efficiently, and to strengthen business continuity through these challenging times.  To do that we first help them understand what Slack is, and what they can achieve on the platform. The fundamental challenge common to all organisations is one of coordination: the creation and maintenance of alignment over time. We are here to help solve this challenge by providing channel-based communication, helping teams understand the inefficiencies of emails and to work with transparency. Channels are how conversations are organised on Slack, and can refer to anything from projects to teams and more.

As one of the world’s largest software companies with teams all across the globe, what’s Slack’s best practices during the crisis to ensure productivity and transparency?

Slack is lucky to already have been experimenting with this since our inception. This has greatly helped our transition to remote work back in March. Here are some of our tips to stay connected, productive and transparent between teams:

● Remain transparent

One way is to ensure there is clarity on goals, tasks and responsibilities. Having an open and shared to-do list where you can tick off tasks letting your team know where you are with projects helps. Ensuring you remain upfront about what you’re working on will create trust between you and your colleagues and you won’t find your boss constantly checking in for updates on your progress.

● Have clear boundaries

Be clear when you’re working and when you’re not. Turn notifications off during hours you are not working and use statuses on your communication tools to say when you’re busy or offline. Boundaries help manage expectations — just because you’re working from home no-one expects you to be online from dawn until dusk.

● Utilise technology

The average worker today will interact with a wide range of apps at work, logging on to one to request paid time off and then another to file an expense. It’s crucial that time spent working remotely includes seamless access to the apps you use the most. 

What is your advice for those who use Slack as their collaborative channel to increase productivity and connection with team members?

Messages are organised into channels on Slack, allowing users to correspond to anything – from projects to functional areas to temporary channels for things like planning an offsite. So for those who are already on Slack, they can:

● Create a dedicated announcement channel to share updates with their team remotely. Announcement channels are crucial for getting updates to your team. 

● Use channels for all your work in order to help you check in and keep projects moving. If your team is shifting to remote working, you’ll want to enable people to keep moving on their own projects, often by creating new channels. 

● Connect the tools you use everyday, to bring all your most-used apps together in one convenient place. Slack seamlessly integrates with hundreds of tools to ensure that everyone has visibility into their team’s unique ecosystem of work. 

● Adopt shared channels to work more easily with other external partners. Whether you’re working with a vendor on a project, a customer on a contract or a partner on a campaign, you can use a shared channel to connect your two organizations together. 

● Post statuses to let people know when you’re around—and when you’re not. Use it to let everyone know that you’re on a call, out at lunch or in a meeting. 

● Make calls without leaving Slack in order to maintain some semblance of ‘face-to-face’ communication. Everyone needs to have a quick face-to-face conversation on occasion, and sometimes a larger, ad hoc group meeting is best. With Slack, you can easily bring all of your communication into one convenient place. 

Based on your observation, what are some interesting interactions that help instil a stronger connection between coworkers? And how effective are these interactions?

Aside from using channels to organise our work into focus, Slack also uses the platform to maintain culture. There are more irreverent and fun channels to let employees hear from each other, build a wider sense of camaraderie and boost connectivity remotely. 

Further, teams are increasingly jazzing up remote meetings by setting virtual backgrounds during video calls, with some employees ending up on virtual islands – bringing a new meaning to the term remote working. We’ve also seen companies rolling out team activities remotely, such as organising time for monthly team trivias, creating channels where everyone talks about exercising, and even channels for water cooler chats. Another interesting example from our customer is setting virtual Zumba classes to its employees. 

People are expected to be able to transition themselves, adapting to the new unexpected work environment such as a virtual workplace. What are your tips for those who are still struggling?

For those who are new to telecommuting, know that this takes time. The lack of physical connection paired with movement restrictions can be disorienting but telecommuting isn’t going away anytime soon. 

However, with the lines between work and play blurring, some employees wake up and start work immediately, sometimes working well into the evening. Avoid that. Setting clear boundaries, having a routine and sticking to it will be helpful. 

For managers, keeping employees engaged becomes more important than ever. The simplest thing to drive that forward is by encouraging a positive work environment, helping employees feel like a connected member on the team. Implementing processes that allow for more collaboration across the organisations, and providing access to information and easy methods of communication is necessary for boosting engagement. 

All the isolation during the outbreak could have a negative effect on our mental health which impacts our productivity. What strategy and advice do you have to maintain our mental health and wellness during these times?

The outbreak has no doubt disrupted everyone’s routines but, like it or not, this is the new normal. To be mentally positive, try the following:

● Stay connected with people —  While we may not be able to meet with our friends at this time, we can still jump on phone or video calls to keep in touch.

● Get away from work after work — Putting away work accessories like laptops after work, and having a space away from your workstation or desk, if possible, can help relax the mind. 

● Get some exercise, or go for a walk — We may not be allowed to stay out for long, but a quick exercise outdoors wouldn’t hurt, and will definitely lift one’s mood. 

Read also: How to Stop Workplace Fear and Racism against Asians as COVID-19 Cases Spiral (Q&A with Chee Tung Leong, the CEO of EngageRocket)

About Matt Loop: 

Matt joined Slack in December 2019 to help lead the growth efforts across Asia Pacific. Passionate about all things related to sales and helping elevate the sales profession, improving the working lives of my team/friends/customers, Matt helps make an impact on people’s professional lives through both technology and mentorship.

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