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Ocra’s Remote Work Philosophy: Meeting With Intention

At Ocra, our highest priorities are delivering exceptional support to our partners and building the best centralized demand channel management solutions that the industry’s ever seen.

To do so as a remote team, we’ve had to uncover tools and tactics that allow us to connect and collaborate from every corner of the country.

Together, we came up with a policy for doing our best work:

Communication is as frequent as is required, and as clear as it needs to be.

In short:

Less time spent in meetings.
More time spent on meaningful projects.

Here’s how we practice what we preach and make remote work work for us!

Guideline #1: Use the Tech Stack to Signal

We utilize our tech stack to signal whenever possible, and we keep the volume of internal emails low.

Having clear communication channels and escalation policies protects us all from being pinged from one million different directions a quadrillion times per day.

Too much stimulus and noise can result in projects becoming disorganized, being improperly prioritized, or simply falling through the cracks.

Here are the tools that we use:

  • Slack for updates, quick asks, and huddles
  • HubSpot for tracking sales, marketing, and customer success activity
  • Notion as a knowledge center and project management tool
  • Gmail infrequently, as we mostly reserve this for external emails

In HubSpot, we have workflows configured that automate reminders for tasks that we assign each other. As a best practice, we always include a prioritization label and due date.

In Slack, the rule of thumb in our group channels is that if you’re adding more info to a message that you sent, or if you’re replying to someone else’s message, you create a thread so that the conversation is clustered around the original topic (and not pinging the main channel over and over).

If someone can be solved faster with a chat, we use Slack Huddles to sync up.

Guideline #2: Leave Stretches of Uninterrupted Work Time

We’ve found that, as a company, our biggest issue with peppering short meetings throughout the day is that it creates an issue called context switching.

Originally a computing term, “context switching” is used to describe an instance of a computer saving the state (or context) of a running process so that it can be restored later and then loading and running another, different process.

Context switching incurs as cost for machines because it’s disruptive and inefficient.

It has a similar effect on people and teams, too!

According to the American Psychological Association, there is a perceptible change in our “mental control settings” when we abruptly shut down an uncompleted task, pivot to a new one, and then return to the first task later.

While multi-tasking in the modern workplace is inevitable, context switching is much more avoidable thanks to tools like those previously mentioned and transparency created by shared calendars.

We try to be thoughtful about combining and repurposing meeting slots.

But when that’s not doable, another best practice is scheduling them back-to-back instead splitting up a larger chunk of free time in someone’s day.

For example, we have a daily standup from 12:00–12:15 PM ET.

Our Revenue Team meets 3x/week from 11:30 AM–12:00 PM ET, ahead of standup.

Our Engineering Team syncs immediately after stand-up, from 12:15–12:30 PM ET.

This effectively creates one big “chunk” of shared time that can be used and repurposed across the org.

Guideline #3: Telegraph Your Availability

At Ocra, we take advantage of Google Calendar’s “Focus Time” functionality to telegraph periods in which we’ll be head down working on something specific or otherwise unavailable for meetings.

We have do the same thing with our Slack statuses, too!

By using “Focus Time” and keeping our Slack statuses up to date, we signal to the rest of the company that we either need (or would strongly prefer) to reserve that time for deep work.

If we urgently need to get ahold of someone during focus time, we generally use Slack’s Huddle calling feature as the person’s Slack notifications may be turned off.

For our company, minimizing context switching and telegraphing availability have been important exercises that help us better prioritize and manage projects with multiple stakeholders.

Sanctioned deep work blocks are sacred, especially for our developers who need the uninterrupted time to zero in on building sophisticated integrations and solving complex engineering problems.

But, of course, any person in any role can benefit!

Making Remote Work Work For Ocra

There are benefits and challenges to Ocra’s current remote work model, but in our experience, the benefits wildly outweigh the downsides.

With team members on both the West and East coasts, we’re able to provide a higher service level to our partners through enhanced accessibility.

We believe working in a remote community has helped shape our understanding of one another as people: how we prefer to communicate, what motivates us, and what makes us feel valued.

Together, we can build an environment that enables each of us to do our work in the way that is most conducive to our individual productivity, happiness, and health.

One big challenge, of course, is finding and creating opportunities to bring a geographically disparate team together in one place across time zones and state lines.

Conferences present an excellent opportunity for some of the team to meet up, and we’re looking forward to our next all-team offsite, too!

Ultimately, as our team continues to grow, we’ll adhere to our policy of communicating as frequently as required, as clearly as needed, refining our guidelines along the way.

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