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Tips from Startups to Optimize Working Remotely

Written by Debra Bouchegnies / April 10, 2020

Michael Murphy, Founder of KLOA

Emily O'Connor, research associate at Split Biosciences

Chandler Lewis, President and Acting Exec Dir of Circle of Friends

The University of Washington campus has been on restricted operations since mid-March and CoMotion Labs followed shortly after on March 25th. Despite not being able to meet in person, startups are still thriving and finding their own ways to work from home with their colleagues. We connected with three different CoMotion Labs startups to learn how they have been working remotely, to get pointers for how to be productive, and also how to have some fun during this stressful time.  

What does your home office setup look like?

Michael Murphy, founder of KLOA, shares that he lives on the top floor of a huge, shared house a few blocks from the frats on UW’s Greek Row. He usually works from his bed and has the Sonos playing. Michael says, “I have a lot of cool grad students as housemates, mostly from Germany. I feel lucky to have a place that’s nice, affordable, and with good housemates to ride this out!”

Emily O’Connor, research associate at Split Biosciences, works from a home office in her bedroom with a desk, computer, and monitor. She tries to keep her living room separate so she can use that space to decompress and take a break from work at lunch time, and in the evenings with her roommates. Emily adds, “I make sure I have my windows open as much as possible to get fresh air and I have pictures of my friends and family above my desk to keep me feeling more connected.”

How are you and your team members staying in communication?

All three Labs members are using Slack, Zoom and email as the best ways to stay in communication. Chandler Lewis, president and acting executive director of nonprofit Circle of Friends, shares, “Zoom has always been a part of our remote work design so we are used to using this tool already.”

Emily believes she and her teammates are doing a great job of staying connected. They already used Slack daily as well as Zoom for all meetings since one of their teammates works remotely. Because this was already part of their usual routine, it was easy to transition to all Zoom meetings as well as relying fully on Slack. They also started doing a remote journal club where each week one of them picks a paper to present on, followed by a group discussion.  Emily says, “It’s a great way to stay up to date on the literature as well as to continue thinking and bouncing ideas and questions off of each other. I am very thankful that our communication has continued to stay strong during this time.”

Conceptual hand writing showing Remote Working. Concept meaning situation in which an employee works mainly from home

Are there any projects that your startup has been working on during this time that you’d like to announce?

KLOA, a mobile messaging startup, has completed a new UX research study about how mobile users find, surf and decide what blog posts they read. Plus, they have a new interaction for surfing blogs, which they hope is better than existing ones.

Circle of Friends has officially partnered with the Technology Access Foundation to design and implement a 6th-8th grade computer science curriculum that will be aligned with the national computer science standards. They will be creating a series of curriculums that will start with Web Development (HTML/CSS) and will include 3D Animation and Game Design, using Twitch, Roblox, Minecraft and Unity. Chandler says, “It will be a daytime program at two local Title I middle schools and will run the entire school year reaching over 100 students a week.” Students’ work will be graded and those who meet the grade level standards will be given a certification of completion for their coursework.

Favorite books or podcasts?

Ironically, Michael recommends a book he recently read called ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus.  He was a 20th century French author and existentialist philosopher.  The book is about how individuals and a community respond when the gates of an Algerian city close for 10 months due to a pandemic. One question the book raises is how one weighs personal interests versus duty to others and your community.  Michael adds, “An incongruity the book raised for me is how love can be generous and selfish at the same time. How do you divide your effort between giving/taking love with a partner and putting that effort toward actions that benefit other people, even people you don’t know, and society?”

What social games are you playing with friends to help with social distancing?

Chandler says he and his team has been playing a lot of Their favorite game is Fibbage.

How are you staying active or getting exercise? 

Emily shares that staying active has always been important to her so she makes it a priority now as well. Instead of going to the IMA with a few other Fluke Hall members as in the past, they have been able to transition to 3x per week workouts over Facetime/Facebook Messenger Video. Emily says, “We have even taken advantage of the fact that it’s remote so we have added friends from all across the country!”

Want to incubate your startup here?

Apply to become a CoMotion Labs member.

About CoMotion Labs: CoMotion Labs, a self-sustaining membership-supported program of UW CoMotion, provides a multi-industry incubation environment for early-stage startups with a focus on UW spinoffs. From critical infrastructure (desks, dry benches, wet lab space, and prototyping capabilities) to just-in-time learning, mentoring, and networking, CoMotion Labs nurtures company growth and enables success. Our labs are currently home to over 100 startups and operate in two locations on the UW Seattle campus.