In the midst of a global pandemic, many people who don't typically work from home are now finding themselves in a new situation: remote working with colleagues who may not be used to working this way and who may not have the right tools, processes or expectations for how to do it successfully.
How can you work productively from home? How can you continue constructive collaboration? What's the best way to organize your day, your desk, your deliverables?
As an experienced remote worker, and member of UP THERE, EVERYWHERE, the world's first global cloud-based agency founded on the idea of remote working, I would like to share some advice and good practices with you, as well as some pointers to what to look out for.
Peter Bjellerup has decades of experience working remotely for companies and as a consultant.
Having regularly worked from home (and hotels, cafés and even parks) for more than a decade, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard those annoying quotation marks around the concept of "working from home" as if I was just sipping home-made lungo and having naps all day.
People say things like:
Oh, so you "work" from home, do you?
Or, since you're "working" from home, could you just take care of this thing while you're in the house?
So, to all of you who have now been sent away from offices to work from home: please join us in learning more about leading and keeping team spirit up remotely, managing routines and work-life balance, and getting into new technology and work habits that will make it all work smoothly and productively.
Hopefully, we will all exit this corona crisis with a greater insight into that work is something you do, not the place where you do it.
Go to work, but at home
Work-life balance is a real challenge when working from home. But it can go both ways. Either you end up distracted by the temptations of the home environment and end up unproductive at work. Or, you end up working all the time, at all hours, all over the place.
Consider these tips to help you be more effective:
- Separate a work area from the rest of the home. Designate a work desk and make it as ergonomically sensible as you can. Don’t work all over the house.
- Dress for work. Suit and tie might be overkill, but no pajamas or dressing only from the waist up. Things happen. You might need to stand up in the middle of that video meeting.
- Apply office hours. Start on a regular time. Take a lunch break. Close the office. Don’t let work merge uncontrolled with leisure time. But, of course, this is a great chance to – consciously – inject a refreshing walk at midday, adding that time at either end of the workday.
Take care of your health
Leave your pedometer off if you don’t want to get depressed. Working from home ruins your chances of meeting your goal of 10,000 steps daily without specific effort. You need to put in an effort to not devolve into a couch potato.
- Take regular breaks to stand up, stretch and rest your eyes from that screen
- Go for a walk, exercise at home, outdoors or at the gym if you still may (or even at your desk otherwise).
- Eat properly. The risk of nibbling away at candy and junk food is greater at home than at most offices.
An acid test of leadership and teaming
In an office, you may, temporarily, compensate for poor leadership through micromanagement. With team members working apart, leaders have to rely on them being engaged in their work, being able to work independently and being competent (which they probably were all along, or why else would you have hired them in the first place?).
They also need to have and understand clear goals, follow routines, and have defined ways of communicating and collaborating effectively. Leaders will have to trust employees. And leaders, in turn, will have to earn their trust and engagement. If you are very uncomfortable as a leader during corona quarantine, contemplate if the problem is with the team or with yourself. Maybe you’d do well with some leadership development training? Working from home could be the right time to consider online training classes?
Which tools to use is a delicate balance
Unless your organization already has established good tools for collaboration and communications, it might be tempting to go for the tools you already have for personal use. Think again. Don’t just rush into it. There are many aspects that need to be balanced delicately.
You will need to supplement “the goode olde email” (which you are probably misusing as most others do too, along the principle “for a child with a hammer, all the world is a nail”) with platforms for:
- Cloud file storage, sharing and editing
- Chat for teams and individuals (nota bene: most of us are in more than one team) – to replace the quick and spontaneous office conversations (and more)
- Remote meetings, preferably with video and presenting capabilities
- Something to manage work distribution, flows and tasks – depending on your line of work
Irrespective of all bells and whistles some of these tools may offer, remember that the best tools are the tools that get used. A team chat only works if all team members have it installed and log on each morning. Getting all team members to use a tool consistently is more important than which tool it is.
In the webinar, I will provide additional and more hands-on advice supplemented by cheat-sheets for four different types of remote meetings.
Share your ideas
As we’re all in this together (but apart for now), we’re keen and happy for you to share your own experience, advice or comments to our recommendations. Especially as I try to stay fairly general. Leave some suggestions in the comments below:
- Do you have a favourite tool?
- Why is it your favourite?
- Do you have any good practices or advice? Any bloopers to prove that we are all human?
Please share by commenting below.