Remote working has become a necessity at the moment for employers and employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic so they are able to keep running in these uncertain times.
A lot of people now face the prospect of working from home for the foreseeable future without any previous experience working outside the office.
Teams will also have to adjust to having colleagues not being in the same physical space, and potentially working different hours due to childcare arrangements.
Administrate has been facilitating remote working for our employees for nearly 3 years. I was one of our early guinea pigs due to a long and unreliable commute to the office. Recently I’ve also had to change my hours due to childcare issues which has resulted in me working different hours from my team mates.
This article will give you a few tips I’ve learned along the way and also mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
1 - Prepare for your day like any other
No matter how great the temptation is don’t try to roll out of bed and immediately switch on your laptop.
Make sure you prepare for your working day like you would if you were travelling to the office. Get up, dose yourself with your caffienated beverage of choice, eat breakfast and grab a shower!
2 - Take back your commute time
One of the major benefits of remote working means no more commuting. My commute from Dumfries to Edinburgh was two and a half hours in the morning and two hours in the evening door to door. Now I get those five hours back - No more 5:30am alarm calls!
Make sure you make the most of this extra time, be it an extra half an hour in bed or more time spent doing what makes you happy.
3 - Use team communication tools
Team communication tools are invaluable for remote workers. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without Slack and Zoom.
Communication is drastically different when you no longer have people in the same physical space. You can’t just pop over to someone’s desk and ask them for help or have an impromptu gathering to discuss something.
Also it can be quite isolating for the remote worker - these tools help tackle this by enforcing a sense of belonging.
With Slack we can have a quick discussion about something, or quickly send out a link to a Zoom meeting. Even talking about the latest and greatest TV show to what you did at the weekend is easier with these types of tools.
4 - Say Hi and Bye
Just like you would if you were in the office, you should always say hello and goodbye to your colleagues when arriving and leaving.
Your colleagues will no longer be able just to glance at your desk to see if you’re available. Avoid any confusion by a simple hello and goodbye in your messaging tool of choice.
5 - Remote Standups
Standups are great for team building and having transparent communication.
Standups are an Agile ceremony in which each member of the team stand and informs the rest of the team:
- What they worked on yesterday
- What they are working on today
- What issues are they blocked by
Standups should only take five minutes, and any further discussions should spin off into a separate meeting after the standup.
Most standups are done daily in the morning, but some teams will have a morning and an afternoon standup.
This allows everyone in the team to get a sense of what other team members are working on - something which is usually quite easy to do when sharing a physical work space.
6 - Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone
Sometimes text conversations and emails can end up spiralling out of control. Also you can’t always tell the tone of something by words alone which can make bad situations worse.
If you feel that some clarity is needed then don’t hesitate to have a phone call / video chat with all parties. A phone call usually clears up any confusion in a fraction of the time as a back and forth email chain.
7 - Try and have a comfortable working area
This may be hard to do at the moment but a comfortable working area is usually a productive one.
This doesn’t mean you always have to be in the same place. I quite often move around the house during the day for a change in scenary.
It is recommended to separate your working area from your recreational area.
8 - Trust remote and flexible workers
Negative attitudes to remote working were that if the employee couldn’t be seen then they wouldn’t be doing the work.
Trust goes a long way - you’ll find that employees who are treated well by their employers will reciprocate and go that extra mile for them.
We’re all adults - we all know that if the required work isn’t done then there will be consequences.
9 - Asynchronous Communication
Slack and Zoom are great if you are needing an answer / discussion straight away, but people aren’t always going to be available when you need them to be.
Some people will have to work different hours to handle childcare arrangements due to schools being closed. Some of your colleagues may be in different time zones.
I mentioned Remote Standups earlier - when working asyncronously try switching to having a morning update and end of day update when you are online and finishing up.
Email is great for communicating when you don’t need an action straight away. It’s easy to lose a Slack message due to the volume of messages, but emails stick around.
Also some may have these communication tools installed on their phone. You don’t want them to worry about an alert outside their working hours.
10 - Down tools!
The temptation is there to keep working on something past your normal finishing time. You have to be strict and enforce limits on your working time for an optimal work / life balance.
We hope these tips help you in this difficult time. Remote working when done correctly can be extremely benefical to not just employees but their employers too.