Many companies have embraced the situation thrust upon us by the current situation, quickly shifting to a work-from-home model as soon as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic took hold. Some, like Twitter, Facebook, and Atlassian, have gone a step further, announcing that their staff can continue working from home even after the health crisis subsides. Remote working is simply part of our new normal and even if your company is encouraging staff to come back to the office, it’s still likely you’ll work from home far more often than in your pre-COVID life (remember, every time you or the kids have a sniffle, that’s a day at home). But remote work comes with a unique set of challenges. Here are the best tips for how to tackle them and set yourself up for working-from-home success.
Get the Right Tech
Still tapping away on a laptop on the kitchen bench? It’s time to get serious about your working-from-home arrangement. A decent network connection and proper tech are just two ways to improve your situation – and boost productivity. Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U, says his list of essential home-office tech includes headphones , a multifunction printer , a portable hard drive and a webcam . One of his best tips? A second monitor. “Once you use two, you never go back,” he says.
Explore All Methods of Productivity
If you’re falling down the rabbit hole of emails, meeting requests and deadlines, then maybe a shift of habits could help? Switch things up by trying some clever productivity methods – from Sprints to the Pomodoro Technique, Personal Kanban and more. While you’re trying something new, ask your colleagues and co-workers to join the experiment. Report back to each other on how it’s going, comparing the pros and cons of each method. What suits one person won’t always suit everyone, but a unified project with shared outcomes is a great way to unite your team – and help everyone feel more productive.
Nail Your Videoconferencing
COVID-19 might have fast-tracked our adoption of certain technologies, but many of us would admit video meetings still come with their fair share of hiccups – faces that freeze midway through sentences, echoing audio and that colleague who always turns up late, needing to be caught up. To make your calls more productive, try these tips and take heed of these learnings:
Go Camera-less if You Need To.There are days when WFH-life can get the better of our self-care. If it’s one of those days and you’re a little on the scruffy side, pipe up at the outset and say, “I’m not camera-ready today”, and continue only on audio. After all, we’ve all been there.
Get Better Internet. If you’re the one always apologising about poor internet connection, it’s probably time to look at increasing its speed or bandwidth. Talk to your employer about whether they might be able to help fund an upgraded connection. If not, know that any extra expenses are likely to be claimable on your tax return.
Commit to Using the Mute Button. The person heard tapping away in the background of meetings is fast becoming the pariah of the virtual office. And it’s a cardinal Zoom sin to have your audio turned up so loud that the speaker can hear themselves back through your mic. Remember, the mute button helps everyone
Be Present. It’s tempting to “dual screen” through many meetings – it feels like you can maximise the time by multitasking on other things while the meeting is happening. But it’s a time-wasting trap: meetings are quicker, more productive and generally more pleasant when everyone is focused on the video conversation at hand.
Make Your Health a Priority. When you’re working from home, it's all too easy to work, work, work all of the time. The separation between nine-to-five and home life is almost non-existent. But burnout is a real risk. Simple ways to stay healthy while working from home include ensuring you have a designated home-office space, making sure you take regular breaks and clearly defining the end of your working day.
Support the Little Ones
Whether it’s because you’re homeschooling, or there’s a kiddo home for the day with that sniffle that won’t go away, balancing work and caring is a real challenge. Keep your kids engaged and occupied with virtual excursions, clever craft projects and activities, guilt-free screen time and maybe even a few solo play ideas. It may only keep them entertained for 10 minutes, but you’ll feel better than if they’re watching YouTube on an endless loop – and it may give you just enough time to get that crucial email out of the drafts folder and into the sent one. A small yet significant win.
It’s all about keeping everyone updated, connected and supported. Try typing “hi there” into the Slack channel every morning and saying “bye” at night. Make sure “please” and “thank you” are also a regular feature of written casual conversations, too. Let each other know where you are: if you’re popping to the kitchen for a bite to eat, are going to be locked in an afternoon of meetings, or need some fresh air, pop that in your comms channel. Keep each other updated on the day-to-day of work, too: tell co-workers what project you’re working on today, what small wins you’ve had and if next month’s big report is weighing on your mind. Ask them to do the same in return. Something not panning out? Tell a colleague or your manager. Remember, when you’re on your own at home, no-one knows you’re having the day from hell unless you say it. The watercooler chat has gone digital and it’s essential for a healthy, happy, productive team.
Embrace the Personal
Over the course of these months, we’ve been given a rare window into each other’s personal lives. We’ve seen which kids like to play behind Mum and Dad during meetings; we’ve marvelled at the devoted partner who delivers a coffee to the desk every morning; and we all know which staff member’s cat can’t bear to be moved off the keyboard. We see each other in home-garb, with unwashed hair and unshaven beards; we see each other's families and homes. Waving at each other’s kids on Zoom meetings and laughing when the dog won’t stop barking in the background is how we stay sane and human – an essential part of being a remote worker.