COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the game. As the situation develops by the hour, together we face an unprecedented crisis, one which has decimated most of our usual structures of public life. One of the major changes has left us working at home – sending emails from our living rooms, hosting meetings in our kitchens and in between attempting to homeschool some likely rather confused children. Remote working is suddenly the norm.
Although many workers may well be accustomed to working from home, switching an entire company to home office is a drastic change and differs substantially to anything most companies have experienced before. It’s a sobering reality: as we are forced into being physically disconnected, we’re reminded of just how interconnected we are.
So to help your company switch to home office with minimal impact on your productivity and daily operations, we’ve produced a comprehensive how-to guide. After all, staying together doesn’t necessarily mean being physically together.
Be transparent: sharing is caring
Never before has communication been more of a priority. DCMN’s CTO, Christian Graf, is no stranger to agile working and had a number of nifty tips for the new virtual workplace. “The biggest issue when working remotely is hidden information”, he says. “In the office so much information is shared every day via quick chats in the kitchen, hallway or across computer screens at your desk. This won’t happen while you’re working from home and therefore sharing your thoughts more proactively will help keep the team aligned.”
Transparency in information is achieved through the use of common channels such as CC’ing on emails, open Slack channels, Hangouts groups and visible team task management boards. “Recording information is so important in remote working,” he adds. “When you learn something, add it to the appropriate channel, so that everyone has the same level of information.” If your company uses Slack, then make information available by using the appropriate team channels for your communication.
Team members should also steer clear of any work-related one-on-one chats that aren’t specifically private. If it becomes clear the conversation is not interesting for anyone else, then use Slack threads. You’d be surprised how often unshared information might actually be valuable to other colleagues. By keeping things transparent you can avoid confusion or even working on the same topic without realising.
Optimise your workflow with the right tools and tech
It might sound obvious but functioning tech is essential for connecting seamlessly with your colleagues during dial-in meetings. Aside from a working internet connection, you’ll also need a camera and microphone as a minimum, but a headset is best to ensure a clear conversation.
As far as software tools go, there’s plenty to choose from, but here at DCMN we’re using Zoom for video conferencing, Slack for quick conversation, Google Docs for project collaboration, Trello for task management and Outlook email for mass internal and all external communication.
Meeting do’s and don’ts while remote working
It will be crucial to stay connected via regular meetings during this time, and in many ways we’re actually very fortunate to be living in an era where digital connectivity is the norm. But teams should also be mindful not to overdo it, as Héloïse Nelte, DCMN’s Team Success Igniter, explains. “Too many meetings can kill our much needed deep focus work time,” she says.
She adds that when it comes to meetings, prioritisation is key. “Now is the perfect time to figure out which meetings are actually worth keeping after all. Everyone must reset their ways of working, which will likely equate to an efficiency gain.”
Switching on your video is important for connecting on a personal level with your colleagues, as it ensures expression isn’t lost in communication. It can also be quite entertaining and ice-breaking to get a glimpse into the home lives of team mates, such as a pet making an unexpected cameo on screen. However, even though you’re at home don’t forget you’re still working, and therefore meetings in your pyjamas are a definite no-go!
Conference calls with multiple participants can also be difficult, as it can be tricky to gauge when someone is finished speaking so as not to interrupt or to deal with disruptive background noise. So we recommend encouraging teammates to mute their microphones until they’re ready to contribute to the conversation.
Managing priorities and productivity
Here at DCMN, some teams are practicing morning and afternoon standup meetings in which we run through priorities to keep the whole team informed and on track. Over a video conference call we manage this process with one person sharing their screen with an agenda, team goals and our task management board while updating everyone on their individual responsibilities and the company status.
On the client management side, Desislava Zlateva, account manager for clients including Blinkist, Wayfair and Jam City explains that: “Our client teams have also created Slack channels for each client. Every time someone has a one-on-one interaction with a client, a note is shared in that group to make sure everyone is aware.”
Establishing core working hours (such as 10am to 3pm, which is what we have at DCMN) is also recommended, although exceptions should naturally be made for parents with children at home. In general, having set hours in which team mates are available at their computer ensures that you can rely on this time period for meetings and collaborations. Just don’t forget to take lunch breaks!
Practice self care for you and your team
Even waking up in the morning is going to feel different. Keeping up morale is a crucial aspect to your remote working strategy. Without a commute to the workplace – although some may be quietly delighted about avoiding the packed subway – our morning routines may seem somewhat pointless. But they aren’t. Those who are acclimatised to the remote work lifestyle know that even if you’re not going into the office, preparing for a work day as usual is necessary to keep up spirits.
The same approach should also be adopted to your work at home day. Organising your work schedule and sticking to it will be critical to keep you productive while at home. This means, committing to your regular work hours while avoiding the temptation of home distractions such as taking care of some light chores during work time. On the contrary, you should also be mindful of working overtime just because you’re at home. Set yourself some rituals to indicate when your work day starts and stops, rather than leaving your laptop open well into dinner time.
Stay social: remote working doesn’t equal loneliness!
One thing we can all agree on is that nobody was prepared for such a situation. It’s natural that people will cope with these changes differently. Some of your teammates will find themselves isolated and alone, while some may be overwhelmed with children or even crammed into a suddenly full house of flatmates, negotiating space to take meetings. We will need to acknowledge that we’re all in this together and continue to show support and understanding to each other.
Social support can mean something as simple as holding a 20 minute one-on-one meeting with a team member once a week. Take that opportunity to chat about anything – and definitely not work matters! – that comes to your mind. Or perhaps dialing in for a Friday wine or coffee catch-up. It’s going to be so important to take time aside from business as usual, just to just check in and see how everyone is doing with the news, while also maintaining that close personal contact between colleagues.
Key takeaways for productive remote working
- Communicate – a lot. Keep your colleagues informed by recording everything in the appropriate communication channels.
- Use group chats for communication and minimise one-on-one conversations (except where privacy is a genuine concern).
- Have the right tools and tech – especially for video conferencing.
- Meeting rules: Turn your video on to boost the personal connection with colleagues.
- Manage group situations: Mute your mic in larger calls.
- Hold daily stand-ups (or even twice daily!) to keep priorities on track.
- Be available together: Establish core working hours if possible.
- Keep your rituals. Don’t forget your personal and work routine just because you’re at home.
- Be understanding – we’re all adapting to this strange situation!
- Check in on your colleagues: dial in for a coffee chat, or a Friday wine catchup for the whole team (or even between teams).
Looking for advice about how to manage remote work for your teams? We’re happy to share our experiences with you in this difficult moment. Just reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org