Working from home – tips and best practicesBy Jon Taylor on March 18, 2020
Like many businesses, our entire UK team recently shifted to a remote working model as the ongoing COVID-19 situation continues to develop.
With Peak team members located around the world, we’ve always taken a tech-first approach and placed a key focus on enabling those working outside of our two main offices to still feel part of the Peak culture, with the right tools in place to help us do great things with data, wherever we are.
However, for a number of businesses, this shift to working from home will undoubtedly be a new and strange experience.
With this in mind, we wanted to share some working from home tips and best practices to help you and your team make an effective transition to remote working. Here’s some advice from us on how to be a great remote team, and how you can make technology work better for you.
At first, there’s something of a ‘novelty’ element to working from home; we’d be lying if we said it doesn’t take some getting used to. Remember that everyone works best in different ways, too, and working from home can often amplify these differences. For instance, some are easily distracted, while others will never take a break.
We recommend structuring your day – preferably the night before – to avoid distraction. You can either do this by allocating chunks of time for tasks in your calendar, or by giving yourself key goals that you want to achieve by the end of the day. Be open with the rest of your team, and keep them in the loop with what you’re working on at the start of the day, whether that’s via a tool like Slack or via video call.
Try to replicate how you would normally work in the office, and don’t forget to take a break and have a walk around your house, flat, garden or around the block. Do you usually go for a mid-morning brew? Then do it! It’s important to get up and move around, before, during and after work, and you need to make sure you’re getting fresh air at some point during the day.
Also, try to be strict about when your working day will start and end – it can be easy for work/home to merge into one, but it shouldn’t, and it’s important to relax at the end of the day and switch off from work for a while. To keep work and non-work separate, try setting up a workstation, such as a desk or even a kitchen table. Save the couch slouching for the evening’s Netflix binge!
Collaboration and communication
Don’t be a stranger, and make sure you’re speaking to people rather than always sending a message or an email. This could be done with tools such as Google Hangouts, which is what we use at Peak, or with the likes of Skype, FaceTime, or even a good old fashioned phone call!
Checking in regularly with other team members is important – especially new joiners. It’s a strange old time to be coming into a new company, so do your best to make sure everyone feels welcome. At Peak, we’ve set up an always-on “water cooler” video chat, so anyone who fancies a chat whilst they’re making a brew or taking a quick break can find someone to talk to – it’s vital for team spirit and morale.
The dos and don’ts of video conferencing
Whilst we’re on the subject of video calling, this is something that the majority of businesses probably already do – however, they might not necessarily be doing it well! There’s a certain etiquette required when it comes to VC-ing.
Pro-tip: always check the lighting before you start your video call!
- At the start of a call, check everyone can hear and see. If anyone can’t, flag it straight away rather than halfway through the call
- Always use headphones when you’re dialling into a call. Laptop microphones aren’t the best, and it’s a much better experience and sound quality for everyone else on the call
- Keep your video turned on, rather than hiding away – it’s much more personal!
- You’re working, so be dressed for work (and yes, that means no pyjamas!)
- If you’re hosting a meeting via video call, check in with your audience regularly. It can be harder to know when someone wants to speak, so always invite questions and comments (Pro-tip: make use of Hangouts’ built-in chat feature to raise your hand if you have a question or want to say something)
- Give meetings your full attention, as you would if you were sat in a meeting room – no checking your phone or reading messages
- Usual meeting etiquette should apply to make the most of the time; set out an agenda, define actions, and be strict with time. You also might want to allocate five extra minutes at the start or the end of a meeting for an informal chat and catch-up, to offset the lack of daily office conversations!
Why not invite a friend to join you in your next meeting?
…even if they’re a little camera-shy!
Keeping team spirit high is the key to successfully work from home and to help employees feel like they’re still all together. If you’re a manager, have a daily check-in with each of your team members, whether it’s via phone or video, to help everyone remain connected and on-track while working remotely.
We couldn’t let remote working get in the way of celebrating Jack’s birthday, could we?! ??? pic.twitter.com/UNkbWaNf1s
— Peak (@Peak_HQ) March 18, 2020
Also, don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Create an open video chat like our “water cooler” idea to give people the freedom to jump on a Hangout and have a laugh with their colleagues. Or how about an online quiz? An “office view” competition? Online gym sessions?! The possibilities are endless, so ask your team what ideas they have.
The most important tip? Keep on smiling! ?
Working from home: tips and tools
Many services, systems and tools have been made more readily available to help those businesses who are moving to a remote working model due to coronavirus. Here are some you might want to try:
? Google is rolling out free access to its advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to help businesses and educators connect no matter where they are
? LogMeIn is offering a ‘Emergency Remote Work Kits’ available for free for three months
? Cisco is offering a free version of its Webex service, with no time restrictions
? Zoom has created resources and is hosting information sessions to help small businesses use its software
? Slack is offering free upgrades to paid plans and consultations for anyone working on COVID-19 research, response, or mitigation