Working from Home During Quarantine: 8 Tips for Remote Working Newbies
To all the newly remote workers, we welcome you to this new and exciting way of life! Okay, it may not be that exciting, but it can be efficient, rewarding and productive if you have the right tools to get the job done.
Remote working has been the norm for the EDUCO team for several years. As a tech-based company with employees spread across a hundred miles, most of our work is done from our homes. Because of that, we’ve discovered several helpful ways of ensuring good communication and an effective workflow.
We thought we’d share some tips with you now in hopes that it can help your team get on the right path for as long as this lasts.
Try a Daily Stand-up
Sometimes known as a “daily scrum” and taken from the agile/scrum development framework, the daily stand-up is simply a quick, daily meeting with your team or department. The main purpose is to check in on each person’s activities. Ideally, this would be done at the start of each day with a small group (3-6 people) via video chat.
Each team member takes turns relaying the following information:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What (if any) barriers are you facing in accomplishing today’s duties?
Be sure to set a timer to keep things moving–the meeting can be completed in as little as 15 minutes if everyone’s efficient. And it goes a long way in ensuring that everyone is aware of one another’s progress.
Use Technology Effectively
If your team isn’t already taking full advantage of virtual communication tools, now is the time to start. There are a lot of great software and app tools out there, so pick any that have a good reputation and will be accessible for your team.
Here are a couple that we like:
Google’s Business Tools
We rely heavily on shared Google calendars because it allows us to easily check the whole team’s availability at a glance. We all assign each person the same color so that, for example, anyone can see what I’m doing at any given time by checking the green boxes on the calendar.
When adding a new event to your Google calendar, you can easily set up a video chat by clicking “More Options” on the new event. That takes you to an expanded view where you can click “Add conferencing” and select “Hangouts Meet.” That gives each invitee a link as well as a call-in number to attend the event. Members can even share their screen to present info or instruct others.
When you’re all in one shared space, you may not need to send instant messages to your colleagues. But when you’re all working in different places, it’s pretty critical to be able to communicate using methods that are faster than email and less intrusive than phone calls.
There are several options out there, but we enjoy using Slack, an instant messaging tool made for professionals. It has lots of bells and whistles that make it easy to share documents, survey people, organize conversations by topic and more.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
You may not be used to letting people know when you’re taking a lunch break or on an important call with a client because it’s easy to see those sorts of things when you’re all in the same office.
With remote working though, it’s important to let people know those sorts of things so that they can plan effectively. It’s unreasonable to stay by your computer every second of every day. It’s perfectly OK to step away to eat lunch or go for a quick walk, just as you would during a normal workday. Just remember to share that kind of stuff with your colleagues so that you can manage expectations for response times.
Maintain a Routine
Just because you’re working in sweatpants on your couch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set and stick to a good workday routine. In fact, maintaining a routine is more important than ever when you work remotely.
You don’t have to necessarily shower and put on work clothes every morning, but you can if it’s helpful for your mindset. Just give yourself enough time to do what you need to do to switch from home brain to work brain - make coffee, breakfast, meditate, exercise, whatever it is that’s helpful for you. Create a peaceful and pleasant work space as much as you’re able to and try to eliminate distractions.
It may be a challenging adjustment at first, but you’ll find your groove. Just do what you need to do to set yourself up for success and a healthy work-life balance even as the line between work and home becomes a bit blurred.
Manage Your Time
If you’re finding it tough to focus as you stare at your pets, kids or the basket of unfolded laundry, then give the Pomodoro Technique a shot. It’s a time management method developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. Here’s how it works:
- Choose a task that you need to do.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Devote your focus to that task until the timer goes off.
- Take a short break (3-5 minutes)
- That is one pomodoro
- Repeat steps 1-5
- After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break (15-30 minutes)
- Start again from step 1.
It can help your productivity to get up and stretch, go outside, have a healthy snack, pet your dog, have a conversation with your child or look at some funny memes.
Use The 20-20-20 Rule
On an average day at the office, you probably get up and talk to people face-to-face fairly frequently. At home, however, there may be fewer interruptions, which can result in staring at your computer screen for hours on end.
Looking at screens for long periods of time can cause significant eye strain. One quick and easy way to avoid that is to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds for every 20 minutes of screen time. If you prefer you can close your eyes. This can work well with the Pomodoro Method described above.
Find Your System
The fact is that no one system of remote work will work well for every team. What will be successful for you depends a lot upon the type of work you do and the way your team is structured. So, now is a good time to put in the time to research and test various tools and methods to find approaches that work well for you and your colleagues.
If you’re not sure where to start, look into what other companies in your industry do. There may be articles with ideas that are specific to your market. But you can also reach out to people in other, similar companies to ask for tips.
When you and your team are sharing a space, there are probably lots of little moments of interaction throughout the day that make you laugh or learn about your colleagues. These personal connections are integral to a team that works well together.
Even when you’re all separated by miles, you should make a little time each day to have normal conversations about your weekend, your kids, what shows you’re watching and other aspects of your personal life. At EDUCO, our standups usually include a bit of off-topic chatting, and we maintain general channels on Slack for sharing memes, gifs, music recommendations and more. Trust us, it keeps you sane and connected.
Working Remotely Doesn’t Have to Be Isolating
This is a whole new world for a lot of professionals, so it’s normal if you’re still adjusting and figuring out how to navigate the work-from-home reality.
We hope that at least a few of these tips will be helpful as you shift your habits and learn new ways to communicate with your colleagues, stay connected and keep your work on track.