Staying in touch while working remotely — it’s a people thing!

John Fitzgerald
Mar 14 · 4 min read

I quickly popped this post on my Linkedin page earlier in the week. Now sharing here in case it’s useful, and adding a link so charities can pick up more advice if they want it.

Working at home means finding a comfortable spot — but can mean better coffee

Working remotely is about to become a lot more widespread... Here are my top ten tips.

At SCVO we support lots of charities to grow their digital capability. As a team we work between Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow so we already work remotely as part of our day-to-day practice. But for a lot of charities, working remotely at short notice might be a bit more daunting. What would happen if you and your team had to start working remotely tomorrow? Here are my top ten tips to help things go more easily.

Free one-to-one advice
Here at SCVO we know that lots of organisations are moving rapidly to remote working because of Covid-19. To support charities getting to grips with this situation, we are offering Scottish charities a free 15-minute chat with a digital expert to help you get started. Click here to book your call.

  • First and foremost, don’t wait until you have to: try it out – individually and as a team. Google’s entire Irish workforce of 8,000 people did this last week. Trying a day at home before you have to will help you spot any potential problems and help normalise it when your wider team starts doing it.
  • Get Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts Meet. All of these offer very capable video conferencing, for free*. People on the other end of calls don’t need to sign in or install specialist software. And when it’s set up, you can effortlessly schedule and join calls with your team, just by sharing a link. *(Basic Zoom is free but some features are only available on a paid plan)
  • Get all of your team regularly using a good messaging app such as Slack or Teams – these platforms encourage more conversational chats. This means that messages from your immediate teammates are easier to find and quicker to respond to. In messaging apps, it is obvious when you are on and offline, which helps good team communication.
  • Set some expectations and boundaries around being present/down time. Experience shows that people working from home can find it hard to start and finish the working day. A couple of practices can help with this. One, try to have a specific space where you are working, so you get in the mindset. Two, having a Slack or Teams channel where you ‘check in’ and let your team know your working hours for the day helps the team know when you will be online.
  • Get all your files in the cloud (obviously) and use Delve (Microsoft) or Recent Files (Google Drive) to help you pick up where you left off. If you are not already using cloud-based storage, now would be a great time to start! It offers you easy and secure access to shared files, and you can collaborate in real time.
  • Schedule a social call now and then and/or have a #random office chat channel in your messaging app. Teams that work well remotely also take the time to socialise a bit together. Knowing a bit about what is going on in your teammates’ lives is a great morale-booster.
  • It almost goes without saying, but if you’re working remotely you must use a secure password-protected WiFi network. A mobile phone with a tethered hotspot is a good temporary backup – the speed should be fine for Office 365 and G Suite. But watch out for using all your mobile data!
  • Check out the sound – some laptops have poor quality microphones that can lead to very echoey sound. You may need to use a headset to keep sound quality high. Anything with an inline mic should be fine.
  • To help keep things secure, enable two-factor authentication. This will keep important logins much more secure. You should also ensure any mobile devices with work data on them are encrypted and use a strong password.
  • On the subject of passwords, if you’re the kind of person that has all your passwords written down in a book at work – think again! Even if the book is locked in a filing cabinet, this is not very wise. Use a password manager like LastPass or 1Password to do the hard work for you.

There are probably more hints and tips but these are my top ten. What are yours? You should also check out a longer piece from David Ainsworth at The Catalyst, with a lot of interesting thinking about how short-term changes could bring long-term benefits.

Update — I realised after writing this that I hadn’t talked about using a personal device vs an organisational laptop. Obviously using a properly secured and managed device is the best option if at all possible. Especially if you are doing critical stuff like handling your organisation’s finances. But I saw this morning that NHSX and the ICO are taking a pragmatic approach to flexible working in a clinical setting. Something charities could learn from.

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