Forced to Work From Home? Maybe It’s a Blessing in Disguise?
When working remotely, you benefit much more from good working processes and proactive team members and you are punished much more severely for sloppy work processes and personal carelessness
When I heard about the possibility of working from home some 8 years ago at Welldone Software (recently merged with CodeValue), I had no idea what that meant. It even sounded pretty weird to me. How could my boss help me, and guide me? How will he know what I was working on? How do we coordinate and plan what works? And what about working in large teams?
Fortunately, I decided to go for it, and today the answers to these questions are clear to me, as is the power this format has. Having worked in “open space” for about two years recently as well, I also have the knowledge to compare this experience with the “regular” working method. Today, when many are forced to work from home due to the Covid19 virus, I have decided to gather my co-workers and my own thoughts on working remotely and prepare a set of tips to improve your productivity and work experience.
It is always worth remembering — when working remotely, you benefit much more from good working processes and proactive team members and you are punished much more severely for sloppy work processes and personal carelessness. Most of the tips can also be of great benefit to teams working in an office environment, but when working remotely they are doubly important.
Even before we move to the tips, congratulations! You’ve already saved more than an hour of commuting per each of your teammates. You’ve also saved on your office maintenance costs. In the next step, consider saving on real estate as well. Most people nowadays understand that “the future of working is working remotely” and we see how more and more businesses and employees are finding that working from home is more fruitful for them.
If you are reading this article, congratulations! You are already on the right path! Being proactive means always thinking about work processes and initiating changes to improve any situation. Usually, team leaders are the ones who initiate changes. They also encourage team members to initiate or at least think about problems and raise them in front of the team for shared thinking. At our company, everyone is expected to be proactive and incentivize initiatives that will improve work processes, just as there are incentives for embracing new technologies on the technical side.
It is important to keep a strict agenda. Getting up, washing your face and brushing your teeth, getting dressed, eating, etc… We advise small things that will make you feel that you are not at liberty but at work. For example, change clothes from pajamas and not work out of bed.
It is recommended to have a daily video and audio meetings between all team members in order to plan the day ahead. Such a meeting will help keep everyone’s agenda organized and synchronized. At the meeting, everyone should briefly update what they were working on the day before, what they plan to work on the day ahead and whether something or someone can block/delay it.
It is important that everyone comes to this meeting ready after individual conversations between the various team members and after they made sure that their camera and microphone are functioning well and their task boards are up to date.
Don’t forget to drink during the day, have lunch, and occasionally get up, walk around the room and look out the window for a long distance for a few seconds (to keep your eyes healthy). At times, working from home might be intense, and these things can sometimes be forgotten which is why some even use an alarm clock to remind them to stop and refresh.
Those who work from home have the privilege of working from “their own office”. Potentially, the office is quiet, with a beautiful view out the window, with three screens, cozy lighting and pictures and posters that make you feel good. But the “office” can also be a sofa in the living room, around throwaway clothes and in front of a TV.
Beyond the obvious equipment, one must invest in to increase productivity- computer screens, a mouse, a chair and a comfortable desk. Under no circumstances should remote equipment — headphones, microphone and camera be underestimated.
With working from home comes great responsibility. No one will replace your uncomfortable chair or will repair the air conditioner in your room. The computer is not on eye level which causes stiff neck and headaches? No one is coming over to see your posture and give you ergonomic advice. In remote work, it is important to look around and take the initiative in creating as pleasant and comfortable a workspace as possible.
When working remotely, it is important to maintain even more communication than usual. You should be using your phone frequently and not be embarrassed to call the relevant person or bring up a topic for discussion in the team chat. If in doubt, even only the smallest — no doubt — call and close corners right on the spot. Embarrassment on communicating with other team members is perhaps the most common mistake in working remotely.
As of that, it is the responsibility of each team member to be available for “a small consultation”, “a video question”, clarifications, messages in shared chats, emails, etc. It requires making sure that the staff chat alerts pop up over the phone and that it is not on “silent” by mistake.
Tools and work processes
Different projects and teams have different tools and processes, but the common denominator between them is the ability to monitor the work process, time estimates, priorities and division of labor in the team.
Small teams usually have simple tools and processes and a lot of oral conversations, but as the team grows, it is important that any individual communication between two people is reflected in the work processes and tools.
For example, let’s say you build a website and the management decided to slightly change its design. In that case:
- The designer updates the site in the design tool
- Updating the team members that the design was modified with a link to the update in the design tool
- Choosing a programmer to implement the changes
If one of these does not happen, there will be misunderstandings and people may spend time working on an older design, or it just might not happen.
In many cases, team members have a lot of improvement ideas (tools and processes) even when they do not realize it. Therefore, it’s always worthwhile to raise these issues up in front of the team as much as possible, and then try to implement the new ideas as soon as possible.
Try making sure everyone has enough tasks for several working days ahead. Many times, certain tasks can be blocked, and it is important that everyone knows they can move on to the next thing at any time.
Areas of Responsibility
While this is important in office work as well, areas of responsibility take on additional importance. If something is thrown into the air but there is not an agreed individual that is responsible for its completion, it may not happen. Each task should have a known person who is responsible for it even if there are several people who are involved in its execution.
Wellness and Team Building
Perhaps the least obvious part about working remotely today is how to keep camaraderie within the team despite the physical remoteness. Different things will help different teams. This topic should be brought up for the team’s discussion. Here are some tips that can help:
- Focusing on work and creating together creates closeness by itself
- Daily meetings and video chat
- A group chat that is dedicated to entertainment and laughter (and not work)
- Physical meetings on a weekly or bi-weekly basis
- Corporate evenings at least once a quarter