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Staying productive working remotely

9 Apr 2020
Ewan Anderson

So many of us are embracing this brave new world of remote working. Obviously, at the moment it has been forced upon us through COVID-19, but what will working practices look like post lockdown?  

Will we all make that long, arduous journey into the office every day? Will the daily buses and trains yet again fill up with commuters, some balancing laptops on their knees, others plugged into their phones making early morning calls to get ahead of the competition? 

Or will this global pandemic which has, brought nothing but pain and suffering, actually create a different lifestyle for many? 

New Wave

For many, particularly in the tech and startup world, this approach of remote working and embracing technology to find a better work-life balance is nothing new. Many of the SAAS produced exist to further this goal. 

But for others who are new to a 'Teams' or 'Zoom' meeting; are coming to terms with project management tools in the cloud and working ten feet from their shower. Working from home is all very new and going to take time. 

Making Life Easier

So here are a few hints and tips, and some new tools that you can test out to make it all run a bit smoother. 

Virtual Meeting Etiquette 

Dealing with a virtual meeting is a big one. There are certain physical aspects of a meeting that don't exist in a virtual catch up.  

  • Firstly, virtual meetings will have a start and end time, just as a meeting in person does. However, if you are using some of the free tools, your time is limited, and you will need to conclude your business within a defined timeframe. 
  • Therefore, there is less time for idle chit-chat and more of a focus on achieving the meeting objectives. Also, given the nature of virtual meetings, there is less chance of one person dominating the discussion.
  • Agree on your mute/unmute and video/non-video approach. Having some idea before you enter the meeting makes it easier for everyone to engage at the right time and contribute to the meeting.
  • When it is your turn to talk, be mindful of the situation. Leave a gap for questions after you make a point. If video is on, watch out for the non-verbal signals and address them as they occur. However, don't wait for them from everyone. 
  • Call people by their name too. Make sure everyone on the call knows who you are addressing, and more importantly, the person also knows. 

 

Productivity tools 

One of the biggest fears of many business leaders is that their staff are sitting at home binging on Netflix having rolled out of bed mid-morning. Trust is the key to a successful remote team. Setting your team clear objectives with appropriate timescales and will ensure help you have honest discussions with your team.  

This sort of approach allows your team to set their daily schedule to work around their lifestyle and maintain productivity. 

However, not everyone is as disciplined when it comes to working from home, so here a couple of tools to avoid distraction. 

  • Focusme.com. This app has several features including a daily planner and a website blocker that can control your access to the various website you know leads to procrastination. 
  • Clockwork Tomato. This app, although it is a little more basic. It breaks your working schedule down into 25-minute slots. I was under the impression that you can only concentrate for 20 minutes at a time, but what's an extra five minutes? 
  • Selfcontrolapp.com. This app does what it says on the tin. It is a Mac application that will block access to any site you deem a distraction during a period of your choosing. 

 

Getting creative

There are many new project management tools that we will investigate in our next blog in the series. However, given that I work within the marketing team, I am very keen on maintaining the ability to share and collaborate on creative concepts. 

There are a couple of suggested approaches. 

  • Miro.com is a virtual whiteboard where the whole team can join in and share ideas. It is a great collaborative space and retains the creativity that exists within your organisation. 
  • Slack.com is more commonly known as a productivity platform for managing workflows and discussions, which makes it a great place to share ideas and collaborate around a concept. It doesn't have a virtual whiteboard, but it is still a great place to get creative. 

 

Work is changing - join in

Working patterns are changing. The need to have large offices, packed with staff under the watchful eye of a senior manager is dwindling. The change was coming; it's just COVID-19 has increased the speed of adoption exponentially. 

Don't fight the change, embrace it, and you will find happier, more productive teams delivering for your business. 

Author

Ewan Anderson
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