First Day / First Week!
Working from home is a bit of a novelty at first but if you let a few things slip early on it can become a bit of a drag. In these very unusual times our communication methods, our ways of working and our daily tasks could change to greater or lesser extents. Just remember this is either new, a novelty, or old hat for you but we are all now facing the same challenges, whether it be with our colleagues or our customers and wider network.
At first, it’s all about connectivity – the things I usually have in the office, do they work for me at home? My laptop / PC, my screens, all the systems and apps I use (plus the ones I rarely use but when I need them I really really need them and quickly – do a check for those ones now). There might be new connectivity tools you need to use – Camera, Teams app, Calendar invites from Outlook; all are designed, to a certain extent, to replace that “in-person” contact. Is your access to them of high enough quality to ensure business continuity – you can get work done.
Sometimes we need to be a little bit innovative about how we work – if you like to talk to colleagues regularly for advice/collaboration why not set-up a meeting with them & leave it open, you don’t have to talk until you need to – as long as you are listening out you can interact. Now is the time to try out some of these ideas – get your colleagues involved. Ideas like these can become a future way of working even when we return to normality.
In terms of the environment & the workday some things I have learnt having worked remotely for almost 10 years now
- Carry out your normal morning routine have breakfast as normal etc. Also, if you would usually have a commute replace it with a walk before work. The weather is getting better and we are still free to move outdoors. A brisk walk before work can help make a good start to the day
- Work normal hours – keep it normal. Colleagues are expecting us to be available during work hours, trying the ‘working from home flexibility’ only causes anxiety – it means you are out of sync with colleagues and possibly working longer than intended. If you stick to the regular hours it’s easier to keep to them!
- Dress like its work – I only started this in the past year, it’s made a difference to my home life because it separates the work me from the home me (also the use of video camera is more prevalent – gotta be ready for it ? (a bit like the newsreader on TV)
- Have a workspace separate to your kitchen or living room if possible. If it’s got to be a bedroom try to do it in a bedroom that’s not yours, someone else’s, it helps to disassociate your living space with your workspace
- A desk and a chair are pretty obvious although you may have some flexibility to move from chair to chair or table to desk. Use it; it can break the monotony. (if you are lucky enough to be able to stand while working this is another good practice to mix in)
- If you are not reliant on multiple screens or need paper & pen you can use the laptop as just that – a laptop, my advice though is that you still need a good chair and be careful with the laptop overheating your legs! Moving about a bit can help with different types of work you do.
What I find best about communicating when working remotely is to consider what works best for the message you want to deliver or the feedback you need.
For example –
- I have a quick question but it’s not urgent – Have a one-to-one Teams chat. If you want to get a few people involved add them into the chat.
- Need people to discuss the status of things or share ideas – Set up a meeting (usually with enough notice for people, although when we are remote we need shorter notice for such meetings as we don’t have to travel to be in the same place at the one time now). Have an agenda and issue in advance.
- Formal message to customers -Use email.
- When I know someone is likely to be in the car or travelling – Call the mobile (once it’s safe for them to do so).
- I have a question and I am not sure who will know the answer – Ask on an appropriate Teams chat channel or Yammer or your own intranet, if you have one.
- I have my Zoiper softphone app on the laptop so a customer that rings reception for me can get me
- Something is urgent – Call the mobile (equally, when I receive a call on the mobile I expect it to be urgent)
In my experience I have never had resistance from anyone to say – “why didn’t you ring me?”, “why didn’t I get an email?”, “I prefer to meet in person” For the most part people enjoy proactive communications with their colleagues regardless of the medium, once they are kept informed.
Working remotely can be a chance to change our work practices for the better like Printers for example – what a great opportunity to eliminate the need for printing on paper- I would bet you can find a way around it!
Have a ‘to do’ list, it helps set objectives for the day. Before you open emails or tickets look at your to-do list, think about the things you want or need to get done by the end of the day, think about the people you need to talk to today, make arrangements to do that, then get into it. At the end of the day reflect on the to do’s and see how many you get done. The To-Do app from Microsoft is very helpful for this https://to-do.office.com/
MS Teams is going to become more and more prevalent amongst your team as it is a far more efficient method for communication that just email or phone – know how the notifications and alerts work so you don’t miss anything – Manage Notifications in Teams
Nobody wants to see your flowery wallpaper or semi-nude photos of you on the beach in Benidorm – use the blur background feature for your video calls – Blur Background in Teams
Using the camera is quite effective with colleagues, and can facilitate great connectivity with our customers.
Remove pop-ups or toasts from your desktop, you may be sharing screens extensively with customers – they don’t want to know what your colleagues are saying about you ?
Some people like the focus that working alone can give you, you can use apps based on the Pomodoro technique which can help break up the focussed effort into bite-sized beneficial chunks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
They are unavoidable but should, for the most part, be manageable. We have distractions in the office too you know – which we manage every day. ?
With all that’s going on , it is hard to avoid social media and also avoiding getting sucked into it. Try to manage this by limiting the number of news and social media apps you have open / how many you are logged in to, you will be surprised how, by working on the day job, it can divert you from the bad news & stress caused by the constant feed of reporting and misreporting of the COVID-19 story.
The housework – if ever there is anything worth putting off it’s the washing and the dishes – they can wait!
Headphones are great, better than speakers as the sound quality is better & you have more control, it also helps block out distractions.
The kids – realistically kids under 8 or 9 are harder to manage (my teenagers just want to lie in bed all day, I worry more about that than the distractions caused by a toddler, at least I know they are active!!) Circumstance may be that the small kids need more attention from parents, if possible share the load with your partner, try to find innovative ways of working around this. There are great learning apps out there for kids. One colleague in Intact uses the Homer Learning App and the kids are entertaining themselves with a daily yoga session that is themed to popular kids cartoon characters. Cosmic Kids Yoga
I find that myself & my partner (we both work from home on a mixed basis, sometimes we are here together, sometimes just one of us) have to have respect for the work & job each other does hence we work separately (luckily enough). Also, there is no expectation for the person working from home to ‘have the dinner ready’ for the other or to take the burden of the housework. It is still shared regardless of who is working where, and it doesn’t mix with the working day.
I know over the coming weeks the Intact Team will be getting more and more proactive about how we facilitate working remotely to assist our business and that of our customers through this challenge – and who knows how much of this will stick with us into the future!
Eoghan Hegarty ProServe Program Manager - Intact