20 Mar Remote working tools and tips
Remote working tools and tips
We are entering unprecedented times, both socially and professionally, and many businesses are facing entirely new territory with staff working from home.
As a business we have had staff work remotely on a regular basis for some time, and personally, for the last 12 months I have worked from home two days a week. So we thought it might be helpful to share some of the apps and tools we use to facilitate team working while working remotely, and some tips on working from home. They won’t be right for everyone’s business or way of working, but hopefully you can find something helpful.
When you get it right (and when I say that I mean right for you and your business) working from home can be a really productive way of working for many office-based teams.
When you can’t just pop your head up and ask a question, it is so easy to end up with an impractical amount of emails between teams that just get lost in your inbox. A simple way to eliminate those emails is to set up WhatsApp groups. This can be for the whole team or individual project teams.
Trello is a collaboration tool that enables you and your team to organise your projects into boards. You can share updates, documents, plans etc. It allows everyone to see the same thing ‘at a glance’ so again eliminates the needs to lots of emails that sometimes cross over and stops confusion about which is the most recent version of a document.
Given the change in circumstances for everyone we have introduced Microsoft Teams so that we can do team video calls. During this period of social isolation we want to make sure that we keep our regular team meetings going and still see each other.
While we would usually meet regularly with our clients face-to-face, social distancing means that most/all businesses have stopped non-essential meetings. But we still need to speak and collaborate with clients; many have important communication needs relating to Covid-19. To do this we are using Zoom for conference calls and video conferencing. You may need to sign up to the pro version, which is 11.99 a month.
This is a new one for us, but as a creative agency it is important for us to be able to collaborate and brainstorm ideas. Mind Meister is an online mind-mapping tool. It allows you as a team to create a project and add to it when an idea comes to you. Then you have something to discuss during your next Microsoft Team video call!
As a consultancy we are used to tracking our time. And while this isn’t a need for many businesses, as an individual it can help to keep track of how many hours you’re actually managing to get done, especially if you’re juggling children at home. Toggl is a time management app and you can easily track your time via the desktop or an app on your phone. It is free for up to 5 team members and is something that I personally use everyday.
Home Working Tips
- Establish a workspace: Not everyone is going to have the space for a home office. If you don’t have a separate room that you can use (dining room, spare bedroom), identify a space in your home that has a surface you can set up and work from. Try and avoid working from your sofa or your bed. Having a set workspace can help you get into the work mindset.
- Get Dressed: start your day the same way you would on a normal workday, which I’m hoping involves having a shower and getting dressed! It is so tempting to work in your PJ’s, but for me that doesn’t say ‘work mode’.
- Set a schedule: not everyone benefits from a schedule, but if you get easily distracted by the dishes from breakfast that need doing, or the washing that’s piling up, or other people in the house, then set clear boundaries about when you are working and when you are having a break.
- Avoid the TV: It is so tempting to have a TV on in the background, or just watch a bit during your lunch. But if you don’t normally have a television at work, don’t bring one into your home workspace either. Squeezing in an extra episode of your favourite box set during your lunch can snap you out of your work frame of mind, and make it much harder to get back into it afterwards.
We usually have the radio on in the office, so I always replicate that at home… but I get the station of my choice!
- Get some Fresh Air: Being at home for an extended period of time is hard mentally. Schedule in some time each day to get outside (at a safe social distance of course), go for a walk, a run or a bike ride. If you need to pick up milk maybe walk to the shop rather than jumping in the car.
Adding Kids to the Mix
Now if you have kids thrown into the mix then we are entering a whole new world of challenges when working from home.
I myself have a 5 year old (in Reception) and a 21 month old. My husband and I will both be working from home and the government has now confirmed that schools will close on Friday 20th March. So from next week we are going to have to juggle our work schedule around looking after (and entertaining) the kids.
This is when I think that having a schedule in place is going to help our family. I have seen lots of plans going around social media, and I have done version of one shared by @that_works_for_me on Instagram.
My husband and I are going to alternate working morning and afternoons, and both work while the youngest naps. We’ll have planned times for play, exercise, learning and downtime/screen time. My hope is that with firm boundaries we won’t be constantly asked ‘can I watch TV’ ,‘can I have the iPad’ all day long!
Check your school website for at home learning tools. Ours has put some on that will enable you to carry on your children’s learning. Depending on the age of your Child(ren) there are some great resources out there, here are a few links for primary school age kids…
And you can keep them active with exercise videos from Joe Wicks, The Body Coach
BUT, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If they have to have the iPad for a bit while you complete an important piece of work that is fine too.
If you have any tips you’d like to share please join our conversation on Twitter and Facebook where we will keep sharing any useful tools and ideals that we find.
Good luck everyone!