etting up your environment to maximise productivity.
Working from home can be difficult when your space is undedicated, cluttered or unwelcoming. Especially when your warm comfy bed is crying out your name. While preparing to work remotely we asked everyone on our team to establish a dedicated space to work in, where they can be as comfortable as possible with as little distractions as possible. We asked that the make the space as ‘normal’ as they could and to take whatever they needed from the office to simulate a productive space.
Keeping in touch.
When working remotely it's easy to let communication take a back seat. You don't have that quick verbal check-in with a teammate as an option anymore and sometimes this can be detrimental to the productivity or flow of projects. To minimize this risk we decided to choose a few different communication tools to not only maintain contact but to reduce the occasional loneliness that comes with working remotely. Here are a few of the tools that we love and have worked well for us… so far.
Slack is a tool that we use as our main communication tool in any case. It offers easy, fast and effective communication. The ability to have multiple channels and thread conversations makes it super efficient. It integrates with almost everything else we use including our calendars and It even adds a sense of humor and fun with its ‘reaction’ feature filled with different emojis and parrot variants. Our favourite… the :ultrafastparrot.
Harvest is a cloud-based time tracking tool designed for businesses of all sizes. Key features include time and expense management, team management, project management, scheduling and invoicing. Harvest integrates with dozens of your favorite tools like Slack and Trello. It also gives us an extra tool to use for a bit of friendly competition. Whoever sends in their time-sheet last on a Friday is top of the naughty-list... punishment? Deciding the next week's townhall topic.
FocusMate is an online accountability-buddy tool that connects remote workers via virtual call while they work together, each on their own tasks, for 50 minutes.
When you get started, you both greet each other and check in on what you’re both hoping to achieve during the set period. You start working in silence, and then, at the end of the 50 minutes, there’s a ‘gong’ sound that prompts you to check in with each other, before signing off. We love this concept! However, while putting it into practice we’ve decided besides it being quite expensive for a premium account the usability could use some work.
Trello is our ultimate organization buddy. It helps us organize our projects and tasks virtually instead of on our big task boards in the office. It allows us to add comments, attachments, due dates, and more directly to the Trello cards and even has a sneaky ‘watch’ function so you can monitor your fellow colleagues progress or lack thereof. We love it because it allows us to collaborate on projects from beginning to end while still being fun, flexible, and rewarding. Its many power-ups gives us unlimited access to many different features and its ability to integrate with many of our other tools is such a welcomed bonus.
Google Hangouts Meet
We’ve decided to use Meet as our main video conferencing tool while being remote as it has proved to provide easy functionality and great quality service. Hangouts links straight to our calendars and creates new meeting links for every event we create. Many of our clients also use it which allows us quick and easy access to them. The mobile app also makes it super convenient when we're on the move, even though we won't be for a while.
3: Virtual meeting tips and tricks
Video call meetings are a lot harder to get right than face-to-face meetings. However, with a bit of practice, they get easier. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up since we’ve started using virtual meeting tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom:
Prepare to plan or plan to fail
Having a clear agenda going into every meeting is a must, but we’ve found that it’s particularly important for online ones so that people can arrive prepared and ready to participate.
Who’s the boss?
When people are on a video call, we’ve seen that it’s often more difficult to notice normal interaction cues, so someone needs to direct the conversation to make sure that everyone is able to effectively participate.
This person should focus on directing the session in a way that actively includes everyone, by doing things like, Inviting people to speak, summarising points and asking for clarity.
You’re on your own
We’ve found that for optimal streaming and effective progress, it’s easier if everyone has their own line rather than having some people dialled in on their own and others all bunched together.
Take action swiftly
When there isn’t the opportunity to catch up with colleagues easily after a meeting, sharing notes, discussing important points or getting more clarity on an issue can be easily forgotten. So, as soon as you're off that call, send your colleagues a Slack with good summary points.
Going remote has come and is going to come with a lot of learnings for us. We’re excited to try something new, and make sure we all make it work as well as possible for us as a team.
We’d love to hear from you about the things you learn as practically all of us are obligated to make the transition into remote working.