It’s been almost two years since the first work from home order, and who would have thought that all this time later we’d still be in a position where we’re being encouraged to work remotely? But much has changed since those bleak days back in 2020, and the world has adapted to remote working - often through trial and error, we’ve learned to optimise.
At InstaPeople we’ve grown from the seed of an idea to a thriving business during lockdown, so successful remote working when necessary has become part of our DNA. Here we share some ideas for thriving - both as a business and as an employee - while working from home.
Understand your unique challenges
Every business has different challenges when it comes to remote working. Some companies are sales-driven and employees thrive off an atmosphere of collaboration or friendly competition in an office. Perhaps you have mentor-mentee relationships that need nurturing, which is more difficult to do remotely. Where the completion of tasks is dependent on somebody else’s contribution, working remotely might cause delays. All these challenges and more will have come up during those first few challenging months of 2020 and continue to come up now, but having experienced these bumps in the road you’re more able to understand what your challenges are, articulate them, and decide how best to overcome them.
Set up a comfortable workspace
One thing seems certain: remote working to some degree or another is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Encourage your employees - if they haven't already - to set up their workspaces in a way that makes them feel comfortable, productive and - most importantly - happy. This means having a dedicated space removed from distractions, and ensuring their set-up is a place they feel content or even excited to be when they start their work day. Half-measures just won't do. Suggest they borrow desk chairs from the office if they don’t have ergonomic chairs at home, invest in screens, laptop stands, keyboards and whatever is needed to work comfortably and efficiently. Your team’s productivity - and yours as a part of the team - depends largely on an ability to work comfortably.
Keep the flow
Efficient workflow and task management always comes down to communication - both in an office environment and a remote working set-up. Make sure your team has and is comfortable using the workflow management tools that you decide best suit your needs. Web and mobile applications like Trello, Workzone, Jira and Microsoft Flow are great for helping teams to organise, track and manage their work, as well as setting accountability and helping managers see at a glance the status of what the team is working on.
Use Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other messaging systems to ensure easy and frequent communication, but set expectations or protocols for how quickly colleagues are expected to respond to messages. According to a University of California Irvine study, “after being distracted it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.” Make sure messaging systems don’t become distractions and that people are able to show a “do not disturb” icon while they are working on something time-sensitive, and that their colleagues respect this.
Get results-driven with shared task lists
Consider having a daily check-in channel on your messaging system where each morning at the start of the working day, team members take five minutes to list priorities for the day and achievements from the day before. This helps to define when everybody’s goals are for the day and to focus attention on potential blockers and requirements for collaboration. Emphasise that this isn’t a “Big Brother” initiative - it’s simply an opportunity to give a brief status report and set priorities and accountability.
Look to the future
At the InstaPeople HQ the thing we miss the most when we’re not able to be in the office is, quite frankly, each other. It’s the random interactions with colleagues and the chats about family and weekend plans in the office kitchen that is difficult to emulate in a remote environment, and this is why we’re looking forward to being back to work in person as soon as possible. In the mean time, we’re scheduling weekly “coffee chats”, team walks and lunch times and using all our tools to stay as engaged with each other as possible. We look forward to the day when remote work will be a choice we make, rather than a necessity.