COVID-19 has meant that we all need to get used to working from home, even if we’ve never done it before. Here are some tips to make working from home more comfortable.
10 Tips for working remotely
Dedicate a workspace
Designate a specific area in your house for work. This will make it easier to stay focused and separate your work life from your home life. Find a spot that offers as much privacy as possible.
Create a comfortable environment
The right equipment goes a long way. This includes having a computer that meets your needs, a desk, an ergonomic chair, office supplies, and plenty of light. Make your workspace as comfortable as possible.
Set clear boundaries
If you want to maintain maximum productivity, you need to be able to work without distractions. This can be tricky if you are isolating with family and/or trying to home school the kids. Try to set a schedule and stick to it so that everyone’s needs are met.
Keep a consistent routine
Humans thrive on structure. Try to wake up at the same time every day and get difficult tasks completed early. Find a routine (like Geoff Lucas from McGrath) that works for you and stick to it.
Stay connected with colleagues
Collaborative tools like Skype, Slack, and Zoom will help you stay connected and fight feelings of isolation. Maintaining connection while working from home enhances team unity and productivity. Download the full list of collaboration tools here.
It’s easy to lose track of time when working from home. Taking breaks will help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle your to-do list.
Make sure to step away from the computer occasionally.
Consider using the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management method that helps you set up scheduled breaks throughout the day and can be used for any task.
Breaking up the day and moving around increases your productivity when you return to work.
Let managers and colleagues know your availability
The more guidance you provide, the fewer misunderstandings will occur and the more you and your team can stay on track. This is even more critical if your team works in different time zones. Use tools like Google Calendar or Slack to communicate to your team when you’ll be online and offline.
Share your progress
Remote workers need to be proactive and consistently share their project progress with colleagues and managers. Project management tools and email can help you share your progress daily and keep others informed.
Promptly return emails, calls, and voice mails. People can be more time aware when working remotely.
Communicate expectations and timelines for replies.
Ask for feedback
Make sure to ask colleagues and managers for feedback on your remote working situation. Communicate and adjust as necessary.
10 Best practices for leaders managing remote teams
Team leader? The game changes when you need to ensure your team are not only happy and productive, but performing as well. Here are some tips for leaders managing remotely.
Be responsive and available
A lag in communication creates perceived distance. Quick responses help make it feel more like a real office setting for remote workers.
Make meetings accessible and professional
Make sure mics and webcams work well so that everyone can communicate effectively.
Invest in technology and tools for online collaboration and communication.
Build personal connections
Take some time to talk about life outside of work. This helps people feel more connected. Learn what motivates each individual team member.
Treat remote workers like they are local
Give the team as much access to you as possible and engage regularly.
Trust your team
There is often uncertainty about whether or not work will be completed.
Set up work-from-home guidelines for emails, text, and calls.
Let your remote workers work within a framework and adjust the framework as needed.
Encourage remote workers to own or lead projects.
Opportunities to take on more responsibility and learn new skills will also motivate them to do their best work.
Provide channels for remote workers to provide feedback
Encourage feedback from your remote workers. You can use online surveys, weekly Q&A sessions, and designated 1:1 feedback meetings.
Set up topical communication channels
Encourage virtual collaboration and ‘coffee-time’ chats with channels on both work-related and interest-based topics.
Establish communication guidelines
Arrange weekly formal check-ins. Set guidelines for daily needs and make sure workers understand them. This will cut down on inefficiency and allow for increased productivity. When in doubt, over-communicate.
Connect their goals with yours
COVID-19 or not – your team is becoming more and more interested in learning and skill advancement.
Take an interest in your team’s life goals and find ways to connect them with yours.
Make time for team fun
Set aside time for socialising that doesn’t directly relate to work, such as virtual happy hours, trivia quizzes, book clubs, and other things that keep the fun in work.
10 Mistakes to avoid when managing remote teams
Change doesn’t always come easy. Here are some things to avoid if you are attempting to bring the team together.
Not creating space for conversations
Check in with your team members to ask how things are going, both professionally and personally.
Rushing through meetings
Make sure to give remote team members a chance to contribute.
It’s more difficult to tell when somebody is trying to speak during a virtual meeting.
Pause and give your remote team a chance to chime in.
Not setting clear expectations
Your team needs to know exactly what you want from them.
Provide detailed directions and be extremely clear about your expectations and any deadlines.
Forgetting regular performance reviews
All workers need regular feedback; Regular performance reviews ensure your team members are working hard and consistently providing their best work.
Constant progress reports and check-ins can be counterproductive. Create a system that allows for daily check-ins but doesn’t distract from your team’s workflow.
Not setting time for cross-team communication
Your team should feel connected and work collaboratively to achieve goals. Set up regular team-wide meetings so everyone can interact.
Relying too much on text
Chat/email tools are great for quick updates, but a phone call or video call is better for discussing complex issues. If you find yourself taking more than a few minutes typing something out, consider jumping on a call instead.
Being too casual
If there isn’t one already in place – create a formal agreement with a set of roles and responsibilities. The team can get frustrated by constant changes and not knowing what they’re supposed to be doing.
Not being aware of time zone differences
Be aware of what time it is where your team members are. Differences can affect deadlines and work events. Make sure to schedule times that work for everyone.
Not establishing routines
Don’t expect all-remote team members to be great self-managers. Most of them need help in establishing a work routine. Clearly define ways to track goals.
10 Tips for virtual coaching
If you are a team leader, don’t let the coaching side of your role fall by the wayside. Here are some tips for remotely coaching your team.
Establish a coaching mindset
First and foremost, remember that your coaching goal is to help the other person get results.
Keep that in mind and you’ll have greater success in both engaging and motivating them.
Focus and don’t multitask
Focusing solely on the other person can be difficult when coaching virtually.
We’re so accustomed to multitasking while we’re at our computers, but checking your email during a coaching session steals attention away from the task at hand. If you allow yourself to become distracted, you aren’t giving your full attention to your client and can’t do your best work.
Get quality equipment
The technology you use will dramatically impact the online coaching experience.
High-quality webcams, monitors, and microphones give you a professional presence. These don’t have to be expensive investments, but having the proper equipment will improve the quality of your virtual coaching.
Formalise the session
Set your schedule for virtual coaching as if you were setting up a face-to-face or 1:1 meeting. This enhances accountability on both ends. Make sure you have a dedicated, regular time to connect and minimise interruptions.
Set an agenda
Agree on the expectations for online coaching sessions just as you would with an in-person session. Make sure you both know what you need to prepare in advance and how long the session will last.
Manage time effectively
Track time during the conversation. Set a timer and stop at a point you’ve agreed on.
Use a professional setting
Especially if you’re on-camera, make sure you’re running your coaching session in a location that sets a professional yet relaxed tone.
If you’re coaching over the phone, a professional setting is still important since it can come across in your voice.
Practice active listening
Whether on-camera or off, you need to pay close attention to what the other person is saying and what they are not saying.
Listen for hesitations, doubt, enthusiasm, and other clues to what else is going on.
On-camera, you should also pay attention to body language.
Be open to changes
Staying flexible allows you to keep learning and improving your virtual coaching skills. For example, if the person you’re coaching is more tech-savvy than you, they may be able to show you new options. Keep an open mind.
Agree on next steps
As you would with any coaching session or meeting, make sure you’re both clear on what your next steps will be in order to achieve the goals you set.
Download our ultimate guide to remote working, all of these tips, plus our top 50 tech tools for remote working as well as our remote working quick action checklist.