Working from home 101

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Here at Canecom we have switched to working remotely several years ago and (knock on wood) it has worked out brilliantly for us. It took us a while to adapt to the new method but with a few simple rules we could get everything under control and make our everyday work schedule really efficient.

Adapt to your home office

With the current outburst of the coronavirus there are many employees forced to work from home and many companies forced to adapt to the new remote style of working which can prove to be a really difficult switch on both sides especially when done so rapidly. It is not only that you need to set up a sufficient work environment at home but you also need to keep an eye on your kids being home due to schools switching to e-learning and also create extra workspaces for your wife, husband, girlfriend or any other relative living with you.

We are sharing a few tips and habits that helped our team tremendously and hopefully these will prove to be equally helpful for you:

Dedicate space and time

Office and living room getting mixed together and blurring the line between work and private life is the number one fear and complaint we hear when remote work comes into the picture. If you can, set up a separate and dedicated space for your work. Not everyone has the extra space in their flat to dedicate a room to just work but even if you have to work from the kitchen, try to create a dedicated spot in it. This will be your “work place” and it will help you to focus your mind on the tasks ahead. At the same time, select places such as the bedroom where work is banned.

Please don’t forget about ergonomics, you will be there for not just hours but days, weeks or even months. You don’t need to have any fancy equipment, just keep an eye on your posture, set up heights and distances correctly. Even if I need to sit at the kitchen table, I have a simple stand for my laptop, a wireless mouse and a pillow on my chair. It is almost as simple as that.

Creating a solid daily routine is another important key to accomplishing the change successfully. It will be hard to be in the flow all day, especially with kids running around you but creating smaller 1-2 hour “sprints” can really boost your productivity. Overworking can be a real issue, so clearly define what hours you will be working and stick to it. Also, don’t do household chores randomly throughout the day, since it can get distracting. Instead, schedule a specific time for them.

Keep the team spirit alive

It is extremely important to have instant connections to all of your colleagues one on one and by groups as well. We all have email addresses but we need something more personal and more instant. We strongly recommend a chat channel like Skype, Slack, Teams..etc. but even Whatsapp works. This is not just necessary but absolutely essential in our experience. You can ask quickly, you can ask informally as it has to be really easy and snappy to exchange information. I even saw an example recently where the team had a daily 30mins socialising call just to share stories and jokes to keep the good mood alive during the tough hours.

To be able to keep track of work and make sure you are moving towards your goals as a team, you need to have meetings regularly. We have picked Mondays and Fridays for our meeting days. During our Monday calls we discuss the goals and tasks we have that given week, brainstorm and discuss ideas. During the Friday calls we look back and check the weekly achievements, go through our list and check if everything could be done. These are usually video calls because it helps to have faces and not just voices.

Also, we have work channels for every major project and department and group chats for the teams working together but we introduced a #random channel where you can share something refreshing.

video call

Turn it to your advantage

Losing the office environment has some downsides and drawbacks to it but its not all bad. In fact, it has some seriously cool sides to it (that is why we switched intentionally years ago). You don’t need to sit in traffic jams, you can do your daily tasks from the comfort of your home, you can save on food and travelling ..etc

Working from home can actually be a perfect opportunity to think about projects you have been delaying due to lack of time, it is an even better opportunity to come up with new ideas. You can work from your terrace and enjoy the sunshine, you can go for a run, have a shower and continue your workday. You are more free to set your own targets and routine than in the office which can boost your motivation greatly and actually result in improved performance.

Clarity is key

Communication and clarity are really essential. They were necessary in the office but once everyone is sitting far away and using systems remotely, having clear communication and clarity in goals is a must for survival. Whether that is a calendar integration so you can clearly see your colleagues’ schedule or simply dropping a few lines daily summary about the things you have done that day, real time, clear online information is what keeps processes on track.

It is also advised to have a single system for everything. If that is not possible, try to integrate as much as you can. We often see people still sending versions of documents back and forth via email or using 3 different issue tracking and project management software for support, development and marketing purposes. There are so many great tools from shared file storages (Dropbox, SharePoint..etc.) to Google Docs and other cloud options where you can concurrently edit a documents or manage projects. Modern online tools are there for pretty much every single task and automation is your best friend when everyone is sitting remote.

…and a few random bits

  • Invest in noise cancelling headphones. Sometimes you just need to go zen and switch off all the surrounding noises. Believe me, it was the best purchase of my last few years.
  • Sign out and turn off notifications for work-related email and instant messaging when the day is over — especially if you’re signed in on your personal devices.
  • Be sure to socialize after work, even if it’s just a video call, to keep the loneliness at bay.
  • Go outside! Even if it’s just a quick walk around your block, the fresh air will do wonders.
  • Stay active. If you can’t go to the gym, there are plenty of effective workouts you can do at home.

If you have questions about our remote work routine or you would like to try this style, please reach out, we are happy to share our experience.

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