Remote working isn’t for everyone. Until it is. With many people now facing the new reality of working from home to help contain the spread of Covid-19, I thought it might be helpful to share a few habits and tips that have worked for me as a remote worker for the last 5 years, and all of us at Anders Pink who have been default remote workers since the start.
All our home and work situations are different of course, and what works for us won’t be right for everyone – we hope these ideas based on our own experiences can be helpful for you, as you find the right pattern for yourself.
1. Show up on time
Yes it’s obvious. But start work at the same time you normally would in the office. Get into the right routine from the outset. You can flex when you take breaks, when you stop working for the day, but I’m a strong advocate of starting on time, at the same time, each day. It’s a work day. Do what you would do in the office – show up on time, say good morning to your colleagues – we get into the tech for doing this later.
2. Use your saved commuting time to set yourself up for the day
If starting work usually means a commute, use that time differently now. Think about what you need to get done this week, or today. Whatever form of list making, calendar planning works for you. Time you’d otherwise spend on the train or in the car, invest it in setting up your day right. Some people recommend creating a mini “commute” to your home working space – that might be walking around the block or garden to separate yourself mentally from the rest of your home before going to your desk. Try it to see what works for you.
3. Create a space for yourself
Everyone’s living conditions are different, but it’s vital to create a place for yourself where you can focus, be productive and do video calls without too many distractions and interruptions (and those are fine too, we’ll get into them below). A space with good light and good ergonomics is key. Try to make it a place where you only work – not the kitchen, not your bedroom. A place you can go, work, and leave again when you’re done. Create a separation between work and the rest of your home life.
4. Get the right remote working tools in place
You need the right tools to make home working successful. For us at Anders Pink, that’s:
Slack – way more immediate and connected than email. MS Teams does pretty much the same, your organisation may already have one of these in place. If not – you can start it yourself and invite colleagues.
G-suite, in particular Google Docs for sharing and collaborating in documents – way better than version controlling multiple documents.
Zoom – easiest and best tool for video calls and webinars
Skype – for more casual catch ups
Intercom- for keeping in touch with customers
There are alternatives of course, but if you were getting yourself and your team set up for remote working, and don’t have tools in place, I would start by looking at these.
5. Default to Video on for all calls
Remote working can feel isolating. Video conferencing makes it less so. Dramatically less so. It can take some time to adjust to it if you’re not used to it. But seeing other people’s faces makes a massive difference to my mood every day. Disembodied voices on audio calls just don’t have the same effect. You get used to it very quickly.
A few tips for video call etiquette
- Wave when you join, wave when you leave. You will do this naturally anyway.
- Mute yourself if you’re not talking, especially if there are a lot of people on the call. You may not be attuned to the distracting noises around you, and you may not be able to hear yourself typing – but everyone else can.
- Position the video window showing other participants at the top of your screen just under where your camera is. That way you’re making eye contact with others by default, rather than looking to the side.
- Need to answer the door, let the dog out, take a 2 minute break? Just do it. Mute yourself, switch off your camera if you want, put it in the chat that you’ll be back in 2 – no need to disrupt the call for everyone.
- Nobody cares if your kids walk in or your cat jumps into the frame. It’s the same for all of us.
6. Dress for work – at least 50%
Video calls mean looking professional. I think that’s important for our wellbeing anyway, and putting yourself into work mode, but it’s a mark of respect to colleagues and clients too.
However, you can’t be seen in full (unless you have a strange camera or approach to video calls). So don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a running joke in my house: I’m wearing my “video call outfit”. Business up top, trainers and sweatpants below the video frame. You have to take some privileges…
7. Flex your time
One of the huge advantages of remote working is that you can take more control of what you do when. Of course you will have diary commitments – team and client calls, providing service and responsiveness, meeting deadlines. But as always with work, a lot of it is down to you to schedule. We (should) care about results and outputs, not about the hours you achieve them in.
So if you are the type of person who feels like going for a run at 2pm, or want to hang out with your kids when your and their energy levels are right – just do it. Tell your colleagues, block out the time. Likewise if you work best in the evenings, and that works for you and your colleagues – make that happen. We’re all remote workers at Anders Pink, and always have been – and it’s pretty normal for me to say I’m not around 3-5pm, back online 6-8, or for anyone to do that. If there’s an emergency, we’re all reachable. Everyone is in the same situation right now, looking after their families, people in their neighborhoods, so flexibility is the key. Discover what routine works for you. Talk to colleagues about it. Support each other.
8. Reach out and connect, with no agenda: Virtual coffees
Most conversations we have in work are agenda and purpose driven. But there’s also a lot of social exchanges – the water cooler moments, talking about Netflix shows you’d recommend. You know, the stuff that makes us humans, not just workers. Remote working can sometimes be hard because that gets stripped away. As the world comes to terms with the concept of social distancing, we can be virtually intimate. Some ways of doing that remotely:
- Create channels on Slack or MS Teams for non-work topics.
- Schedule calls with people for a ‘virtual coffee’ (or your beverage of choice). 20 minute chat, no agenda, just to check in and see how they’re doing. I think this is more important than ever at the moment.
- Connect with new people on LinkedIn. You’ll find people pretty open to connecting at the moment.
9. Stay up to date, keep learning
Many of us work in Learning and Development. We know that staying up to date and continuously learning are vital, now and always. That does not need to get more difficult when we are all working remotely. A few ways to do this:
Ensure your teams have access to your Learning Platform / LMS wherever they are – that should be a given.
Ensure you continue to keep it updated with fresh content. People are going to have more time for learning than they might have when the noise of daily office life can drown it out.
Run virtual training sessions via Zoom, or your preferred virtual classroom platform. Invite people to share their insights with your team.
Plug in frequently updating content into Slack or MS Teams to keep yourself and your colleagues up to date – you can do that with Anders Pink, or any tool that works for you. You can do it on any topic, or choose from over 100 predefined topics from our bundles.
10. Take breaks
We are not machines. It’s hard to sit in the same place for 8 hours. You don’t do it in the office. So be sure to take water breaks, go for walks, even if just around the house. Some people find it helpful to use techniques like Pomodoro to set 25 minute sessions of concentrated, uninterrupted work, followed by a short break. Find what works for you. Stretch a lot. Walk around the block. Check in with the rest of your family if they’re at home too. They come first, now more than ever.
There are lots more tips and advice on remote working in our daily briefing here:
It updates every few hours with insights from a range of business sources.
These are challenging times for all of us. Stay safe, stay connected to each other, and stay productive.
Love from all of us at Anders Pink.