With more than 423 000 infected with the coronavirus, at the time of writing, companies all around the globe are closing their offices and sending their employees to work from home to minimize spreading the disease. In these uncertain times, many are struggling to adapt to the dynamic environment and face challenges, such as maintaining excellent communication, managing tasks, and time. Having clients all around the globe, we already have experience working remotely, yet even we had certain challenges to overcome. Therefore, we came up with the following tips to help other organizations and their employees work successfully from home.
1. A well-structured home office policy
The first thing to decide on is a well-structured policy for working remotely that your employees should follow, including elements, such as time and project tracking, availability, communication channels, and team meetings. At B EYE, for example, we have established clear guidelines for daily meetings within the functional teams, where we discuss the current status of our projects. Furthermore, we use Analytics and Reporting tools such as Qlik Sense and Qlik NPrinting to help us efficiently identify any potential issues with project deadlines, effort estimations, and time tracking. All the relevant data should be made available to the relevant people – at all times and on any device.
2. The workspace
When working remotely, you need to ensure that you have a quiet and comfortable workspace. If possible, choose to work in a bright room with plenty of sunlight. We strongly advise staying away from the living room and other rooms that you usually associate with your leisure time, as it will be harder to focus there. To maximize further productivity, ensure that your employees have comfortable desks and chairs. In our case, we ran a survey asking if anyone had any concerns about working from home and if they need anything extra. As a result, we supplied them with all the requested materials required to work successfully.
3. The hardware
There are several vital hardware elements when working remotely– a computer coupled with an excellent internet connection, a mobile phone, and headphones. Yes, headphones! They help with minimizing the external sound distractions and ensure good quality during conference calls. As we have already provided our employees with all the hardware they needed from our office, our most significant concern was the internet connection speed and security. We requested that our employees do several speed tests from their homes. In the end, we decided we’d contact our mobile provider to ensure that in case of an emergency, our employees can have a backup and could use their mobile hotspot to access the Internet.
4. The software
This is where the magic happens, and where you will find the necessary tools to manage your business successfully, remotely. There are several types of software that we recommend you to have when you need to working remotely – communication, collaboration, project management as well as productivity/distraction management tools.
Communication tools – to ensure smooth communication across your organization, your teams need to have means to instant message each other for quick clarifications, schedule calls, etc. We also discovered that having internal meetings with our cameras switched on helps us not lose our personal connection.
Two of the leading tools, ideal for this purpose, are Slack and Microsoft Teams. Both allow users to do video conference calls and screen sharing. You can use them to have meetings with many participants and show them what you’re working on as if they were right next to you. Slack seems to be easier to set up and administrate, while Microsoft Teams is designed for larger enterprises, and its setup is deemed more complex. However, it offers excellent integrations with all Office 365 applications.
Collaboration tools – Using cloud technologies when you are working remotely allows you to store your data in the cloud, which makes it easier to access files from anywhere and collaborate. Two of the most popular choices are Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365.
G Suite includes Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar, Keep, and Hangouts, while Office 365 includes Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, One Note, Skype, and other Microsoft apps. Both services enable your business to collaborate, store files online, and easily share them. Nevertheless, G Suite has a lower price, and you can get unlimited storage with its business and enterprise plans. On the other hand, Office 365 is more suitable for enterprise-level businesses, which are using a Windows ecosystem and prefer using primarily desktop apps.
Project management tools – to stay on top of your projects especially when you are working remotely, you need to define clear goals and be transparent when it comes to tasks, timelines, and progress. We have found in our experience, that having regular conference calls with the interested parties to update them on our current tasks and progress, works perfectly. Together with dedicated project management software, it helps keep the human connection alive. Some of the leading software tools that can help you have visibility on your projects are Trello and JIRA.
When considering these solutions, you should keep in mind that Jira was designed primarily for project managers working on software projects. While on the other hand, Trello caters to a broader audience but does not offer features, such as time-tracking and reporting. Therefore, if you need fully adjustable project management and tracking tool, and you mainly deal with larger-scale projects, you may find Jira more useful. However, thanks to its user-friendly interface and functionalities, Trello might be the better choice for smaller teams.
When working remotely, it could be useful for employees to keep their daily tasks structured and visible, using tools such as OneNote and Microsoft Teams’ Planner. Both of them are part of the 365 Office package and provide users with an easy-to-use overview of the tasks that they need to complete. OneNote gives an easy to use interface, where you can use a simple checklist for your tasks and mark their priority while Microsoft Teams’ Planner employs a more sophisticated kanban method allowing users to label their tasks as To Do, Doing, and Done tags and more.
Productivity/distraction management tools – Boosting productivity might be challenging when you are working remotely, yet there are various tools to help you. For instance, StayFocusd plugin is a helpful tool when it comes to restricting the seducing time-wasting web sites. With it, you can add the domains, paths, pages, or specific content and the time allowance for them. Once you reach the allotted time limit, the sites you have specified will be inaccessible for the rest of the day. Another useful tool we use is Noisli, which provides a selection of background sounds to help you focus on your work and ignore the distracting noise around you.
All in all, for us as a company, the transition to working remotely went quite smoothly as we were already using the described hardware and software types. Thus, our teammates already had the habit of following all the mentioned best practices and could continue with their work as usual. However, this does not mean we did not have our own concerns, such as whether the internet connection will be good enough, or if our team’s unity will degrade while apart. However, we are continually taking measures to address all the possible hurdles before they’ve occurred.
Therefore, we firmly believe that we will come out of these challenging times, even stronger, and we will continue to deliver superb services to our clients.
Author: Katya Damyanova