It’s a difficult time for sure.  Remote working (sometimes with kids at home) is a new experience and a new challenge for many.  Some of us have lived through national crises before and it will pass.  In the mean-time we need to ensure our businesses survive during the current emergency and thrive once it passes.

For many of us working remotely or managing remote teams isn’t new.  For millions of managers, freelancers and staff, remote working is the usual mode of working.  It may worth reflecting on the fact that hundreds of thousands of mums have coped over many decades.  Some have gone on to write best-selling novels and build multi £m brands with kids around their feet.

If it’s new to you, here are some tips being put to use right now by organisations determined to keep their teams working productively.

Communication and structure

Firstly, remember it’s WORKING at home.  Not a holiday, a jolly or part time.  The work might be the same or different from the usual day to day but whatever the work is, it should be approached with discipline and be effective.

For the usually self-motivated, effective team members (you know who they are) checking in daily (not checking up – it’s different) will be enough.  They will be as productive, if not more productive than when they are office based.  You can depend on them but don’t forget them. My son runs a remote team and they have a virtual coffee break together twice a week – thanks for the idea James!

Others will need structure.  The risk is that their effectiveness will fall off the cliff if you fail to keep them accountable for performance.

If remote working is new to you, think about:

Video conferencing and cooperation tools

Clear, consistent communication is key for remote work success.  This doesn’t mean you need to be talking to your colleagues all day long, but knowing that everyone has a common tool to brainstorm, ask questions and post notes is crucial.

Being present and seeing each other is an important part of keeping connected.  Don’t hide away or do other work during on line meetings.

Agreeing working hours

There is a risk that work will expand to fill the hours available and motivated members of the team end up overworking.  We need to keep up effectiveness and productivity over the long term so agree working hours and establish start and finish times.  Keep work communications to working hours, everyone has enough to think about right now.

Being disciplined and setting up a routine

Get up and follow a weekday routine, not a weekend routine.  Be at your ‘desk’ at the agreed start time.  Plan breaks and don’t be use the excuse of the many distractions around the house that might cause you to lose focus.

Dress for work

Another one from my sons list of tips – it is very helpful to prepare yourself for the working day switching from ‘home mode’ to ‘work mode’, even when you are working from home.  Don’t be a pyjama sloth. Get out of your PJ’s. Put on other clothes!

Build in breaks

Start and finish the working day just like any office based day.  When you do take a break, tear yourself away from your workspace and clear your mind.  Don’t take lunch at your desk.  If the weather allows and you have one available, get out into your garden for a few minutes.  Don’t switch on the TV – you will never recover from the distraction!

Productive use of business social media

Stay away from personal social media distractions during work time (see schedule in socials), it’s a real productivity killer.  Using social media to share helpful, informative and useful information on business channels is different.  We can all do more to help build our personal and business brand, helping colleagues and customers at the same time, particularly if your normal workload has reduced because of the present circumstances.

Tidy desk, tidy….

Keep your workspace and computer and paper files tidy.  Make things easy to access and find help to keep us focused.

Stay positive

Take advantage of working at home to set your own mood and atmosphere.  Listen to the music and radio channel YOU like, have the heating set at your own comfort level, burn an incense stick if you like.

Eat, exercise, sleep. 

Physical health is intertwined with mental health, make sure you’re getting good rest, eating well, and find exercises you can do from home.

Schedule in socials

Put some time in the day where you’re catching up with others about non-work topics, just as you would as work.  Share a cup of tea with someone via a video call, or just pick up the phone, don’t rely upon only typing and texting.

Pick up the phone!

At a time of enforced social isolation remember that not everyone has access to or uses social media or technology.   An old fashioned phone call might be a different, kind and thoughtful thing to do.

Maybe even an old fashioned phone call to people you normally only communicate with on social media would be a kind and thoughtful thing to do as well.

You may very well find that your temporary ‘new’ way of working becomes the permanent new way of working.  Do it right and the productivity and wellbeing gains can be huge.

The First base team is adopting new ways of working to support colleagues, candidates and clients through these challenging times and beyond.  Call us, email us, tweet us if you need extra support, advice or help.