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Coronavirus COVID-19: How To Embrace Working From Home (Our Tips & Tricks)

     
By on March 16, 2020 - 6 Minutes

When we decided to start working remotely back in 2013, we never thought about the health benefits. We chose to carve a remote path because it would make us more efficient, more fluid and more dynamic, not because it might stop us getting sick.

But now, thousands of companies around the world are going remote for precisely that reason. As the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis turns into a global pandemic, they’re telling their teams to isolate themselves at home until this alarming outbreak passes.

It’s a rather unfortunate reason to adopt remote working, but we believe many companies will turn it into a major opportunity. Once they see the benefits, they’ll stick with remote working for the long-term — long after the current panic has subsided.

But we also know, from our own experience, how much adaptation is needed for remote working. We’ve seen in our own team that, depending on the person, the adaptation process can take up to two months. If a company’s never worked remotely before, it’s also tricky to define the right structure and processes to achieve optimal efficiency.

We’re always happy to help other people make this journey – in fact, we dedicated an entire handbook to the subject of mobile working – so we thought we’d share some of our experience in this blog, to help other companies adapt to remote working during COVID-19.

We asked every member of our team one simple question: Your best friend has to start working remotely immediately and he has no previous experience. What’s your best advice? Below, we’ll share what our team told us, in a series of relevant sections.

Planning Your Day

When you’re planning your own time, it’s easy to lose track of your daily objectives and slip into bad habits, like watching too much TV before you start work. This sort of sloppiness can derail your entire day, so you need to manage it with clear, sustainable planning.

  • We’d strongly recommend a daily to-do list. In an office, organization kinda just happens, because someone on-site takes responsibility. But when you’re alone, you need to become your own manager, and keeping a set of goals is a great way to plan your time.
  • It’s also useful to plan ahead. As you’re working alone you might need to gather information from other colleagues. Going to their desks isn’t an option, so you should try to identify those tasks and plan in advance so you don’t get blocked waiting for other people.
  • Above all, we’d urge you to stick to your schedule. This gives you a clear timeframe for the day and helps you avoid the sloppy habits mentioned earlier. What’s more, it allows you to reward yourself by turning off your laptop once you’ve completed your daily routine.

Team Communication

Remember: when you’re remote, other team members can’t see you in the flesh. So you need to provide constant information about your status and progress — but in a way that allows them to focus on their work, too. 

To achieve this communication flow, we’d recommend using a combination of synchronous, or live tools (such as Slack) and asynchronous tools (such as Asana or Trello). If you use email, things can get very cluttered very quickly.

  • Use the chat tool to let your team know when you’re available, and when you’re not.
  • But don’t clog the chat with unnecessary interruptions. For things that aren’t urgent, use the asynchronous tool to set one another tasks, which they can complete in their own time.
  • Share as much information as possible with your colleagues, using Google Docs or similar. The more information that’s accessible for them, the less they’ll need to contact you to ask.

Infrastructure / Environment

It’s important to create a quiet working environment, one which generates a distinct atmosphere to your leisure space and allows you to slip into ‘work mode.’ We’d strongly recommend you keep a dedicated place to work and make sure you keep it as distinct as possible.

  • Don’t work in your pajamas. As ridiculous as it sounds, switching into proper clothes has a psychological effect. Also, you never know when you have to jump on a video call quickly.
  • Make sure family members understand that you’re working and you don’t want to be disturbed to help out on home chores.
  • Ensure your workspace has a good, stable internet connection
  • Invest in some high-quality headphones, and a microphone, for video calls. Just trust us on this.
  • It’s also worth buying a good desk and chair in your home office. You’re going to spend a lot of time in it.
  • Turn off notifications on things that aren’t related to work (e.g. personal phone and WhatsApp messages). You can still check them every hour or so, but being constantly interrupted won’t help to focus on your work.

Balance

As well as creating a dedicated workspace, you also need dedicated break times. When you’re working remotely, it’s easy to feel like there’s no distinction between work and leisure time, so try to keep the two separate.

  • Force yourself to take regular breaks. You can allocate a specific time each day, a certain period of work or a set number of goal completions: the important thing is that you discipline yourself to rest.
  • When you’re resting, create a distinct experience. Have a tea/coffee and go outside to get some fresh air.
  • Take advantage of the flexibility that remote working provides to get some exercise. You can get seriously fit while remote working, as our engineer José (above) has proved!
  • Just make sure you make your team members aware that you’re not available
  • For those who live alone, it’s important to pursue sociable activities in the evenings, too. Working from home can seem a bit solitary sometimes, so try to ensure you’ve got plenty of stuff going on when you knock off for the day. Although COVID-19 means there are some restrictions to consider right now. But think about creative ways of connecting with friends virtually, like video calls or playing video games online.

If you’ve found these tips useful, feel free to check out the Mobile Jazz company handbook, which is intended to provide a blueprint that all remote-working teams can use. We’d also urge you to take a look at Flatten The Curve, an educational resource dedicated to COVID-19.

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Rubén is an iOS software engineer and IoT enthusiast from Galicia, Spain.

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