8 Tips to make WFH (Work From Home) Productive!
Including managerial tips for driving a remote team
Whether it is the Corona Virus 2019, or it is 2020 and therefore it is sexy to work from home. Getting the right tools and creating the right environment is necessary for every mobile corporate warrior, and to top it off, there’s some bonus tips to increase remote team effectiveness.
Get the Right Tools!
Tip 1: Use a Proper Video Conferencing Account
A proper video conferencing account is necessary for any work from home endeavour, because it lets you connect with your clients and teammates in real time. I don’t think this requires more elaboration!
There are services like Zoom, Google Hangouts Meet, Whereby, Skype, Whatsapp (not group though), Cisco, Lifesize. Personally, I use a paid Zoom account, and my teammates use a free Zoom account. Its great because it works well in almost any wifi or cellular network situation that I’ve thrown it with. I know this is not a research quality statement, but it is robust enough like my Netflix account. It basically works.
Edit (12 Mar 20): Love this feature now. Create your own background for your video conference calls. https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/11/21173608/zoom-video-conference-how-to-virtual-background-greenscreen
Tip 2: Find a Good VC spot in your Home
This is slightly less obvious, and I slipped up on it. I was hosting my portion of a townhall, and I got a Slack message.
“We are wondering why you chose to have your video camera at this angle, its really difficult to pull it off (i.e. I look fat)”.
Although I found a nice background, I forgot that my macbook would be at a lowered angle, thus creating the above described scenario being live broadcasted in 6 countries. Of course, there are worse horror stories of people being seen walking in PJs in their house or huge comedy in the background, like this BBC Expert Guest which earned him 33 million views at last count (not too shabby).
Thus his tool here would be a working door lock, and mine would be a flat notebook table stand!
Creating the Right Environment!
Tip 3: Create a Daily Schedule
On any normal day, I am in the office by 8 am, and because of that, when I am working from home, I am at my desk attending to things from 8am every morning. It keeps the momentum up for the day, and prevents procrastination or distraction to creep in.
I have a friend who would dress up in office attire and send his kids to school, just so that they would not create crafty schemes on how to end school early and come back to distract him.
It’s a funny story, yet admirable at the same time. However, for the less committed of us, it can be as simple as not arranging household errands during work hours. Otherwise, we end up with a rocks in the jar problem, where our household errands become the rocks we complete for the day, and work productivity ends up only in the free “gap time” in between.
Tip 4: Exercise and Taking Breaks
Oddly, in a remote working arrangement, it is imperative that you have exercise or break times scheduled into your work from home day. Yes, it does sound contradictory to Tip 3, but there is method in this madness.
Many productivity research pieces put deep focus at 25 to 45 minutes as the optimum time for intense focus on a single task. Personally, I find my zone closer to the 45 minutes range. Furthermore, from a work health standpoint, most of us are keyboard warriors, so sitting in a single fixed position is not healthy even at a 25 minute period.
Take a walk to the kitchen for a glass of water, look out the windows, and do some body stretches! I even throw in an evening jog for the same time it would take me to commute to office.
Tip 5: Food Management
The last tip on creating the Right Environment for remote working is to be mindful of your diet. A recent article on ChannelNewsAsia puts 0.5kg a week as the rate of gain for mindless eating while working from home. It’s really written well over there, so please head over to read the link after you are done reading my piece, and not before of course!
The other aspect of food management is the spikes from sugar and caffeine. In the office setting, there would have been a normalised routine, but now that you are at home, that routine is bound to be impacted. Thus, it is good to contain the amount of sugar and caffeine going into the body. There’s a more in-depth article here by NBC, on the food impact to productivity and some tips to go along with it.
Bonus: Productivity Tips for Managers
Managers with teammates in a remote working situation, regardless of covid-19 or not, will naturally have to find a different way to engage and track productivity. The age old version of popping by the table to troubleshoot does not exist in this environment.
Tip 6: Always Video Conference with Video on (regardless of the dressing)
For new members of the remote working tribe, this may seem awkward, and the usual pyjamas fear creeps up, however, this is the single most essential step in making work from home work as a team.
A virtual face to face interaction creates more cues that would be missing from an email, skype or slack conversation. This logic does not need much justification if we consider that when we connect with loved ones overseas, it is frequently done as a video interaction.
Thus, all managers need to lead by example as well, to switch on your own video!
Tip 7: Daily Stand Ups
For many projects, we have daily stand ups, where we literally do it standing up around a table in the office. When it is work from home, you can choose whether to stand up around the kitchen table or sit on your desk, but this small daily discipline helps start the day right.
Many workdays start slow and sluggish, and we need colleagues in office to give us that little prod. Thus, from a remote setting, the discipline of a daily stand up gets the essentials out of the way, and syncs the needs of all team members from the get-go.
Tip 8: Very clear Weekly Targets
The biggest traps to working away from the office is that an office environment allows for rapid fixes to the target objectives across a work day. It is as simple as walking to the boss’ room and asking a question. That new information is then passed around the team desks, and everyone alters their ship sails to the new adjustment.
In a remote environment, that information spreading is curtailed. (That’s basically the whole idea of working from home during the Covid-19 period as well, to curtail the spread of germs in this case). Thus, as managers, it is imperative to go through the weekly targets and take a little extra time to clarify. Of course, it benefits that the team members also proactively clarify, so that time is not wasted in translation.
The great news …
Maybe after this episode, more teams, managers and companies will be better equipped and experienced for a working from home workforce. There is definitely work-life balance benefits in a certain ratio of work from home proportion. Furthermore, the younger generation workforce, have come to expect this mobility as part of employee benefits. What are your thoughts on that? Hit up on the comments below.
Are you a corporate manager and worried about the success of remote working for you team? Here’s a useful template to do a team analysis.
Disclaimer: I write as a hobby on topics that I find useful to have a voice on. Nothing here represents the opinions of current or past employers, nor product recommendations or financial advisory in any form. I hope you find the writing useful.