Our recent webinar on working remotely provided some helpful takeaways on how to set yourself up for success, finding your work rhythms, and how to maintain relationships with colleagues and managers.
The webinar sold out in 40 minutes, so if you want to join others in the series make sure you keep an eye out for registration links to the upcoming series!
Samantha Sutherland, who hosts WORK180’s podcast Equality Talks, moderated a conversation with WORK180’s CEOs and Co-Founders Gemma Lloyd and Valeria Ignatieva about their tips from five years of running a fully remote workforce.
Can you explain how WORK180 operates and why you and Valeria are specialists in working remotely and supporting your team with that?
“We’ve been around for over five years now, employ over 40 people and have always been 100% remote. We’ve always worked from home or (pre-covid19) wherever suited us best – cafes, home, co-working spaces. So, I think it’s fair to say we’re quite experienced in this domain!”
What are the biggest positives as a remote worker?
“Personally, the benefits of remote and flexible work while being a single parent to a child with special needs has been invaluable. I literally couldn’t have continued my career without it. It enabled me to be there for my son, continue with his therapy at home, attend hospital appointments.
In addition, I’m more productive and love being able to do other things that are important to me such as sports and fitness. Once you remove travel time there is so much more time to do the things that really matter to you. I think the benefits are endless.”
What do you think the biggest challenges are with working from home full time?
Keeping a clear definition between work and home can be hard, and it can go both ways – work life creeping into your personal life, or personal creeping into work. Creating and keeping clear boundaries is important.
“For me it’s usually work creeping into home life, so at seven o’clock every night my husband and I cook dinner together. One of our tech leads goes for a walk at six o’clock every day. Having a routine helps.”
Communicating clear boundaries is important too, so you don’t face interruptions all day long.
We’ll be doing another webinar on working at home with kids because current circumstances are clearly a bit different as schools are closed.
Another challenge is feeling isolated, so use video connection as often as possible and have regular meetings such as daily standups.
How do you set your rhythm for the workday when you are working remotely?
“Gemma and I are both so passionate about what we do that setting a rhythm comes easily. It’s like asking someone, ‘how would you set a rhythm to binge on your favorite Netflix show?’
I’ve realized though that yes, I’m super passionate about it, but I still can’t be productive 12 hours a day. Developing a routine and taking control of your diary to suit your personal circumstances is important.”
Letting kids know when ‘feeding time in the zoo’ is might help right now, so they don’t spend all day interrupting you for food and eating you out of house and home!
The Pomodoro Technique is a simple way to manage your work, you set a countdown timer for 25 minutes and focus on a single task, then take a five minute break, get up from the desk and move around (and maybe give your children some food!). Here is a simple online timer if you want to try that technique.
With all the people you’ve employed with WORK180, what are the behaviors you’ve seen work best when it comes to remote working?
“Communication and ownership are really important.
The people that work best remotely are those who own their work and have a sense of pride in what they do, because they work out the distractions.
Working remotely, you have to understand your managers don’t know exactly what you’re doing, so might feel nervous around how they will know work is getting done. Over-communication can be a good thing – sending project updates more regularly than you usually would, making sure that you have regular meetings in the diary, talking about outcomes so everybody knows how things are tracking.
I think if you get those two things, you can work remotely very well.”
What is one tip you would offer to someone who’s now working from home full time?
“There are millions of articles about what works for other people but you really need to test what works for you, and be really kind and patient with yourself. This is a stressful time so you can’t expect to snap into the most productive person ever overnight.
I try not to jump on my phone immediately when I wake up. I’ve got over 100 indoor plants so will often wake up and spend 10 minutes watering plants or doing something calming and then get into work. I also prioritize health and family; doing Pilates every day makes me more productive at work.”
“Be forthcoming with feedback around your own home situation or how your work is currently setting everyone up to work remotely. This is quite new for a lot of people and we’re all in this together at the moment. Speak to your managers and team see what can work within the new environment, but that open communication and feedback is really important.”
How can you, as an employee, help build trust and confidence, so your manager doesn’t try to micro-manage while you’re at home?
Communication and regular updates are important, as highlighted previously, and a daily catch up with your manager can be a useful tool.
“It’s nice for a manager to know somebody is being proactive. The biggest thing for me is if you communicate a deadline and for some reason can’t deliver to that, just let your manager know.
Ask for help if you get stuck. Working remotely, you might feel a bit strange asking people for help online or sending emails or calling, but do ask.”
How can someone stay motivated and productive working from home?
“When I’m tired and it’s hard, and sometimes because we’re global the days can be quite long, if I’m struggling to get motivation I think about the bigger picture that drives me. I think having a sense of a bigger purpose can help anyone with productivity or motivation.”
How can someone we stay connected to our colleagues now that we’re working remotely?
“Everybody needs some sort of internal comms channel, whether it’s Microsoft Teams or Slack or Yammer. Some of our teams will have Friday virtual drinks – I heard there’s going to be karaoke! We also use the slack plug-in ‘Donut’, which pairs you with a colleague for an informal catch up. Some team members had a garden zoom call and showed each other around.
Make sure you create avenues to chat through things that are not just emails about work. I know more things about my colleagues working remotely then I’ve ever known working with people in a physical office.
We also use Nuclino, which is like an internal wiki, and have started a list of different initiatives relating to the fact that we’re not only working remotely but also in lockdown. We have our favorite exercise routines, tips for working with children, articles for managing anxiety, things like that.”
“Keeping the same etiquette online as you would in person is important. You would never just walk up to someone and say, ‘Hey, where’s this document’, so online start off with, ‘hey, how are you going?’ Likewise, on zoom it’s so easy to jump straight into business, but spend one or two minutes talking about something a bit personal first.
Slack (which we use) is a chat tool, so we have a water cooler channel for anything you’d usually chat about in the office, a pet channel, a plant channel – keeping that personal connection is super important.”
To watch the highlights from the webinar, click here
Our Endorsed Employer EY has provided some useful Working From Home Wellbeing Tips, which you can download here:
Some of the tools that were mentioned on the call are:
We hope this has been useful and look forward to seeing you on our upcoming webinars!