Coronavirus and the resulting restrictions being put in place are causing widespread concern, and wreaking havoc with a wide range of industries and workplaces around the world.
Here at LearnJam we have had multiple trips and engagements cancelled and we’re in the process of shifting various workshops online for the next few months. We have also been working hard over the last few weeks helping some of our clients quickly move in-person courses online ahead of school closures and travel restrictions. Keeping people safe is the top priority, but ensuring that people are able to work and learn is also a primary concern.
As offices close and travel is restricted, we are also hearing of more and more organisations shifting to remote working and scrambling to get things in place that help ensure people are happy and productive in their new set-up. LearnJam has been a remote company from the start, nearly 7 years ago, so we have had a lot of time to figure out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to remote.
In this post we share some of these tips in the hope that it helps people who are new to remote working or organisations looking to support the transition of their teams to new ways of working.
Please do get in touch if you would like to talk anything through or if we can help you with any of your Coronavirus response initiatives.
Tips for working remotely
How to retain human-to-human contact.
Remote working can feel isolating and lonely. Having a daily stand-up with your team helps you connect to other people each day. At LearnJam we call this the ‘Daily hug’ and it starts at 9:30 am. Use the time to each give a short update of 1) what you did yesterday, 2) what you are doing today 3) any blockers or challenges you have. The whole thing shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes. Anything that can’t be tackled in that time, take it into a different call.
We also have a short weekly review call on Friday afternoons. When you’re working from home, it’s easy to slip into the weekend without acknowledging all the great work you’ve done together in the week. This is a chance to celebrate the small wins and engage in some much-needed end-of-the week chitchat.
How to design your day around distractions.
For those not familiar with working at home, it’s easy to get distracted by laundry, TV, the cat, beans on toast, etc. One helpful tool is the Pomodoro technique, which breaks down your day into 30-minute chunks. For each 30 minute section, you focus on a single specific task for 25 minutes, then do whatever you want for the remaining 5. Then start again. That gives you enough time to stroke the cat and check your emails. Save the beans on toast for a proper lunch break.
Another helpful trick is to use a separate device for all social media. So if you are working on your laptop, keep your phone for Facebook, Whatsapp etc. This avoids distractions and helps keep you focused.
Tracking your time can also really help you focus. This is based on the idea that the best way to change something is to measure it. So keep an honest track of time spent on different projects, on emails, on social media! This data can then help you reprioritise or reorganise your days. We use Clockify to track our time on projects.
How to collaborate with your colleagues.
Even though you are not in the same physical space, it’s really important to stay connected to your colleagues. At LearnJam we have tried a wide range of tools to help facilitate remote working. Some of our favourites are:
- Mural – for that big idea, brainstorming post-it experience
- Google docs – real-time collaboration on text documents, spreadsheets and presentations
- Slack – real-time communication with your team
- Loom – quickly share ideas and thoughts with colleagues using a screen share video
- LastPass – create and store unique strong passwords for all your accounts, and securely share with colleagues.
Pro tip: Fire up a channel in your Slack workspace for the fun stuff, too. We have a #random channel where we share Spotify tracks, baby pics and silly gifs. Make sure you dip into that from time to time.
How to optimise for VOIP calls.
Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts are a great way to connect with your colleagues. But there are a few tricks that make this work a lot better
- Wearing headphones makes a big difference to the quality of the call as it keeps the background noise and feedback down and makes it much easier for your colleagues to hear what you are saying. We recommend you get a set with an inbuilt microphone.
- Keep yourself muted when you aren’t speaking. This stops your background noise (such as kids not at school) disturbing your colleagues.
- Check the speed of your connection using Google Speed test (or similar). Ideally you need upload speeds of more than 1Mbps and download of more than 2.5Mbps to make a call work well.
How to make the most of the time you save commuting.
If you save yourself 45 minutes each way on commuting, make a plan for how to use that time to your advantage. For example, you could:
- Start a fun work project that you haven’t had time for in the office, or get to things that have been on your to-do list for a while.
- Go for a walk at lunch time (restrictions permitting). The fresh air will feed creativity and help productivity in the afternoon.
How to keep home feeling like home.
If you have worked from the sofa all day, it might not feel like a relaxing place to be in the evening. It’s therefore really helpful if you can create a designated space for work. Whether this is a makeshift desk in the living room or a specific chair in the kitchen, it helps to have a space that you can leave when the working day is done.
We hope that these have been helpful. Let us know if you have any other tips that we’ve missed. And do get in touch if you would like any advice or support in moving learning online in response to Covid-19.
Stay safe and clean,
The LearnJam team