Embrace remote working

As a follow on to my previous article about remote working and at the time of writing, still being in lock down, I want to share some ideas to help everyone try to embrace remote working.

Keep something back for fun

Working from home can get very intense as many people find it is actually easier to really focus on what you are doing with fewer distractions than at the office.

The danger here becomes that if you sit for hours on end with this level of focus you will end up very tired and will have problems with your body. 

Heavy focus is best done in 20-25 minutes then get up and take a five-minute break. Walk round the block or the garden or just your house or apartment. Alternatively, do some chores; load the dishwasher, put the washing on. Another alternative is to tend to your pets, play with the cat or take the dog out for a quick toilet break. 

If you don’t take regular breaks when you get to the end of the day and, more so, the end of the week, you will have nothing left to have a bit of fun with your family and friends. Be it on a Zoom pub quiz call or whatever else it is you are doing with your free time in the current situation, keep something in reserve to enjoy yourself.

Bed is not a good place for work

This might sound obvious but if you work from your bed your work suffers, as being in bed is comfortable, therefore not a good work environment. 

Working from your bed also affects your sleep, as the bed becomes a place to work rather than a place to sleep.

Avoid working from bed. Personally, I have gone as far as banning all connected devices from the bedroom, since doing this I get a much better night’s sleep.

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GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com

Chat and video calls

Chat is a great way to get quick answers, it is infinitely quicker than email but this instant communication medium is not perfect for everything.

Always remember that at the other end of the chat, there is a human being, not an autoresponder and that person has feelings and is human, as such, they can misinterpret what you are trying to say.

To repeat, chat is easily misinterpreted. Be careful and know when it is time to move from chat to the phone or a video call. If you have doubts about whether to use chat in a particular situation then it is probably better not to.

Video helps people feel more comfortable as they can see a (hopefully) friendly face in the same situation they are in, this breeds empathy and helps team morale (we are all in this together).

Giving someone feedback should always be done with a video call. This helps them see that you are not angry. Perhaps more importantly you can see how they are reacting and adjust your feedback to suit.

Obviously, meetings cannot be held with chat; therefore, a video call is required. So, in some instances video is a really useful tool but like chat it is also not perfect, for one thing it is much more demanding on resources than chat.

You need a decent camera. The important things with a camera are colour balance, lighting and frame rate. You want your picture to look natural and as good as it can. Ultra-High Definition resolution is not much use in day-to-day video calls, as it needs too much internet bandwidth.

On the subject of bandwidth, you do need a good internet connection with high speeds both up and down stream.

The importance of a good quality microphone cannot be overemphasised. Being able to hear someone clearly is more important than being able to see them. This is an artefact of non-video based phone calls. We are all very used to being able to hear people clearly from phone calls, so the quality of audio on a video call needs to be at least as good as a clear phone call.

One final tip for video calls, when you are on a video call stay engaged. Do not be tempted to take phone calls or do other things while on a video call it comes across as very unprofessional.

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Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Tools

In a remote work environment, the tools are more important than in a normal office. You can’t just walk up to someone’s desk and ask them a question. Here are a few I didn’t cover in my previous article:

Slack

The number one for chat and it is easy to see why; it has proven to be an engaging, fun tool for team communication, especially for remote teams. Features like emoji and GIPHY help provide a positive way for remote teams to communicate in a natural manner. Channels within Slack are a great way to keep track of all the decisions made along the way for a particular project. Channels also allow everyone involved to stay informed and contribute to the decision making process.

Zoom

I know I mentioned Zoom in my previous article, but I wanted to ensure people are using it safely. There are people out there who are ready and willing to Zoombomb you. If you do not know what this is, you should look it up. To put it simply it is when an uninvited guest crashes your meeting and starts screen sharing all kinds of inappropriate material; there can be verbal abuse too. Before you host your next Zoom meeting take some time to check through all your settings carefully. There is a simple setting, which will protect you from most Zoombombers, which disables screen sharing from all participants. You can do the same for people entering the meeting by having all microphones muted, until you choose to unmute them.

Confluence

This tool is perfect for internal collaborative documents, things like meeting notes, a team blog or outlining policies. You can use it for projects or even as an employee handbook. Confluence helps teams build community, share ideas and get work done in an open and shared workspace.

And here is my final tools tip; there is a webinar with insights from Slack (team chat), Dropbox (team file sharing) and Asana (team project management) on remote work on Thursday May 14th at 4pm GMT, you can sign up for this here.


About the Author:
Keith Jones studied Product Design at Central St. Martins where he graduated in 1996. He has had a successful career working in numerous high end audio outlets, culminating in owning his own AV installation company from 2001-2008. After a career break he started Jones designs in August 2009 which morphed into limited company designflow, in 2015. Designflow aims to increase awareness of design in AV and help installers win more jobs and create proper documentation for them. Designflow your remote working design partner.
 

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