Firstly, we hope that you, your families, your communities and your teams are healthy and well. In these uncertain times, it’s important that we all look after one another.
These are also very strange times. For many of us in the higher education and charity sectors, remote working is a novel concept. Sure you may have had the occasional day of working from home before, but this is a bit different. Now that we find ourselves needing to work from home for the foreseeable it’s important that we educate ourselves about the most effective ways to remain productive, while also taking care of our mental health and general wellbeing.
Here at Hubbub, remote working is part of our standard day-to-day. We use all the tips, tricks and tools in the book to make sure that our teams can work effectively - no matter where in the country, or in the world, we might be. In this blog, you’ll find a few handy suggestions that we hope you too will find useful - either for your own personal use or for collaborating with your teams.
Tip 1: Start your day as if nothing has changed
Wake up at your normal time. If you have children or pets they might help you to keep this habit, however, those of us without this additional wake-up device may be tempted to use working from home as an excuse for a lie-in. Don’t do it!
Set your alarm for its normal time, brush your teeth, get dressed, sing in the shower - do all the things you would normally do just as if it was a regular working day. You can then use the extra time that you would have spent on your commute to take a bit of extra time for yourself (see tip 3 for ways to have ‘you time’ when working from home). Then, whenever you would normally start your working day, get started!
If you are working from home, while also being a super parent, this blog from the team at Buffer is also full of great tips for working remotely with children at home.
Tip 2: Choose your workspace
Tempting as it might be to work from your bed, or a couch, opt for a table or desk. This tip follows directly on from tip 1 with good intent as both have been suggested as ways to aid productivity, while also helping you to mentally prepare for a day in the office.
Once you’ve figured out where you’re going to set-up your working from home space, make sure, where possible, to make it an environment that you enjoy being in. Good lighting, decorations, plants, inspirational quotes and photos can all make your workspace more enjoyable. Making sure your workspace is clean and tidy can also help you to stay focused.
Tip 3: Plan your day
Those who work from home, according to this 2019 Owl Labs report, work more than the standard 40-hour working week. It’s important to make sure that you keep your working hours as near enough to what they would normally be as if you were still in the office. Planning your day will give it structure, while also making sure that you remain productive. Planning your day can also help with ensuring that you take regular breaks to help with your overall mental health and well-being.
Here are a few tips:
Break it down. Think of one thing that you want to focus on and make it the main objective of your day. If you think that you’ll become fatigued by just focusing on one project, split your focus between two - concentrating on one in the morning and the other after lunch.
Adopt a 50/10 or 25/5 strategy. This one is great as it can help to make sure that you have periods of intense focus, while also giving yourself a break. The idea is to work on one thing for 50 (or 25 minutes) followed by either a 10 (or 5) minute break.
Take a lunch break. When you work from home it can feel strange to take a lunch break but make sure to do as working for 8 hours straight is nobody’s friend. Buy things that you look forward to eating at lunchtime, take a break from your computer and take time out for you. You also have the luxury of having your full kitchen at your disposal - take advantage! Then read a book, listen to a podcast, go for a walk, dance in your living room and enjoy the break.
Remove distractions. If you are trying to focus on something, a WhatsApp group conversation buzzing from your phone isn’t going to put you in the best headspace. Hide your phone, put it on ‘do not disturb’ for a period of time (if possible), close down emails and clear yourself of any other distractions. Help yourself to be your best self.
Finish the day with some training. The final hour of the day can sometimes feel like the longest. Find a work-related training workshop, webinar, podcast, blog or book to tie you over until the final work whistle blows.
Close up shop. If you normally finish at 5 pm, keep this habit and make this the stopping point for your day. Close down your laptop, turn off your PC (or just the screen), put away notebooks and any other work-related clutter. If your workspace is in a room all its own, close the door and walk away. Also, resist the urge to check emails or messages from work-related apps on your phone.
Tip 4: Use tools that can help you to be productive and to communicate with team members
Over the last few years, remote working has quickly become commonplace in many business cultures. To help businesses adopt this way of working, many tools have emerged to keep teams productive, while also making sure they stay in touch. Just as if you were sitting next to someone in a normal office environment.
These are some of the tools we recommend.
Slack: for internal communications between colleagues and teams. You can also run quick calls where team members can share screens and visually check in with one another.
Zoom: for external meetings or internal meetings that may need more bandwidth to support multiple video and audio feeds. If you are remaining in touch with major donor prospects, tools like this are a great option for doing so.
Monday.com: for project management and keeping teams updated/connected on team projects.
Dropbox: for storing files in a cloud environment, if access to normal servers may not be available.
While each of these tools is great for helping teams to cope with remote working, it’s important that teams receive the appropriate training for how to use them and what their purpose is. For each of the tools listed above, there are many handy ‘how-to’ and starter tutorials available online that can be used to ensure that teams are well trained and set up for success.
Bonus - Tips for communicating when working remotely
When you don’t have the opportunity to speak with team members face-to-face, there may be a need to over communicate a point or to enhance the tone of the language you are using. Without the luxury of non-verbal cues, it can be difficult to know if what you are meaning to say and what’s actually coming across are one and the same. Use emojis and punctuation (but not too much) to help you get the right tone. And if that’s not enough - pick up the phone and have a good old conversation.
Consider which tool you use for which kind of communication. If you do use something like Slack, make sure to only use it for quick conversations. Conversations that require more thought, follow-up or a larger discussion with multiple team members are probably best left to our old friend, email.
Finally, be mindful that while you may have a question, someone else might be right in the middle of their focused time. It’s fine to send a message, however, be aware that it may not be answered right away. Practice patience when waiting for a response from a colleague who might not be available.
Tip 5: Keep being a team
Without your wonderful co-workers at the desk next to you, or in the kitchen to make a cup of tea with (shout out for the UK), working remotely can feel like a solitary task. However, it’s important, especially in the current climate, that we stay connected.
Maintain your normal meetings with teams and colleagues, where possible. A sense of normality can feel really nice when everything else seems a bit chaotic.
Add in additional meetings to help keep teams connected. Here at Hubbub, we have team stand-ups every morning. These are quick meetings, usually taking place at the start of each day, where each team member says what their focus for the day will be. This helps team members to keep current with what each other are doing, to feed in where useful, and to not feel alone as they start their day.
If you manage a team, it may be useful to be in touch with individuals and teams more than you normally would. This isn’t meant to suggest that teams should be micromanaged, however, there are a few adjustments that if implemented can help manage the expectations of both you and your team. More great tips about managing your team remotely can be found here.
Keep checking in with one another (work-related or not). If you adopt Slack, this can easily be done by using their General or Random channels. But even without tools like this, it’s comforting for team members to know that if they want to quickly chat about a project or are feeling unmotivated, lonely or just need a quick break that they can check in with another member of the team.
To sum up
With everything going on in the world, going fully remote for the first time can feel a bit like wandering around in the dark without a flashlight. We hope that the tips listed above have provided you with a few useful tips and solutions that can now be used by individuals and teams - helping you to keep communicating with your supporters and to keep helping those that you serve.
If you have any further questions about remote working, please email our team - we’d be happy to help lend our advice.