This is a difficult time for all of us who are working from home due to the current coronavirus situation. Many of us would prefer to be at the office where we can speak with our colleagues, instead of being locked up at home. Also, many of our homes may not be properly set up for work, due to the limited space in Hong Kong.
To make things even more complicated, there may be bored kids with no school, or a needy pet running around. We did some research and combined it with past experiences to come up with some practical tips for our employees.
It is also worth remembering that, honestly, no one will mind if you have kids or parents in the background during conference calls. As the popular BBC news clip of an interviewee being interrupted by his children shows, people actually find it adorable to see the “non-work” side of their colleagues.
Keys to productively working from home:
1.Create a “home office environment and mindset”
Set up a place at home where you exclusively work from and commit to consistently working there – your mini “home office.” Why? This creates a mental shift which helps you transition into “work mode,” where you have a sense of routine, reduce potential distractions and provide comfort for working. This can significantly increase your productivity.
For example, many of us are currently working from our dining tables. This is not ideal, but try to reserve at least one particular seat for work.
Make sure your home office environment, however small, is comfortable and has everything you need. This means a good desk and chair, optimal lighting, sufficient electrical outlets for your chargers and even personal things, like noise-cancelling headsets to create a quiet environment. For example, if your dining table chairs are uncomfortable, try to get an office chair or some support cushions – be creative and improvise!
Another tip to help you mentally shift into work mode is getting dressed in the morning as if you were going into the office. You can wear comfortable clothes – just don’t give in to the temptation of wearing your pyjamas for the whole day. By having this type of morning ritual, you can make that mental transition more seamless and natural.
Also, try to avoid home distractions during office hours. For example, Netflix, YouTube , PlayStation, your two cats, doing your laundry or even your cousins dropping by. This can be hard, but just try your best. You will find it difficult to fully transition and focus on work mode if you constantly have to switch back and forth.
2. Over-communicate with your team
When we work from home, we lose the primary method we typically use to communicate with our colleagues – having face-to-face conversations. Without this, there can be breakdowns in communication, leading to inefficiencies, or worse – loneliness, isolation and disengagement. Therefore, the key to staying in the loop and feeling connected with your team is constantly initiating communication. Practice your ABCs: Always Be Communicating.
As best practice, have open, on-going dialogue with your team and check in with your direct manager and team members several times a day. Even greater transparency becomes fundamental when you work remotely, to ensure everyone is aligned on objectives and expectations.
Importantly, we should always be willing to use technology to over-communicate with our teammates. Let’s put this into context – when you are working in an office, if you walked over to your colleague’s desk, you’d have a conversation right there.
When working remotely, video calls should be treated the same way. You shouldn’t have reservations about calling colleagues whenever needed. Once teammates get accustomed to this idea, working as a distributed team becomes a lot easier. And if you have followed the advice on getting dressed appropriately, you won’t be shy about receiving a WhatsApp or Zoom video call.
3. Leverage technology and work tools
When we work virtually, we lose the power of a shared physical space. Technology needs to become our new shared space and we need to facilitate effective remote communications through the rich technology at our disposal.
Establish this as the norm and get everyone set up. For example, you can conduct conference calls on Slack and Zoom, both with share-screen functionality. In Mainland China, platforms include Enterprise WeChat and Tencent Meeting.
At WeLab, we helped our staff set up home workstations, and couriered laptops to some of their homes. We managed to achieve 70-80% efficiency on the first day of working from home and 95% by the third day.
4. Develop a daily to-do list of tasks and make sure you complete them
To ensure you remain results-oriented at home, identify and list all the tasks that need to be accomplished every day. Working from home requires everyone to be even more well-organized and disciplined. Always having a checklist will help you visualize your progress.
Make sure you list these tasks out on a prioritized basis after discussing with your direct manager, so that you start with the most important tasks and maintain the focus on priorities.
Working-from-home arrangements require managers to display much stronger leadership skills. People managers should regularly check in with every team member, set clear milestones, and review these milestones regularly with their team.
Last but not at least, make it a point to stand up and stretch every 20-30 minutes. Walk around your home, do some push-ups, or even a headstand if you can. Remain physically active.