TL/DR Guide to WFH

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Working from home can be an enjoyable experience, if done right. Here are some tips to help you.

  • Dress the part.
    • Men/Women – Look presentable, you never know when the boss will want a video conference with you or you get pulled into a video meeting.
  • Minimize Distractions.
    • Not everyone has a dedicated work space. TV should stay off, good to keep window open (unless there is a lot of noise coming into your space). If you’ve got a personal PC close by, leave it off to resist the temptation of working on personal things.
    • If you have young children, you need a plan to keep them occupied. Yes, it is difficult (I have a very extroverted, and highly social 17-year old and find it tough to keep him occupied).
  • Focus on the task at hand.
    • If you’re on a conference call (video or audio only) it’s very (VERY) easy to drift onto other works. PAY ATTENTION because you never know when you will be called on to answer a question. I mean, at work (in your office) would you be on your phone or bring in your laptop and work on something else?
  • Look at the screen!
    • When you’re on a video call, don’t focus on the camera – it looks creepy but look at the screen so you remain engaged with what’s going on.
  • Hours
    • Maintain regular hours, when your office is the kitchen table it’s easy for the distinction between work and home to blur but at the same time you have more leeway so ensure you’re putting in the time you need to get the work done – people are watching and probably depending on you to get things done.
  • Daily Scrum & weekly stand-ups & one-on-ones
    • If you are a manager consider a daily scrum, communicated through something like Slack.
    • A weekly stand-up allows you to stay connected with your teams. I would also recommend to use video for these meetings.
    • Don’t abandon one-on-ones. Your team still needs to talk to you, keep those lines of communication open.
  • Get out!
    • Yes, get out and get a breath of fresh air. Build some type of exercise routine into your day and watch your health!
  • Socialize
    • Many companies are still keeping their teams engaged by offering Lunch and Learns, Team Lunches and Beer Fridays (all through video conference) and it works! The company I work for has been doing these for weeks, and a significant part of the company attends. It’s one way to keep connected with everyone in the workplace even though you can’t physically be there.
  • Time off – time out
    • Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you don’t need time off. Take a vacation day (companies are encouraging this). If you’re sick, take the day to recuperate.

Do you have any other tips? Share them here or with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Managing Remote Employees

Reading Time: 3 minutes

How do you manage remote employees, after all – out of sight, out of mind. But when dealing with people, this can quickly spell trouble for you, the team and the company.

Remote employees are part of the team, and want to be included in team events (as much as possible given they work remotely).

What are some of the challenges of remote employees?

  1. Communication
  2. Tracking work and productivity
  3. Company culture
  4. Scheduling difficulties
  5. Building trust
  6. One-on-one meetings and morale
  7. Getting together in person

Communication is very important for your remote team members to feel connected, there are many tools out there to keep people connected.

Slack is one of the best team communication apps out there, a lot like WhatsApp or the myriad of tools available. Slack is meant for the enterprise. You have the ability to create multiple channels and have one-on-one conversations with your remote team – but Slack isn’t the answer to true communications — pick-up the phone (VOIP in most cases), and talk to them (Slack support VOIP communications, including video).

Another great tool is Zoom. Zoom is just one of the many video conferencing tools available out there but one which is more reliable and user-friendly to use. When I had remote workers, I found Zoom easy to work with, and with the video conferencing capabilities I could “meet” the remote team without actually being there – so being able to see subtleties that you may not catch with a voice call.

Talk to your remote workers regularly, just because the work is getting done doesn’t mean that they are not facing challenges. Schedule short daily stand-up meetings with them (use video) to see if they are getting the support they need. If your company has weekly or bi-weekly one-on-ones’ ensure you schedule their AND MAKE SURE YOU DON’T MISS THEM! Missing them is like a punch in the gut, you may have a perfectly good reason to reschedule — but they don’t know the dynamics in the office.

Staff meetings? Make sure they attend, just because they are in another city or working from home isn’t an excuse to not attend meetings. Staff and team meetings are important for your remote workers to feel connected to what’s happening in the office.

How do you track work and productivity? Pretty simple; if you’ve got salespeople you should be tracking the number of calls they are making, or appointments that are being made. They should be hitting weekly, and monthly targets.

What about the technical team? There is never a dull moment in any IT department and if you’re creating tickets through tools like JIRA it’s easy to track what your people are doing.

You also need to trust the individual. Not everyone can work remotely, so when you’re hiring make sure you’re bringing someone on that is mature and has the emotional intelligence to work remotely.

Finally, if your company budget allows, bring them to the office at least once per year so they can meet the rest of the team, and form relationships with others in the company. It’s better for you to bring them to the head office than you heading out there.

Location, location, and location. There need to be rules around where they can work and how they are accessing systems. VPNs are a must, and they should be able to work in a quiet area especially if they are spending time on the phone with clients — you don’t want them working out at the local coffee shop. They should have sufficiently fast Internet access at home, and it needs to be reliable. Most businesses are using VOIP, so having a softphone on the computer is also essential so that they can make local or long-distance calls.

Do you have other ideas on how to make your remote workers or those working from home feel like they are part of the team? Share your suggestions in the comments.