Note: This article was written during COVID-19 pandemic to help people work from home more effectively.
Gatekeeper has been a remote-first company for 8 years, so our teams are experts in how to get set up for success with remote work. Below are some of their favourite tips for success.
We understand that many of you will be facing unique challenges alongside working remotely for the first time, including caring for family or even home-schooling children, and we are learning with you! Whilst all of our tips may not work for every situation, we hope there is at least one thing that everyone can take from the below:
Set Up for Success
Where you work is sometimes just as important as how you work. Here are our tips for setting up your new work station:
- Choose somewhere you can be comfortable spending a large part of your day.
- If possible, find somewhere that you will only use for work, so you can think of it as ‘your office’. This will allow you to close the door on it at the end of the day.
- Decorate your space if it makes you happy, you’ll be spending a lot of time looking at it over the next few weeks.
- Think of good posture when you set up your equipment. Do your best to avoid aches and pains. Investing in a proper office chair can make a huge difference, especially if the alternative is a dining chair or beanbag.
- You may no longer have to share the radio with anyone, so now is a good time to find out if you work best with classical music, rock n’ roll or in total silence. Noise-cancelling headphones (even without music) can be a life-saver when you need to concentrate, especially if you have family at home too.
Maintain a Schedule
The key aims here are productivity and self care. Setting a schedule of focused work mixed with well-timed breaks will keep you doing your best work all week without burning out. We know these are exceptional circumstances at the moment so extra work may be required but try to keep as organised as possible.
- Set a start and end time for your day and stick to it - just as if you were arriving to and leaving the office.
- Be experimental! Find out what works for you. Away from an office environment, you’re not bound by the conventional 9-5. Try out different lengths of focus time until you find your sweet spot. Find out what time of day you are most productive and set your schedule around that, if possible. Need some inspiration? We’ve listed some techniques and tips you could try!
- The Pomodoro technique, which encourages you to work productively for 25 minutes before taking a break that increases with each interval.
- The FlowTime technique, which encourages you to pick a single task to focus on for a set amount of time you decide. When your designated interval ends, decide whether or not you can give the task anymore focus. If not, take a break.
- Assess whether you’re an early bird or a night owl. Which productivity window is the best has been a long-standing debate, but put simply, match your energy levels to your priority tasks so you can maximise your productivity.
- Once you have set your schedule, be disciplined. It can be easy to let your mind wander or to check your phone every time Facebook pings. In fact, setting your phone to “Do Not Disturb” is a great way to control the level of interruption. You can then check your messages at designated times and deal with them in one go.
Have Successful Remote Meetings
Remote meetings can be challenging if you are used to holding them all face-to-face. Here are our quick tips for ensuring a successful remote meeting:
- Turn on the video! Wherever possible, keep that ‘face to face’ feel. Without video, you cannot tell who is listening and you cannot pick up on body language. At Gatekeeper, we use Zoom for our video calls and it’s proved to be robust, even during these high-traffic periods.
- Give the meeting your full attention. Especially if it is audio only, it’s easy to start checking your emails or working on other things. Be disciplined.
- Record the virtual meeting and share with those who could not attend. This way, no one misses out.
- Have someone take minutes and actions from every meeting and post them somewhere everyone can see them. Hold people accountable for actions. This helps to ensure you are getting value from your meetings.
Collaboration can be harder when working remotely, especially if you are not used to it. You can’t just pop over to someone’s desk if you have a question or suggestion. It’s important to think of ways to keep communication and ideas flowing within the team:
- If possible, consider a collaboration software that allows projects, to-do lists, documents and discussions to take place and be recorded in the same place. At Gatekeeper, we use Basecamp and it gives great visibility over ongoing projects as well as providing a long term record of work completed and associated documentation. MS Teams, Trello, Wrike and other systems will fulfil the same purpose.
- If you don’t have specialised software, a well organised shared folder will make collaboration a lot easier.
- Agree ground rules for collaboration and communication. Remember, every message you send to someone is potentially an interruption. At Gatekeeper we prioritise asynchronous communication where possible, meaning we don’t necessarily expect an immediate response from our colleagues. If we must interrupt, then a ping via Slack and a quick Zoom call usually gets things resolved in the shortest time. You can read more about Gatekeeper’s approach to communication and culture in our Vision and Values.
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can be vital to support new members of the team who can’t simply lean over and ask a question to their neighbour. Now is a great time to make sure your key procedures are well documented and visible. This will help stand your business in good stead once things return to normal.
- Look after each other! Some people will find it harder than others to adapt to remote working. If someone is quiet or not contributing as much as usual, reach out and see if you can help. Try scheduling a 20-minute video call without a set agenda and seeing what you can cover.
- Buddy systems are a great way to help out newer members of the team, or those who are less comfortable or experienced working remotely. Set something up to ensure no one gets left behind.
Look After Yourself
It’s not all about work. Exercise and mental health are super important for your wellbeing and your productivity, but can easily be neglected when working from home. Here are some things to think about when setting your daily schedule:
- Set some time aside to exercise every day.
- Busy day? There are plenty of 5-10 minute exercise sessions that you can do at your desk or in a small space! We’ve listed some of our favourite examples below.
- Yoga at your desk with Adriene - a quick six minute flow that only requires a chair.
- A 10 minute bodyweight workout - for those looking to exercise without any equipment.
- A five minute guided meditation - whether you’re having a busy day or don’t feel like exercising, it’s equally as important to take a mindful rest.
- If your team needs some motivation to exercise, set up team challenges and let everyone know how you got on, e.g. number of steps per day using simple trackers. A team group on Strava is another way to help motivate each other.
- For mental health, consider downloading a dedicated app to help with mindfulness, anxiety and getting enough sleep. Calm and Headspace are two notable ones, but there are lots of great resources on the NHS website too.
- Finally, socialise. People who work remotely may feel they get less chance to socialise during the day, but it’s important for mental health. Socialising is especially difficult in the current crisis. If you should not leave your house, schedule a phone or video call or remote gaming session with friends at the end of the day.
Finally, one size does not fit all when it comes to working remotely. As you discover what works well for you in the context of your team, company and industry, share it! Tell others, so that you can learn from each other.
Here are some notable tips from our team here at Gatekeeper:
- "Get good coffee. None of that instant stuff. Get yourself a good espresso machine, french press, or drip coffee maker and coffee that actually tastes good. If possible you can support a local cafe that is struggling by buying beans or ground coffee."
- "Make the best of your surroundings. Create a standing desk and remember to look after your posture!"
- "It goes without saying that when you switch off, switch off, but actually go and do something. Don't just sit and trawl the internet for hours or sit on the couch. If you have a backyard/deck go and get some air. Take up a new hobby like cooking or drawing or doing puzzles. Just go and do something."
- "If you're looking to do something more outside of the office and you can afford it, consider adopting or fostering a pet! Many shelters are minimal staff right now so the animals there aren't getting the same care and attention that they need. As much as we need contact, so do animals. Pets are great for mental health and companionship."
- "If you have a pet, move their bed into your working space. Even having another living, breathing thing in the room can help feelings of isolation and have proven to improve mental health."
If you'd like further advice on the specific software or processes we use to ensure seamless, remote communication at Gatekeeper, then please contact us today.