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20 March 2020

A view from the remote

I’ve been seeing a lot lately, as I’m sure we all have. That the working world now finds itself in a place where adaptation is no longer a preference, but instead, it’s a requirement. Provoking big and small companies alike to make the shift to the new frontier of remote working. Something that many businesses have toyed with, but few had yet to fully embrace. But there are some of us who have been living that #remotelife for quite some time now, myself being one of them, and I feel that it’s my duty to help our business community to thrive in these challenging times, through providing some of my top tips.

Adapt your Space: This is first for a very good reason because, without this, the task of working from home becomes all the more challenging. So prioritising adapting and personalising an area of your home to work from is essential. Now for some, this will be easier than others, you may have a spare room or space that can easily be adapted to a new need. But for others, this may be more complex, maybe you have children, live with your parents, or just space is of a premium in your home. Whatever your barrier, I assure you there is a solution. I once lived at my nans in a very small spare room, where I adapted a small area in the corner of the room on top of some chest of draws to be my workspace. A few pictures, and motivational quotes transformed the space and really helped me focus.

Get Disciplined: For many, this will be their first experience of working remotely, and with that, they will no doubt fall foul to some of the remote working pitfalls, the biggest of which being able to focus on your work. You are at home after all, and you’re surrounded by your stuff, and the temptation can be very alluring to just delay doing that piece of work that needs doing, after all, who will know right. Well, having worked remotely now for 5 years, I can tell you honestly, that sooner or later, everyone gets caught. Luckily for you, if you follow my first top tip, this will help you not to fall foul of this particular hole.

Keep communicating: Regular communication is not just important for managers, its important for everyone. One of the biggest challenges in any workplace, is communication, a challenge that is only amplified when working remotely. This is due mostly to people being drawn into the temptation of delivering all their communications via text or email, PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS!!!! It is one of the biggest drains of time, and causes of stress when working remotely. This is largely due to the many ways in which a text or email can be interpreted, which ultimately results in infective, and dysfunctional teams. So please save the emails and texts for quick clarifications, and to summarise meeting notes. Instead, utilise weekly video conference calls via Skype, where questions and open conversation is encouraged. Utilise an Agile framework, where contact is made every day, even if it's just to say high on a group chat, it really helps.

Use the tools you have available: There are so many tools out there to use in remote working that it can be a little overwhelming. So here are the ones I use, and have used for best effect. For setting tasks and providing updates, use Trello. The workflow takes a little getting used to, but once you have it down, it paints a clear picture of the current workflow for all in the group, in addition to allowing managers to prioritise tasks. For team meetings, I’m a Skype man personally, namely because it's free and easy to use, and it’s something that most are familiar with. You can also use Skype for creating group chats, however, I find that What's app and Slack are the best for this. Slack is certainly more feature-rich, and maybe more appropriate for some, but what's app is very capable and more than enough in most cases. The last piece of software I would encourage, is perhaps not the most obvious, but a good system for people to clock in and out of work is essential. It really helps focus minds, and it also gives an indication to managers of attendance, and therefore, an expectation around workflow. In addition, it’s a great reminder that you need to stop work, once you shift finishes.

Invest in systems to benefit your business: Because this is a situation that few of us ever expected to be in, most of us have built our businesses, and or software around people being able to access it from a singular workplace. But as we all know, that just is not going to cut it now. So looking into systems that will give you access to your internal data remotely, is critical. As is the choice of what solution to go for. The main choices on the market are VPN, Cloud, and Integrated solutions, all of which offer differing Pros and Cons. Therefore, if you’re looking into these solutions, make sure you choose the right one for your business. I personally like many of us have had little experience using these. However, my company provides the Integrated solution, which essentially allows you to get access to all your internal data from one single access point, regardless of your location. The reason we chose this particular solution, is because we know it’s easy to use, super secure and reliable.

Support one another: The last top tip I would like to give, is to make sure you support each other in the team. For all the positives that working remotely brings, and the positives are plentiful. The biggest drawback is loneliness. Having worked remotely for 5 years there are times when just seeing another human has become the highlight of my day. This is where keeping good communication really comes in handy. Because through keeping in regular contact, not only will you support each other, but also you can help solve problems that others may be having. A word of caution however, sharing problems and struggles is great when working towards solutions. But constant complaining can create a toxic atmosphere, and only serves to damage a person’s mental health in the long run. So be conscious of how you support each other, and don’t be afraid to get creative to avoid being sucked down the drain of despair.

If you found this helpful, feel free to reach out with your challenges, and things you would like advice on, and if we can help, we will. Also, we have created a support group on Facebook so feel free to join and help support each other by joining.

Jarone Macklin-Page
(Business Development Specialist)

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