Working from home – experiences from creax

The corona crisis forces us to cooperate in a new and isolated way. As recommended, at creax, these past weeks we have been doing so as well. In this post, we want to share how we deal with it and what we learn. And we are also wondering about your experiences. So feel free to respond.

Tips for remote working during crisis (corona - covid-19))

Plan your day

Pretend it’s a normal working day.

When working at home is new to you, you are somehow confused. Your private environment suddenly overlaps with your working environment. To overcome this, it is useful to pretend you are actually going to the office for a normal working day. Set the alarm, wear appropriate clothes and have breakfast. Maybe, instead of travelling to the office, walk around the block and get some fresh air. When getting back home, kiss your partner and kids, wish them a fine day, grab a coffee and go to your (home) desk. Such actions prepare your brain for the day ahead ‘at the office’. 

Structure your day

Manage the flow of things

At home, you are your own manager. Make a schedule and segment what you will do and when you will do it over the course of the day. Make good use of a calendar and create events and reminders that tell you when to start new tasks and when you can take a break.

Corona planning homework with kids
Keep the rhythm

It’s a good idea to start your day at approximately the same time as you would normally do and to also finish your day at the usual time. This way you keep a clear sense of work and leisure in your daily rhythm. The first week you work from home, this may be challenging but eventually it becomes part of your routine.

Go with the flow

What can help you is physically taking a trip to your work. Leave your house, walk around the block (or get a coffee on the way) and enter you home in “office mode”. Head straight to your desk and start your day.

Plan the start and end of your working day.

Working from home often gives you the impression of a better work-life balance, but be careful. Sitting comfortably at your quiet desk can make you lose track of time completely. So, set an alarm at the end of the day to indicate your normal work day is coming to an end. You don’t have to shut down your computer at exactly that time. But knowing that your work day is over helps you wrap up and disconnect to go back to your home life.

Have clear goals and deliverables

Working from a distant location is also a question of trust. To clear up any ambiguities, make sure you have clear goals. What is the output that is expected at the end of the day, week or month? How will you know that you can be satisfied with your work?

For management, switching from controlling someone’s presence in a building to checking the delivered work at the end of a period can be a big shift. Make sure deliverables are clear, reachable and preferably also challenging enough to keep your team happy.

Take proper breaks

It can be tempting to just keep working since no one comes to disturb you at your desk. Even though you work in the building you also live and sleep in, do not feel guilty to take a break from time to time.

Get up and move

Try to take real breaks away from your computer and avoid just opening YouTube or social media for some quick distraction. Get up and take a walk around the block to stretch your legs and get fresh air. You will be a lot more productive with some extra oxygen. It also avoids getting that clammy feeling you can get from staring at screens the whole day.

Many home workers recommend using a timing system like the Pomodoro Technique. This time management method breaks your working day into chunks of working time, followed by short and longer breaks (for Pomodoro, this is typically 25 minutes, followed by a five minute break).

Communicate expectations

Though you might have a strict planning, the rest of your family might have other plans. Especially when you are working in a house where kids are running around this can be problematic.

Headphones and offices

To avoid constant interruption, communicate clearly when people can bother you and when you want to concentrate. A separate room can work very well. When you are in the room, you are working and need to be left alone. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re home.

You can set “office hours” during which you want to be left alone. A lot of people signal these office hours by wearing headphones. Whether they listen to something or not, these muffle the surrounding noise and let people know you are working.

A dedicated work space

Just because you’re working from home and not at the office doesn’t mean you can’t have an office. Dedicate a specific room or surface in your home for work. Not only will this help you to feel at work in your own house, it is also the place where you do not want to be disturbed.

Combining work and family

In a family situation, this will not always be easy. Not all our houses are designed for Corona-style remote work and school. And even having a separate room holds no guarantees against children coming in during a video call. Remember the viral video where the children of Prof Robert Kelly burst into his room during a live interview on BBC?

The charm of small cracks

To some extent, a little mixing of private and work is no drama. We are all in the same situation and these small cracks in our professional appearance often provide some extra charm.

Invest in quality

Of course, the better your set-up the better your results will be. If you plan to work remote for longer periods, try to get at least a good desk, a good computer with camera and a fast internet connection. When you want, you can take it up a notch by having better acoustics in the room, a dedicated video/microphone system, noise-cancelling headphones, a different phone number for work and a separate ipad or laptop for taking notes so you don’t have to switch screens all the time.

Work on your attitude

It can be very tempting to stay in pyjama all day when working from home. But even if no one will see you during the day, getting washed and properly dressed will psychologically prepare you to start a productive day.

Maybe casual is ok and you don’t need to change into formal business attire (unless you prefer it, or you need to for a business video call), but changing into clothes for work helps you to prime your brain for a day of working.

If you have a very strong will, you could maybe stay in bed all day and still deliver quality work, but over the long run it will start to feel like a slumber party. So shower and change out of clothes you associate with sleep and rest, even if that means just changing into a T-shirt and jeans.

Comfortable but appropriate

The same can be true for changing back out of work clothes when you finish your working day. It helps your brain to understand that working is over.

(Over) communication with the team

When people are all working from distant locations, it is easy to lose touch over time. For management it can be hard to keep a good view on who is doing what. So it’s better to over communicate than to not communicate enough, even if this feels somewhat over the top in the beginning.

Be reachable when working from home

Be available on Slack, calls, video-conferences – whatever your company and clients use to communicate. Respond to questions quickly. Schedule meetings with teammates just like you would in the office, ideally over video conference such as Zoom, Skype, Teams or a Google hangout.

In most offices, you are quite close to people you work with and your boss. So communication is very easy. Have a question? Just pop in the office next door and all becomes clear.

Too much is better than not enough

In a remote working situation, over communicate what you’re doing and, if you’re a manager, what you expect from your team. Do not hesitate to pick up your phone to call a colleague to discuss something.

Have ample team calls and social moments

A lot of companies that are used to operating with remote workers have set moments of exchange. This can be a short team video-call in the morning to kick off the day. Questions can be asked or directions given and it gives a feeling of togetherness, even if everyone works at home for the rest of the day.

At creax, we have a weekly team Zoom meeting to keep everyone in the loop and different team calls like a business development meeting, or recurrent project meetings. Every day after lunch break there is a “virtual coffee” moment where everyone who wishes can check in to an informal get-together of 30 minutes.

Staying in touch

This can seem like a lot of meetings, but do not underestimate the feeling of loneliness that a lot of remote workers have. Even before Corona induced quarantine, a 2019 study by Buffer found that loneliness was the second-most reported challenge, one experienced by 19% of respondents.

Conclusion

The lock-down and social distancing because of the Corona outbreak forces us to be innovative in the way we work. But with some good planning, intensified (digital) communication and some creative approaches to the way we work, companies can find ways to keep up with the rapidly changing world. Innovation is crucial to anticipate for the future and secure your company’s existence.