7 Tips to Make Working From Home EasyThe Flow TeamLast Updated: April 18, 2020
Flow started like most companies, with our team in office full-time. Now, 10 years after our initial launch, we’re a fully remote company. Making the change can be a long process. For us, it began with more flexibility. We first offered teammates the option to work from wherever they wanted. It looked a little different for everyone. Some people would spend the morning at a local coffee shop, while others would work from their home office before their kids went off to school. If people were under the weather or worried that they might be getting sick, they stayed home to work, avoiding the office to spare us their cold.
We made the transition to completely remote around two years ago. It was the natural next step, and one we spent a lot of time working towards. Lately, teams don’t have the same time to transition. With new software to try, new company policies to establish, and new routines to develop, it may seem daunting. Remote work may feel like it’s not for you, but trust us — you and your team can do it. And once you’re all settled you’ll realize just how amazing working from home can be.
Read on for seven remote working tips that help us stay productive, and do our best work.
Designate a workspace at home
When you first make the transition to remote work, it’s really important to have a designated work space. That could be anywhere, from the end of your dining room table, to your existing home office, or even a TV tray in front of the best spot on the couch. What matters is that it’s a place that you can zero in on work and set aside the usual distractions of home (like dirty dishes or a mile-high laundry pile). When you’ve found that spot, make sure you’re comfortable, and have space for the necessities like a spot to put down your coffee, or keep a little bowl of snacks.
Once you adjust to working from home and have an established routine, you’ll likely find that you can work from other places in your home, too. On cold, rainy days you’re likely to find a few members of our Flow team working from their bed, covered in blankets and a pile of cats.
Start Off Slowly
Working from home or remotely is a different environment than the office, and it will take getting used to. Start off slowly, and set realistic goals for yourself. You probably won’t excel at remote work on your first day at home, and that’s totally okay! Create a healthy routine, just like you would have at the office, and make a point to stick to it. Try working on a small, well defined chunk of work online first, as you and your colleagues are still learning how to be productive in a remote environment. Once you’re all feeling more comfortable, and your work styles have adapted, tackle the bigger projects and less defined work online.
Loop in your team
Even if someone isn’t directly tied to the work you’re doing, it’s important to keep them in the loop. You want everyone to be on the same page, even when you’re working from different places. When you’re in office, it’s easy to take communication for granted. People pass your desk on their way to lunch, or you can hear when they’re on a call. It’s easy to see and hear when someone is available or not, which isn’t the same when you’re working remote. Instead, over-communicate your actions online.
At Flow, we tell people we work with directly when we’re running an errand, off for a break, or if we plan to be heads down for a while. You can do that in a few different ways. With a tool like Flow, you can do that using task subscriptions, or mentioning. Task subscriptions allow you to follow the activity of a task, getting emails or desktop notifications when updates are made, like due date changes, comments, or assignee changes. Mentioning is great for this too, because you can do it in project notes, comments, and task notes. You use @ then the teammates name to mention them, which triggers an email or notification letting them know they’ve been mentioned.
If you use programs like Dropbox Paper or Google Docs, you can utilize the mention feature there as well. When you use @ name to mention a teammate, they will get an email letting them know they’ve been mentioned. This makes it quick and easy to loop in other members of your team. At Flow we use the comment feature in both Google Docs and Dropbox Paper, then mention whoever needs to give the work a look over. For our team, this works best for writing help site articles, blog posts, and to manage feature specs. This method can be adapted and used for almost anything though!
Set Ownership and Due Dates
When you’re working from home, you want ensure nothing is slipping through the cracks. That’s why we firmly believe in giving everything a due date, and assignee. Even if it ends up changing down the road, having that initial info set will help you stay on track. The rest of your team will appreciate it too! It enables them to see who the stakeholders are on specific projects and tasks, and who to direct questions or concerns to. Knowing when work is coming due will also allow you and your teammates to plan further out than just a day or two, as you’ll be able to see the work on your plates.
Setting due dates and assigning work can be done in a few ways. Flow has it built into the basic structure of our program. Any other good project management tool will also prioritize these features, or ones like it. If you’re using Google Docs or Dropbox Paper, try setting up a calendar event with the due date, time, and link to the document. Most calendars have event reminders, so you can schedule an email to be sent the day before, or the hour before, your work is due.
Don’t give up on meetings
Even though you won’t be face to face, remote meetings can be just as effective. There are tons of tools out there that enable teams to easily connect over video calls. At Flow, we use Zoom, though many other teams use Skype, Google Meet, or Slack. When you’re picking the app your team will use for meetings, try and find one that has screen sharing. If you have slides or documents to show, you can ensure everyone in the meeting is reviewing that information together.
We also schedule at least one company wide meeting a week. It’s typically 15-45 minutes, on a Monday or Tuesday, and covers big updates that everyone needs to know about. In tandem with that, each department at Flow has a weekly planning meeting. These are usually at the start of the week, and cover what each teammate plans to do for the week. These meetings are also really important to catch up. Try to leave a little time at the beginning of each meeting where people can catch up and chat.
Work should be more than just work
When you’re working from an office, people often take breaks with teammates to grab coffee, and lunch. Or when you need a mini break, you can spin your chair and have a chat with your desk mate. These small bits of conversation help to build trust and camaraderie. That’s why it’s so important that even when you’re remote, you make time for these little moments. Maybe you video call someone while you’re both on lunch and chat while you’re eating, or use a chat system, with some non-work related channels.
At Flow, we have all sorts of channels for this type of chatting. From Cats and Dogs where we share pictures of our furry friends being very cute, to Celebrations for birthdays. We even have a channel in Flow aptly named Watercooler, where we talk about all things that pique our interest.
Go Easy on Yourself, and Your Team
Lastly, be kind to yourself! This is a huge transition for you and your team. Things are likely to be a little rocky in the start. But with a little patience, and the willingness to try something new, you’ll dominate remote work in no time.
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