Michelle McNamara and Storme Conradie, two individuals with loads of experience working remotely, shared their learnings when it comes to the ups, downs and everything in-between of remote working. You can watch the interview here or read the follow up article here.
During the discussion Storme and Michelle addressed quite a few questions from the viewers, but because this is such a massive topic, they weren't able to get to everything. Below are a couple of FAQs around remote working.
Disclaimer: The insights and advice shared by Storme and Michelle are from their own experiences.
Q: What advice do you have for people trying to navigate the current isolation we are feeling, especially if it is completely new.
A: First, set aside time to have rituals together. Play online games together. Find those who love what you love and engage there, at Over we have channels like #pets for all the fur-kid parents, #eat for the foodies, #watch, and #read which are self-explanatory. We need to fill the silence of what was corridor and water-cooler chats with our virtual example of this.
Second, share and be vulnerable – it is every individual's responsibility to push themselves and share more than they usually would. Compassionate sharing is very important and as is ask for help.
Q: I work as a Product Manager. With the lockdown I'm finding it a lot harder to get my projects completed because I can't seem to relay the sense of urgency when I need feedback or dev work done. Any suggestions on how I can do this better?
A: Push ways of working and asynchronous updates. Outline the boundaries upfront. Don’t write messages in ALL CAPS, please.
Q: How do you onboard new team members and build trust when people can’t meet in person?
A: It is more difficult, but definitely possible. When conducting video chats ensure you are over-communicating - you almost need to double the effort when explaining things - this is intentional communication.
When it comes to building trust it really boils down to taking the time to get to know the person. Ask how they are, how their weekend was. “I often spend the first 10 minutes asking how someone is doing – move past the formal conversations, break down the barriers. Be curious, ask questions, and share."
Q (1): I have been working from home and try to take weekends off when I can, but I find it hard to get back into working mode again. I think it has a lot to do with being in the same environment day in and day out. How do I stay motivated?
A: We’re all feeling this right now. Try creating separate spaces for working if you can. If you can’t do that, create your working environment, and then also change it up. If you always work on the left side of the room, move to the opposite side. A big thing about your brain and neuroplasticity is that new experiences help us to create new neurological pathways in our brains. Create changes and variety. Try and compartmentalise your workspaces from your home spaces, that way at the end of the day, you close your laptop and you’re done, move to the home/relaxation space now.
Q (2): I also have huge amounts of guilt when I’m not motivated because I am able to work when many can’t. Is this something others are experiencing too?
A: Totally normal and you’re not alone here. It shows that you are feeling empathy and compassion for the current state of the world. It is only normal and human to feel demotivated and tired. We are all going through a lot right now. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling, because the sooner you acknowledge that the sooner you can make a plan to get out of the mindset.
Don’t feed the guilt. Find something that makes you feel like you are adding value to the situation – if that’s making a donation or helping a family member who is struggling. Then move your energy into helping there instead.
We are working in unprecedented times, so expecting ourselves to operate normally is out of the question. Remove that expectation.
Q: Zoom calls all day makes me so tired. How can I keep my energy levels up?
A: Take breaks when you can. Make notes on actual paper. Open the windows and let fresh air in. Take time away from your screen.
At first during the lockdown I was scheduling calls after calls and after two weeks it was actually quite exhausting, so now I spread those interactions out where I can and avoid screen time from about 6pm each evening.
Q: What software do you use to communicate efficiently? I'm stuck using about 20.
A: As a huge fan of experimenting with new tools I can recommend:
Collaborative tools like Miro – a digital whiteboard with sticky notes that you can move around. Your entire team can use this at the same time, we’ve done this with around 50+ employees in one go before.
- Slack – a communication platform that takes everything away from WhatsApp (where work shouldn’t be in our opinion).
- Trello – for project management and meeting deadlines.
- Zoom – for all calls.
- Yack – you can record your screen so you can talk someone through a document, and you can also send voice notes.
- Loom – same concept as above for an alternative.
Q: Now my boss thinks I am available outside work hours, how can I set boundaries?
A: A tough one to navigate, but also a simple one to solve. Be clear on your ways of working up front, what hours you’re available, and when you’re not. Have a candid discussion with your boss to set the expectations up front. If you get that message from your boss after working hours, a gentle “Thanks! I’ll get back to you in the morning!” will suffice. Likewise, state what communication platforms you’re available on (email, slack etc.), that way it will be easier for you not to reply to that email after hours because your laptop is now closed for the day.
Another trick, block out your calendar. Block out the time you are available and times you aren’t albeit for focus time or after hours. A clever little tool that integrates with your calendar and can do this for you is Clockwise, it can even help find that precious focus time for you!
Q: It's so freaking quiet here. Any good playlists you could recommend?
Q: How can I make my background look more professional when it's my actual bedroom?
A: Firstly, make it part of your routine in the morning to set your space for work. Make your bed, so you don’t want to jump back in it. Move to your workspace (we spoke about compartmentalising before, now’s that time). Simple tricks, find a blank wall in your home, or move a plant behind you. Or you can play with your virtual background options too, Zoom has a few to choose from and you can also add your own custom ones :) Get creative!
Q: Now that I am home I keep doing chores during work hours. How can I be more disciplined?
A: You know how you need to compartmentalise your space and block out your diary? Well, don’t forget to do this for your home as well. It’s just as important. Just because you’re home all day now, doesn’t mean you don’t need a calm space to rest at the end of your day but don’t let it consume your time or interfere with your focus time at work. Block out strategic times for when you do the dishes or fold your laundry. Set specific cleaning times and then stick to it.