Some Tips for Effective Remote Working
Many people are finding themselves having to work from home for the first time during this crisis. With the added pressure a lockdown brings, how do we cope effectively, and what tools do we use when working?
At this unprecedented time of enforced social isolation many people have found themselves having to work from home for the first time. Although this can sometimes be a godsend initially as the stresses of long commutes are eliminated, it brings with it its own challenges as we try to mind children, run a household and attempt to fulfill our work obligations effectively. Remote working can also bring a multitude of mental health considerations with it, that are exacerbated at this time, as just about all conventional social outlets are now off limits. So as the novelty of working from home starts to fade and we settle in to what could be a longer than anticipated haul, how do we cope?
Work Time is not Home Time
One potential pitfall of working remotely is blurring the lines between work and home life. This can be improved by setting up a designated workspace, where you can. Then try to find ways to delineate work time from home time. Go for an end of day walk, run or any other form of exercise, to help wind down from the work day. Or seek another way to end the work day and begin your evening at home, like watch a non-work related podcast if it’s raining cats and dogs outside. Do the household chores before you begin working, or leave them until the end of the day. Doing one thing while you are thinking about, or are preoccupied with another, creates stress. Avoid stress wherever possible.
Look after yourself. Due to the ‘always on’ accessibility of remote working, sometimes it can be tempting to work late into the evenings, to neglect family, to ignore the need to exercise. This can lead to irritability and morph very quickly into burnout. Work when you are working, play when you are playing. Focus on your family commitments and responsibilities in totality when you need. Try as best as you can not to mix your work and household duties. Make time for all and make time to relax.
Fundamentally you need to find what works best for you and your situation. It may be that working in the evening is better, or the mornings, or indeed the afternoons. But the key thing is to do what is best for you, so that your work, family and social obligations are all fulfilled. Neglecting any area of your life can increase anxiety.
Foster Healthy Remote Working Practices
As a distributed company, Annertech has engaged in remote working right from the outset. Initially the team were all based in the same country, with many in the same city and then the same island, but with the growth of the last few years we are scattered across Europe and beyond. Annertechies are now located in nine different countries across three different time zones. As the company has grown and dispersed it has become increasingly important to foster the elements of healthy remote working amongst the team.
We utilise a range of tools to help. These include:
A recently very popular video conferencing application, we find calls with video are much more productive than just audio calls
Which is a Slack-like chat application, and allows for quick feedback, instant messaging
For storing company documentation, how tos and guides in a GDPR-compliant manner
- Google Calendar
For schedules, so we know where to be when
For storing code and some documentation, and keeping it all version controlled
A secure means to store passwords, so we have unique passwords per person per service
Leaving aside the current lockdown, physical meetings within Annertech are rare due to the tyranny of distance. However we try to build relationships within the company and with clients via the following:
- Daily company 15 minute Zoom call, which remains optional, but with the primary purpose of a quick early day catch up and to see how everyone is.
- Regular and irregular zoom calls to help build relationships and share knowledge.
- RocketChat is on all the time and broken into a range of work (individual room per project, for example) and non-work (book club, foodies, etc channels) related channels. Some of these ban channel-wide mentions to reduce noise.
- Friday zoom drinks is a new phenomenon, which does not necessarily replace going out to a pub (nor does it mean you have to drink alcohol), but it does help ameliorate some of the socialisation deficit we are all experiencing.
Effective remote working is a skill, but with the right attitude it is a skill that anyone can master. And if mastered it can lead to a greatly satisfying work life balance, high degrees of productivity and increased levels of harmony at home and at work.
So in summary:
- Utilise all tools and technologies that you can to help in your work.
- Set up a dedicated workspace where possible.
- Seek ways to clearly mark the line between work and home life.
- Focus, focus, focus.
- Look after yourself and find the balances that work best for you.
If you want to talk with any of us about our remote work set-up, get in contact and we'd be very happy to share what works and doesn't work for us.
Nick Morahan Support Engineer
Nick is a support engineer, based in Galway, but originally from New Zealand. Much of his work is on "mini projects" - new features and enhancements to our clients' currently-existing websites.