Remote working and the effectiveness of distributed teams has been heavily debated over the years, but now more than ever it’s something many more people are choosing or circumstantially needing to do globally. Optimising a working from home strategy for businesses and staff is turning quickly into an essential, not a ‘luxury’.
Even for teams that are used to working from home, it’s a positive exercise to review business and team productivity and see where operational and cultural improvements can be made to keep your team connected, productive and efficient.
At Linkilaw, for over 5 years we have operated an internal structure which creates a working environment that allows us to do exactly what we need, any time of day, wherever we are. Not only is this highly effective for staff growth, it means we are able to provide efficient service to all our clients, at all times.
Sometimes we are all in the same place, sometimes we are all in different places, and sometimes we are in smaller sub-groups, in different places. So, what is the key to ensuring that your productivity and valuable work is always at its peak?
These are our 5 essentials for remote working our staff use to be on top of their game, wherever they are:
1. Plan your week, down to each 30-minute slot.
Having a visual plan of your week and an up to date diary not only keeps you on track and in control of your workload, it creates a structure to lean on when you have moments of uncertainty or overwhelm.
A simple and quick strategy, quite often not used but very effective, diary management is an essential for getting things done. In your calendar invite description box, try adding in anything you need for that piece of work (documents, links, notes), so you aren’t spending time searching for what you need.
This gives you clarity that at the time you are sitting at your ‘desk’, you know you have everything you need to get into your work. Working on one thing at a time improves your ability to get it done best.
Colour-code your meetings
When you have a team or external meeting, have a separate colour to blocks of time scheduled for your solo work. This is a very useful flag for any meeting you need to prepare for and to get a feel for your day ahead in a matter of seconds.
Share your diary with your whole team
Shared diaries enable you to communicate through tech what you are working on and when you are available for a meeting – no more distractions from team members to check when you are free. Organise your diary not just for yourself, but your team too.
If you are working in separate time zones, turn on your working hours feature. This will flag to your team for any proposed meeting outside of your time-zone, again reducing that frustrating ‘scheduling admin’.
2. Three Strikes
If it takes more than three forms of written communication to discuss a piece of work or a task, (i.e. three emails), speak! It can often take longer to decipher the interpretation of a written message, even if you know your colleagues really well. This is especially important for creative, product and development teams.
The essential here is to never make an assumption, always ask and clarify. Use your time to get complete clarity, so when you are doing your work, you know you are working towards the same goal. Not only can this save you time down the road, but it builds the relationship with your colleagues and keeps things human.
This is especially important if you are a distributed and multi-lingual team – remember everyone’s mother-tongue may differ, and clarity around expectations and the end result is what will keep you moving and motivated together.
3. Separate work and play
Of course, there are more opportunities – multiple times in a day – to mix work and home life. It can be easy to get distracted at home in a similar way you can in the office, whether it’s a colleague, a delivery, or your pet. Anything that ‘stop-start-stops’ you is fatal to productivity.
The essential here is to think ahead to what your distractions will be, and then mitigate against them in advance. This can be anything from turning off notifications on your devices while you are working on specific tasks, or having a pet-free-zone workspace at home.
Recent analysis of multitasking says it takes 23 minutes to recover from a distraction. Say for instance you have on average five distractions a day, that’s nearly two hours of refocusing. Creating focus time at home if consciously intended, gives you more headspace and creative thinking time than in an office – this is optimised working gold!
Home may feel more informal, but separate work and non-work times – that includes lunch. Take the time and space you would if at work at home for your lunch break. Find what works for you – working through until 1pm if your productivity is much more heightened in the morning, or break at 12noon if you know you have reached your focus peak. Step away, then come back.
At the end of the day, tidy your desk for the next working day – the same as you would if you were in an office. This creates a line between work time and home time so the two don’t blend and distractions don’t impose.
Responsibility, accountability and trust are the cores of effective remote teams. When you are working, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is, ‘What is the impact of what I’m doing right now?’.
This could be a message to a colleague, a work request or your own work. In a team, everyone’s work impacts everyone else – and the business. If you feel you should get clarity on something, or you need something from a team member to complete your task, plan this in.
If you would deliver a piece of work with a verbal explanation in an office, write that rational in an email when you share that piece of work, or deliver by video or phone call. The aim is to get to your goal in the most direct, clear and productive way possible to your team – like a relay race. The best way to achieve this is to understand the impact of your work and how you deliver it.
The downside of remote working can often be disconnection. Not seeing much of anyone else can be lonely. One great rule to combat this is ‘video call as a first choice’. It is the next best thing to being in person as a remote worker. This can be for very short catch ups – even one question.
Having a habit of video call first keeps things human and gets you interacting with each other in a way you would if you were together. For some teams, a live video feed joining all the teams together is an option that can really bring remote teams to life – for work, having lunch or even brainstorming those moments of inspiration.
We remain available to answer your questions, provide legal support to your business operations and help you brainstorm new ideas as you take this time to reflect and regroup.