2020 is not turning out the way we had all expected, and certainly not the way we had hoped. In the short term, this is impacting how we socialize, the kinds of hobbies and sports we can enjoy, and in many cases even the places we can go and the services we can use.
Did I mention that the way we work is also undergoing a radical transformation? Having worked in an office my entire career, I have to say that it’s taken a while to get accustomed to not making that commute every day. While I miss my big screens and my desk, I’ve made do with my laptop and an iPad as a second screen – thank you Sidecar! I have my headphones to help me concentrate, and I’ve become accustomed to multiple interruptions throughout the day as my wife and I pause to help our kids navigate their schoolwork.
I’m not saying that this is easy, but it’s working, and I see loads of other people in a similar boat. It makes me think of the viral BBC video from 2017, showing a man being interrupted by his children during a live interview. Judging by how frequently this exact thing happens these days (apart from the live TV interview), I don’t bat an eyelid.
Driven by technology
Just think, none of this would have been possible even a few short years ago. In the grand scheme of things, we’re very fortunate to have the technologies and applications that make remote work a much more feasible prospect.
That doesn’t mean that the transition to remote work has been without hiccups. High profile apps like Zoom have come under incredibly scrutiny. At first, people flocked to the application, driving the site’s traffic up by over 500 percent in just a month. Then came word of security flaws, with some even calling the app ‘malware’ and a ‘privacy disaster.’
But as we abandon our offices in droves – albeit temporarily – it isn’t all bad news. Our new environment gives us a clean slate to try out new apps and find better ways to engage with colleagues. And if your teammates are anything like mine, you can have some fun along the way.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few common-sense tips that will help remote working suck a little less.
Change up these five things
- Utilize video calls: Webex Teams and Microsoft Teams are the gold standard for business communications these days. They both provide great video conferencing options and are generally stable enough for large groups and easy screen sharing. Microsoft Teams has a useful background ‘blur’ feature that keeps the video focused on participants, and not on the things happening around them. It’s easy to use, too.
Zoom, although less business oriented (and arguably less secure) gives users even more freedom to add new backgrounds – a feature which Microsoft is rolling out, as well. Whatever your video tools, use them, and use them a lot. We’ve implemented optional team chats, catch-ups and happy hours to stay connected. It’s truly amazing how much closer these things can bring you.
- Invite spontaneity: One thing I miss about being in the office is the spontaneity of conversations. It can be far too easy to fall into a rut being at home without interacting, so we have to be more intentional about reaching out to others.
If you feel like you’re missing out on ad hoc encounters, try sharing your personal Webex link with your team and designating an ‘open office’ time for anyone to hop on a quick video conference with you. You can try preparing some trivia or Jeopardy-style questions, shoot the breeze for a while, or just commiserate.
When it’s time to relax, our team has tried things like Jackbox.tv, and an online version of Scattergories, and we’ve even used an online wheel to help us pick the next person’s turn.
- Get moving: These days I often get up and start working by 7 a.m. Judging by the emails I see bouncing around and the chats firing up, a lot of other people are early birds, too. That may be great for productivity in the short term, but we need to create boundaries between work time and ‘me’ time to keep our mental and emotional health in tip top condition.
As we head into nicer weather in the norther hemisphere, block out your calendar a couple of times every day to stretch your legs with a walk around the block or just get some fresh air. You deserve it.
- Avoid work-creep: Maintaining routine in our workdays is important if we want to avoid the dreaded ‘work-creep.’ I’m not exactly good at doing this myself, which is why I know this is so important.
Try to treat every day as though it’s a normal workday by sticking to a regular routine. Wake up at the usual time, work out at the usual time. And rather than eating breakfast and lunch at our desk (which in my case is a dining room table), we should try to get some separation from our “office” with a change of scenery.
- Tackle a nagging project or learn a new skill: If you’ve had a big project on the back-burner for some time, now might be the perfect opportunity to tackle it. Better still, find a way to divide and conquer the work by creating a project team with your peers.
Being in this new environment may give you the time you need to learn valuable new skills or explore new tools that help you stay productive or organized.
Our current work-from-home situation is likely to be with us for a long time, even after offices and businesses have re-opened. It’s going to be a new normal, but it’s one that I’m actually looking forward to.