Working from home can indeed be challenging, and without a plan, it’s a fast way to failure. We want this time to be a success story for you, so we’ve assembled a few tips for you to stay productive while working remotely.
Full disclosure: We are a Microsoft Gold Partner and this article focusses on Microsoft Teams. However, the content and tips within this article still apply if you’re using other collaboration apps like Zoom or Slack.
Before we start: You’ll need collaboration software
For simplicity, security and because it is now free, we recommend Microsoft Teams. If you want to find out more on how Microsoft teams check out these resources from Microsoft.
- Intro to Microsoft Teams
- Working on documents at the same time
- Manage projects and tasks
- Managing external access
- Train your staff
- Get free advice with Microsoft Teams
- Get Teams Free!
Setting up the groundwork
Set up your workspace at home
While you may not have a state-of-the-art home office, that doesn’t mean you still can’t be productive. Finding a quiet place with no distractions can increase your focus and productivity. It doesn’t matter what your home office looks like, you can always count on Microsoft Teams’ features.
With Teams you can upload, download and share documents, securely store files where only the right people can access them and quickly jump into calls and meetings with your colleagues.
Find a quiet place for you to work during the day and make sure to keep it uncluttered to avoid distractions.
It’s easier to focus when the mind’s attention isn’t being pulled continuously towards that old soda can that’s been in your desk since the day before, or that article you were reading during your break. However, things come up, and you need to be prepared.
You can help your teammates and colleagues keep focused during video conferences by enabling Microsoft Team’s background blur, so everybody can stay focused on the matter at hand.
It’s also possible to choose from the many background effects available. The dog can now walk past behind you unnoticed.
Communication is key
Even though most of us are currently working from home, that doesn’t mean everyone can maintain the same schedule and rhythm they previously did when working in the office.
Especially for those trying to balance childcare with work, keeping the usual rhythm can be particularly tricky. In those cases, excellent communication makes all the difference.
Make sure to clearly communicate your working hours with your colleagues and teammates, so they know when to reach you.
An easy way to do this is to set a status message on Microsoft Teams to share this message proactively.
Another way to communicate with your team is through the Teams channels. There, you can set specific channels for specific matters and include whoever is involved so everyone can be updated at the same time. Share reports, insights, helpful resources and important documents with your team so you can stay connected even while working apart. Later, they can refer to the channel and search for content whenever they want.
Keep active, stick to routines.
As humans, we are used to having a routine and following it daily. It is a way for our brain to save energy for other things rather than thinking about whether to brush your teeth in the morning or not. When that routine is disrupted, we don’t receive the signals that once triggered certain behaviours anymore, so it may require a little effort from our part to adapt.
The morning coffee might have been unconsciously telling you that now is time to get to work. The commotion of people getting up from their desk to the lunch area might have been what triggered you to feel hungry, take your lunch break and walk to your favourite nearby restaurant.
That task scheduled for 4pm every workday might have been your unconscious signal that you were going home soon. Now that most people are working from home, those signals are gone, which can lead to working for long periods without any breaks for exercise, socializing, or a proper meal.
Fewer breaks lead to more stress which can quickly lead to burnout. Put your health first and make sure to set a specific time for meals, walks and breaks, and don’t forget, do drink plenty of water.
If necessary, set a reminder to stop working at the end of the day to make sure you’re not straining yourself. This will not only help in keeping you healthy but will also make you more productive in the long run.
Have great meetings online!
Encourage online meetings
Meetings are a fundamental part of every business’ way of working. They are essential to settle matters, discussions, planning and much more. Working remotely without a conference room can seem daunting, but with Microsoft Teams’ virtual conferences, your team will be willing for nothing.
Simply add a virtual “join” option to create an online conference room. Encourage all participants to enable their video so everybody can see each other. That face-to-face interaction can help members connect and truly feel like part of the team even when working from home.
Respect and include everyone in the meeting
In online meetings, it can be sometimes hard for a colleague to speak their mind without those visual cues we’re so used to observing in a physical conference room. To avoid that, the meeting organizer should make pauses and always pay attention to the dynamics of the meeting.
Pauses leave room for your teammates to speak, share their opinions and insights. Sometimes, further inquiring can be what’s missing: ask if anyone has anything else to say and encourage questions and sharing.
Record for viewing later
Working remotely can cause the need for more meetings to make up for the lack of face time. With all those extra meetings, employees can sometimes be overwhelmed with the overlapping of meetings and appointments they can’t possibly attend.
Thankfully, Microsoft Teams has just the right tool to help your company avoid that problem: you can record the meeting in Teams so other people can catch up later or refer to what has been said simply and easily. The automatically generated script offers a text version of the meeting so you can see everything that was said in just a glance. Who said online meetings had to be difficult?
Keep in contact
Keep your social game going
One of the big complaints about working remotely is not having those hallway talks anymore. Those conversations were not only good for unwinding and connecting with teammates, but it was also an excellent opportunity to brainstorm and share insights one hadn’t thought of before.
Don’t hesitate to reach out and connect to your colleagues and co-workers, even when working from home. Use the chat messaging option on Teams as a temporary replacement for those watercooler conversations and set yourself a reminder to regularly.
You can even keep it fun and light by using emojis, GIFs, and stickers!
Celebrate the little things, bring everyone together
Not seeing the team in the office may feel isolating for some. Workers are used to meeting up for lunch, during meetings, in the hallways, during coffee breaks, etc., so not seeing anyone at all is a significant change, especially for those who live alone.
It is the leader’s job to make sure their team is still connecting by creating opportunities for the whole team to get together virtually.
Are you used to having lunch together with everyone? Use Microsoft Teams’ online conferences.
See something everyone might enjoy? Share it to the “General” channel in Teams. Planning on doing a brainstorming session for your next project? Use the Microsoft Whiteboard app so participants can directly collaborate in Teams. Team leaders can also use the Crisis Communication Power App to keep everyone updated on what they need to know during this outbreak.
We shared with you many tips and ideas on staying productive and sane while working from home, and now it’s your turn to adapt what you’ve read to your own organization and try things out.
Some tips might work better than others, or you might even come up with your own ideas. Feel free to share with us how these tips have helped you to better connect and communicate with your team during these difficult times!