It’s an interesting and uncertain time for the UK workforce as most of us adjust to self-isolation and the prospect of remote/home working.
At AAI, it’s business as usual, as we’ve been fully remote since day 1, nearly 10 years ago. At the start, as a (then) small not-for-profit, it was genuinely about saving money and resources. As attitudes, and (now Government protocol) has shifted, we see it as a badge of honour.
Of course, not everyone has the experience with this dynamic, so we thought we’d offer our insight on making remote working work for you, along with some top tips from the team and some useful articles we’ve found online.
1. Don’t freak out
If everyone is plugged into the mission, knows what their role is, and has the tools and support to do it, then there is no need for the 9am clocking in under fluorescent lights. Remote working is really quite straight-forward, but accountability, trust and open-communication need to be established if you're going to make it work
2. Stay connected
Technology like Skype/Zoom/Teams, Trello and Google Docs make the functionality of remote work easier. As a fully remote team, Slack has been the backbone of our connectivity for some time, and is essentially our office, watercooler, meeting room, personal sidebar and cat meme-sharing portal that the whole team keeps open all day.
Fundamental to all this is relationships. As a leader, you have to be accessible and transparent. Stay in contact with your team as often as you can, checking in to ‘feel’ the mood.
3. Pick up the phone
You know it makes sense! Make it clear that the ‘virtual’ door is always open and use the phone to ‘hear’ the mood.
4. Stay motivated
Keep the same hours. Working from home is not for everyone - some will embrace it, others will struggle. Along with established communication, maintain some discipline around work hours. Embrace the time you would normally be commuting to the office - go for a walk, a run or give yourself the time to make a proper, healthy breakfast. Don’t see this situation as an opportunity for an extended lie-in! It may seem tempting, but it will drain your energy in the long run.
Breaks are essential. It’s easy to worry about accountability when working from home, but if you don’t take time away from your screen you’ll burn out FAST. Plan your workload around breaks and be honest with your team. We have a Whereabouts channel on Slack for just this. With that in mind ...
5. Embrace flexibility
Appreciate that the circumstances of your team may have changed in terms of their responsibilities now that they are at home. Again, this is all down to communication.
If you are a leader, use your questions:
What’s worrying you?
What do you feel you need to do?
How can I help?
If you are an employee, you should feel comfortable speaking to your line manager or boss about your circumstances. It’s important to have an open conversation about how you can manage to work around other things that matter to you, like family.
6. Stay in business
Although there is undoubtedly uncertainty in the air, we all have a duty of care to our teams and our clients. Be clear about business goals, and be as consistent as possible with your offering and communications.
Some customers and contacts may be taking radical measures, perhaps too radical, and potentially leaving you out of pocket. Don’t let knee-jerk reactions ruin business relationships while working from home. Consult with everyone who can advise you, before doing anything rash.
AAI has been working remotely for years now, and although it can pose challenges, it is far from impossible. There are definite upsides for different people, so I turned to my team for some more tips.
7. Tim, 52, Prestwick, on family
“For previous generations, working fathers often saw very little of their children, and this has been linked to poor family outcomes.
If you have small children they’re probably overjoyed that you’re at home with them. Be flexible, and take some time out to share this joy with them. If you have a garden or a park nearby then go outside and take in some fresh air. It’s a great time for bonding and will likely knacker them out so you can get back to emails!”
8. Mandy, 28, Glasgow, on discipline
“I love working in a team but I feel like I get a lot more done when I work alone. You don’t have that communal pressure to talk to your work colleagues or anyone watching what you’re doing. I feel like I can work at my own pace and really put myself in a “work bubble”.
I try to stick to a daily work schedule and treat remote working like going to the office (with a bit more flexibility!). I’ll get dressed, make myself some coffee, turn on my laptop and start at 9am. To monitor my own work, I have a spreadsheet which I use to check off my to-do’s. Making sure I have a clean, dedicated work area has also really helped me with being more productive.”
9. Nick, 34, Edinburgh, on exercise
“I’ve been working from home for 3 years now and only have just recently joined CodeBase hotdesking for a greater sense of community. One of the things that’s easy to succumb to is laziness. At the start, I would literally sit in bed all day working. That’s awful for your body and mind!
I now get up and do a 7 min full body workout app on my phone. I try to do it daily. Once you start the blood moving around your body the endorphins are sure to follow. If you’re not into that, check out this slightly lighter 5 min stretch workout ”
10. Keep safe, keep smiling and keep doing business