We’ve been working remotely since 2007, so we’d like to share some tips on making your work-at-home experience as productive as possible.
Hardware: Most people have a laptop that they can use in any room of the house, but some people will need additional hardware like pcs, printers and scanners for team members to work effectively from home. Companies like Xerox are offering surprisingly inexpensive work-at-home packages to get you up and running quickly.
Online Meeting Software: Most people are using Microsoft Office at this point, but not everyone uses the Teams tool. For internal meetings especially, this tool is great for group chats, group voice calls and screen sharing. The old saying, “A picture paints a thousand words”, holds true. Sometimes there is no substitute for seeing someone else’s screen when trying to explain something.
Another great tool is Slack. It has some additional tools for classifying projects, organizing conversations and storing information and files in a searchable archive.
For outside clients, online meeting tools are a great way to do make presentations, address technical support issues, do product demonstrations, and present proposals. I have used almost every tool out there including Gotomeeting, Skype, and Zoom. I prefer Gotomeeting personally, as I like its ability to switch back and forth between presenters, draw on the screen, and record important meetings. I rarely use the webcam feature on any of these systems, as I feel they are a bit jumpy and distract from the meeting content.
Create an agenda: Ever been on a conference call where the presenter rambles on with seemingly no point? Me too. It’s one of most people’s biggest pet peeves. Whatever technology you are using, stop to create a quick agenda of topics to cover before you begin the meeting. I will keep everyone on track and help you develop a reputation for being focused and professional.
Know when to use what tool: It’s great that we have this technology available to us, but let’s face it, sometimes it gets on the way. I often find that for quick questions, a phone call is often faster than a lengthy email or an online meeting. Most people are busy, and appreciate brevity when it’s called for.
Minimize Distractions with a Structured Day: For some people, the flexibility of working at home can also mean being distracted by kids home from school, household chores, and other day-to-day things that you don’t have to worry about in your office. To keep you focused, I recommend using what I refer to as a ‘structured day’. This simply means dividing up your day into a few different parts. How long you spend on each section depends a lot on what you do, so keep that in mind.
Part One – Responding, organizing and meetings. The couple of hours of each day, I spend my time reading and responding to emails, making phone calls, having meetings, organizing tasks, and getting things in place to move to the next part of the day, which I refer to as ‘groove time’.
Part Two – Groove time. This is the part of the day where I produce work. For me it could be writing a marketing plan, doing research, designing something, writing copy, or posting on social media. For you it may be totally different, but regardless of what you do, it is supposed to be uninterrupted time to concentrate on whatever you are working, without distractions like the answering the phone, checking email, having meetings or dealing with the kids. It can be as short or as long as necessary – whatever it takes to accomplish what you’ve set out to be done that day.
Part Three – Clean up, more meetings and planning. I usually reserve a couple of hours toward the end of the day to respond to emails and calls that came in throughout the day, have more meetings if necessary, and organize tasks and materials for the next day.
For more information about tips for working at home, NPR has a great article.