Working from home became the only way to get work done during COVID. It was tough. Especially for new startup teams as well as individuals who usually spend their working hours in a dedicated space. However, we were lucky because we have been perfecting our remote working techniques for years.
We can confidently call ourselves remote working pros. Although we worked from our offices in London’s Soho Works pre-virus, our network included 150 freelancers from all over the world. To keep the Chapter team connected, we use Asana, Streamtime, Slack and GSuite, with lots of video calls all while juggling different time-zones every single day. And most importantly, efficient project and time management helps us to achieve our goals.
Today we’re excited to reveal our arsenal of work from home tips. They’re built on years of experience, testing and figuring out what works and what’s just a gimmick. These tips are perfect for the startup founder looking to better manage their team or an employee who is looking for inspiration to connect with their colleagues. Working remotely is daunting at first, but you are sure going to smash it after reading our guide to working effectively from home:
On managing yourself
Create a Morning Routine That Works
Whatever it might be, having a morning routine is a way to ease your mind into work-mode (and stay healthy!) We are, after all, creatures of habits. Everyone needs different things in the morning to feel their best and a morning routine can be anything that makes you energized and motivated (or at least, not sleepy!).
Set your boundaries
Work from home might not look like work from someone who has never done it. It looks like you are just spending a lot of time in front of the screen which is why setting boundaries with the people you share your space with is really important. If you have kids, they should be aware of what is allowed and what isn’t during work hours. Set expectations about chores too. Just because you are technically at home, you are working, and family members should know who is going to take on what chores.
Let’s talk about breaks, baby
To put it simply: no breaks, less productivity. If you are working for a company, learn about their break policy. If you run the company, be transparent about break times for your team.
Then, make sure to use breaks instead of spending hours at your desk without getting up. Time flies when you are intensely working on something, so setting alarms or using apps will make you remember when it’s time for a well-deserved break.
There’s a neat little (free!) Chrome extension for taking small breaks that is conveniently called Micro Breaks. It will nudge you any time you should take a break, breathe deeply or stretch and its settings are customizable. It is also perfect for avoiding eye strain by reminding you to look in the distance.
Marinara Timer is web-based and great for working with teams who need to coordinate their breaks as you can share your timer with colleagues. You can either set up your custom break interval length or use the classic Pomodoro technique (an interval of 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break, and a 15-minute one after the fourth interval).
Focus Keeper is a free time-blocking app for iOS. It might not work for everyone, but it will work wonders for those who want to have a sharp focus on a specific task (like 25 minutes). One neat thing about it is that all the settings can be customised, like the duration of the tasks and breaks, different alarm sounds and setting your daily goals. You can also keep track of your progress over a 14 or and 30-day interval.
Create your #WFH workspace
If you’ve never worked from home before, it can definitely take some time to develop a home working station which serves all of your daily needs. Start out with designating a desk or table to support your work in a decluttered area of your home with decent lighting. Then, look into the ways to optimise ergonomics and support your working posture. Although a fancy ergonomic office chair may be the first thing to come to mind, investing in your posture can start from as little as £24.99 with a laptop stand.
Our team loves using MOFT laptop, tablet and phone stands to aid our bad slouching habits. Elevating your screen to match your eye level is important for healthy working posture as well as preventing neck and back pain. And guess what, even grandma would be proud seeing us sitting straight!
Make your work space zen
Apart from making your work from home space ergonomically better suited, you should also make it cosy and comfortable.
Start by decluttering and get rid of all the unnecessary papers and trinkets you have on your desk (no, you don’t need that souvenir from Morocco you’ve received years ago, old flyers or candy wrappers).
Once it’s all looking clean, you are good to go with phase 2: placing all the essentials you will be using in an organised and, dare we say, smart way.
So, your water bottle goes on one side. Then there’s the omnipresent notebook, a pen, a phone and headphones. Perhaps you need your tablet or you need your favourite plant to keep your mind fresh. Whatever it is, make sure it has its own place, feels comfortable and doesn’t get in the way.
Keep it simple and clear your workspace from unnecessary distractions. That will help you stay more focused and, thus, more productive during your day.
Tech to stay on track | Digital Communication & our must-have tools
Where would we be without all the amazing apps that help us stay organised? Honestly, we don’t want to know…. Tech is your friend, especially when you are working from home.
One tool we absolutely love is Asana. It is a great way to delegate tasks to your team members and keep everyone in the know when it comes to projects. You can create boards, have a calendar view and also comment on each other’s tasks to work collaboratively.
Another tool we could not live without is Slack. Yes, people loved or hated their redesign, but it remains a powerful and easy way to communicate without getting lost in an email thread (our worst nightmare). With Slack, you can also have different channels and you receive messages in a chat format. Private messages are also there to keep you from spamming the entire group.
We use these two tools interchangeably, but for slightly different purposes. Asana is hands-down the best tool we have tried for up and coming tasks. Then Slack ‘’fills in the gaps’’, especially if a quick answer is needed.
For time-tracking and mapping out projects, checking a projects profitability etc we use Streamtime, this is a really effective way for us to manage our quotes, invoices and project progress paying close attention to costs, expenses and profitability.
Nothing beats an online meeting
Lastly, the importance of face-to-face interactions while working remotely is paramount. Here at Chapter, we use Google Hangouts, but there are plenty of paid and free options to explore from these providers;
- Zoom: unlimited 1-to-1 meetings and up to 40 minutes group meetings for free. Paid options for longer group meetings and a larger number of participants. Known for best audio quality.
- Skype: free and paid. Known to be more secure than Zoom.
- Whereby: free for up to 4 participants and paid from $9.99 – $59.99
- Discord: like a mix between Reddit and Slack. It was developed primarily for gamers, but it offers a lot of functionalities for a team of up to 25 people. It has public and private channels and it is free to download (Win, Mac, Linux,iOS, Android). Premium Discord Nitro is also available.
- Microsoft Teams: Perfect for small teams like startups, has coauthoring, file sharing and guest access features. – Free and paid
Be a team. For real.
Here’s a fact: everyone depends on each other. As a founder, you depend on the talent you employ. As an employee, you depend on your colleagues (day-to-day) as well as your founder (for leadership). Fostering a sense of community is of high importance for any business, but even more so during the pandemic, including startups in particular.
Startups usually have small teams that need to be versatile in order to make it work. Our interview with Dame Stephanie Shirley, a pioneer of the freelance work culture gave some perfect examples of these challenges Coronavirus or not, you want your employees to feel supported and appreciated so that they put their best work forward. Just ask independent creative recruiter Nikky Lyle, who argues, hiring new team members shouldn’t slow down in uncertain times.
This can be achieved by making sure everyone knows what they’re working on and what their goals are. A good question to ask yourself is “what are we working towards?” Clear objectives make it easier to stay on track and achieve desired outcomes.
Create a trusting work culture
Giving your colleagues a sense of independence and trust will make them feel motivated. When they take on more responsibility, they are more likely to feel proud of their achievements and build the confidence to take on new heights. That is the kind of culture and appetite you want to be cultivating
In a team environment, working on keeping egos in check is also important. It is ideal to inspire self-confidence in the team while making sure team-destructive traits are left behind such as; to need to be right, gossip, entitlement, complaining and negativity. Everyone is working towards a similar goal and will get there faster when they support and appreciate each other along the way rather than focus on the negatives and get sidetracked. Be there for your teammates. They are called ‘’teamMATES’’ for a reason.
We hope these key tips help you and your team to achieve a smooth and collaborative remote workplace. Don’t forget, the four essential areas that align an optimise your working from home experience include managing yourself in a healthy way, creating the right space for your work, collaborating & communicating effectively and inspiring positive team culture despite the distance. Already a remote working pro with some more tips? Looking to improve your WFH methods? Get in touch with us, we’d love to hear from you!
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