There’s no traffic. Shelves in most convenient stores are empty. Restaurants and bars have shut their doors. For the first time in modern history, large numbers of people around the world are working together by staying at home in an effort to combat COVID-19.
Oh, the stories we will tell future generations.
But for anyone experiencing the ‘work from home’ scenario for the first time, you will soon realise that it’s no easy feat – or at least it takes some getting used to. It requires a sense of discipline and routine that many of us rely on our office environment to provide us. Unlike those who have flexi hours or who have the option to work from home whenever they want, things tend to get a bit tricky when one doesn’t have an office – or a base, if you will – to go to every day.
Last year while we waited for our new offices to be set up, the Quazar team worked from home for just under two months. Armed with Slack and good WiFi, we each set up our home office and proceeded to continue to deliver on the high quality of work that we promise our clients.
How were we able to do this?
Touch, pause, engage
To get the most out of your team working from home, stick with the processes already implemented in your day-to-day operations. Don’t change things too much just because people aren’t in the same room.
We check in daily to ensure everyone is on the same page, and also to kind of catch up and have a laugh. Our daily scrum sessions start at 9:30 AM, include traffic and project managers and client service, and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the projects we are handling at the time. This has been the most important daily routine to stick with. From there, tasks are dished out and any one-on-one communication is conducted over Slack or phone.
But that doesn’t mean we didn’t need to adapt. Because of the seriousness of COVID-19, we have set up an earlier scrum with those who are working on a COVID-specific project. This starts at 8 AM, lasts 20 minutes, and gives us an hour to do some work before we check in again at 9:30 AM with the rest of the team.
The sharpest tools in the toolshed
Adopting digital tools are a great way to ensure that things continue to run the way they have, just with minor, digital tweaks.
However, finding the perfect tool to effortlessly slot into the way you work can be a daunting task. But now’s the time to embark on that task. Pick a problem that needs to be solved, use Google and industry-relevant recommendations to find the best suggestions, sign up for them one by one and play around. Trying them all out all at once by completing an actual task allows you to recognise the slight differences quickly. I promise you now, a simple TAB button shortcut can make all the difference in time saved, making that extra one dollar worth it.
We use Slack to communicate. We have various channels dedicated to different projects and have integrated most of our project management tools to ensure we keep up to date with things we have planned for but that might get lost.
For project management, we use Monday.com which not only sends notifications to a related Slack channel but also allows anyone in the team to get a quick view of what’s in the pipeline or where people are at.
And let me not forget about Zoom! A fantastic tool for meetings or quick discussions – and you don’t always have to use the camera!
No power, no problem
Okay, so we’re working from home and everything is hunky-dory until BAM, the electricity goes off. Thanks, Eskom. At work it’s all good; we have an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) setup which allows a seamless transition into loadshedding. But at home, it’s a different story.
Since our initial work-from-home stint, the Quazar office works from home every Wednesday. One day less to spend hours in traffic wasting petrol. And it’s because of this that I’ve managed to work out how to continue working effectively.
Check this out: Depending on your working hours (ours are 8:30 AM – 5 PM) and loadshedding timetable, you can expect to lose, at max, two and a half hours of production a day. At times, I’ve started work at 10 AM and finished at 4 PM, and at others, I have lost working hours midday – but if you use one hour for lunch, you’re only really losing out on an hour and a half.
To make it work you need to be prepared for the day, not only or your sake, but for your team’s sake, too. Download an app like EskomSePush, inform your team what hours you will be affected, and if you have deadlines shift your personal life to meet them. I either start earlier or work later and always let my team know.
If you’re not working remotely are you even remotely working?
In the beginning, there will no doubt be challenges. It’s lonely, and at times boring; there’s no one to bounce ideas off or to laugh with; no one to give a hard time to or eat lunch with.
But after a few minor adjustments, office banter turns to memes shared on chat groups, you can play whatever music you want at whatever volume, and you start to appreciate the face time you do have with your colleagues, realising just how close you really are and that you might have missed their company.
And trust goes a long way. Not only is it important for you to trust that your team will still work in the same way as they have, but also for you to show and prove that you’re there when they need you. Communicate your fears, let people know about where you are at and if you realise things are getting out of control (like your personal hygiene/work hours/isolation) make a mental note to work on it. Take a shower. Stop working when work is over. Go find a human to talk to. Just no touching!
As veterans in this scenario, I asked my team members for some tips on making it work and here’s what they offered:
- Set your alarm and get up and get ready as if you are going to work
- Make sure you have a stock of coffee (running out at 10 AM is not fun)
- Do exactly what you would do on a normal day – except physically go to work
- Do not work in your pajamas. But if it’s hot, underwear is acceptable
- Leave your house. Sure, we’re in a mild sort of shutdown, but going for a short walk/run is necessary to keep your mind active and clear your head
- Get away from your screen. Working from home can mess up your hours and you find yourself never leaving your screen. When work hours are over, shut down for at least two hours and give your eyes a rest
- The mute button is your friend in meetings!
- Make sure your workspace is separate from your living space so you can ‘lock up’ at the end of the day, even if it’s just mentally
It’s at times like these that change the way we work, and with good WiFi and uncompromised discipline, you might never have to work in an office again.