In response to the threat presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies and universities have asked employees and students to start working remotely. Luckily, this will not be my first time working remotely…
During the ‘Fees Must Fall' protests, students across the country were forced to work remotely and produce results in order to pass. The only difference between then and now is that I no longer work alone.
Since starting at MO Agency as a digital intern, I have seen many of my colleagues telecommute on numerous occasions and still produce excellent work and achieve impressive results. And now that I get to work remotely for the first time, I’ve gotten some practical experience on how to truly make a success of remote working.
What is remote working?
Remote working allows professionals to work outside the office environment and is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully.
How we make it work
1. Structured daily check-ins
A typical day starts off with a structured daily check-in. This is an essential exercise that:
- Ensures that all existing client work is on track;
- Determines whether we have the capacity to take on more work;
- Ensures that responsibilities are shared equally; and
- Helps avoid bottlenecks in any processes.
Because some tasks & processes take longer than others, those who are responsible for those lengthy tasks are first to give a status update on projects, followed by others contributing and/or overseeing the same project. This process is followed for every team member with each one stating what is needed from whom, and the person running the meeting creating a to-do list.
The technologies involved in this step include:
- Google Calendar: makes it easy to schedule a recurring event for specific members or the entire team.
- Google Hangouts Meet: takes note of all meetings in your calendar and automatically brings up the “join” button upon opening the app. Unlike Slack where you can only view a member’s shared screen via desktop, you can view a team member’s shared screen via mobile as well.
- Gmail: makes it easy to take notes and then distribute them to everyone directly after a meeting.
2. Project Management
This involves using project management tools to ensure efficient use of the team’s time and resources. A more generalised take on building out any project would look something like:
- Specify the tasks that need to happen for the project to be deemed a success;
- From past experience, allocate the necessary amount of time to complete each task and also add a buffer to accommodate any changes that may be required;
- Assign each task together with a deadline to team members; and
- Have each member track the time used for each task.
We use Accelo to execute this part of the process. Accelo has a simple user interface that visualises tasks and their completion rates, task owners and how much capacity they have (how much time they have free or dedicated to other work). This reinforces the even-spread of work and the elusion of bottlenecks.
Communication has to be the one factor that causes debate amongst those who are pro-telecommuting and those who are against it. It is naturally easier to communicate and convey emotion face-to-face than it is over text. However, with "pre-established “rules of engagement” in place, the process becomes easier.
Technologies that can help enable efficient communication include:
- Google Hangouts Meetings, for team meetings and collaboration;
- Zoom, for video conferencing with clients;
- Slack, a collaboration hub that replaces email and allows you to send texts in realtime, share files with individuals or specific team members via channels and so much more; and
- Whatsapp, for urgent requests that need an immediate response.
Most of these tools integrate seamlessly with HubSpot, a powerful CRM tool used to automate marketing, generate leads and improve sales performance through sales enablement - everything necessary to scale your business. For more information on CRM projects download the free eBook here.
- Health and safety: given the current virus outbreak, this is an obvious addition that need not be explained.
- Increased productivity: with more control over my schedule, I’m more refreshed and willing to get my work done, even if it means working overtime.
- Higher engagement: apart from the obvious reasons due to increased communications, I enjoy my work a lot more and I am less likely to be absent (which I am).
- Savings: having to commute from Pretoria to Sandton and back everyday is nothing short of hellish, but I get to save 86% of my fuel spend.
- The biggest opposing factor to working remotely would have to be the lack of a strong internet connection. While some of the tools mentioned above have to be paid for, most of them are free, but what’s the point if you can’t even connect to the internet.
- Not having a dedicated workspace could also pose a threat to productivity. With everyone at home, it’s going to be hard having to share a room or communal space with anyone that’s not on the same mission as you.
- Another factor that is largely understated and on the rise is Remote Work Burnout. Lines get blurred as the distinction between the work place and home become one and the same thing, taking a toll on one's mental and physical well-being.
All these are based on the assumption that all one needs to do their job is a laptop. If you are in need of special equipment or work with physical documents, well then…
Working remotely takes some getting used to - it is not an adjustment that requires any overhauling. It's just about digitising the process and making use of alternative methods here and there. Will companies allow remote working to be an option to employees after the pandemic settles?
This period will surely be a huge determining factor in the evolution of the global labour landscape. Are you considering digitising your processes to help enable remote working for your business? Find out more about our tools, tricks and processes by through our Remote Working Webinar.