Making WFH Work: Things We've Learned From one Month of Quarantine 

MARYNA DEMCHENKO

Published: 21 Apr 2020

Building Virtual Teams

Wake up, make coffee, switch on the laptop. Day in, day out. In times of pandemic, our lives can get severely monotonous. Working from home, many of us feel disconnected from the company, so our motivation (and sometimes discipline) may drop. 

In today’s situation, our home office is both a home and an office. To make it work, companies need to use a combination of the right tools and motivational corporate culture. 

Luckily, our software development teams have long since adapted to remote collaboration. We specialize in creating digital workplaces in our Kyiv office, but this time we had to go through some rearrangements to recreate the comfort of our office at home. We have learned a thing or two from this experience and would gladly share it with you.

1. Customize your workplace

Hardly anything is more annoying than having to work with a poor IT infrastructure, let alone sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours on end. We took care of it on the first day of quarantine and took our screens, cameras, and even chairs home. So, if you don’t have a comfortable chair and a big screen at home, maybe there’s an opportunity to have them delivered from your office. With remote work becoming the new norm, it probably makes sense to invest in these supplies. Think how comfortable it could be being able to adjust the height of your chair or PC screen. 

The sofa sure is inviting, but a workspace akin to your office one guarantees better productivity. The right environment will help you achieve higher levels of concentration and get into the work groove quicker. If possible, set up your workspace anywhere, except bedroom. 

2. Over-communication is a necessity

Communication within a remote environment is limited. That’s why learning the art of over-communication is essential. It involves articulating your goals, plans, strategies, expectations, as well as making sure everyone understood you correctly. In the digital world, it can be difficult to correctly interpret the tone, especially if you haven’t met the person before. With that in mind, use more emoticons in written communication and explain your thoughts excessively. Don’t hesitate to reiterate to bring something to everybody's attention. 

Read also: Communication Tools for Your Virtual Team

There’s a variety of great communication tools – Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype for Business, Zoom. Do you use them company-wide? If not, then it’s high time! Thanks to these tools, your communication can be structured with topic-relevant chats, groups, and projects. You can also pin those often used files to the conversations. This way, you will keep everything in one place and accessible with one click. 

We communicate via Microsoft Teams since it comes for free with Office 365, a platform that we have been using for quite a long time. You can even integrate the intranet and collaboration tools into Teams to simplify internal communication and working in teams. 

3. Stick to your old routine

If quarantine is going to teach us anything, it is that we can do everything we do at the office but from home. 

Did you get up, had your coffee and breakfast, checked email, freshened up, got dressed and commuted to work? Well, your daily habits can look the same, minus commuting, of course. In fact, sticking to your old routing helps not to fall out of rhythm. 

On the other hand, with more free time on our hands, there is a perfect opportunity to develop new, healthy habits. Some of us at NCube begin their day with a short walk in the neighborhood. Others meditated for the first time in their life and got more time for reading and cooking. We still hold our daily standup meetings every morning where we briefly explain what we are going to work on during the day. Articulating our activities to others helps complete them.

4. Kill off distractions

No doubt, digital tools make our work easier. But sometimes they create a major distraction. Constant emails and chat notification make it hard to concentrate. Most communication tools these days have a “turn off notifications” mode that you can use and catch on with messages and updates later. Choose a time slot during the day when you want to be reached and when you don't. This gives you a feeling of control and makes your working day more efficient.

5. Take breaks during the day

This is kind of an obvious one: It is important to take regular breaks. They help you to take a step back to evaluate how far you have come today and whether you are satisfied with your results. If not, pause for a moment and think what needs to be changed.

Avoid spending your breaks at your workspace. It’s better to get up, have a drink of water, tea or coffee, or even do some stretching exercises (which is actually one of the benefits of a home office). If you have a balcony or a yard, go out into the fresh air and fill up with some sunlight. If not, open the window briefly to get some oxygen into your room. It will help you feel more energetic and remove the “sleepy” feeling of the stuffy room. 

Have trouble remembering to take regular breaks? Just set a reminder (an alarm clock will also do). If you need more stringent motivation – try the following technique. Concentrate on the task for 20 minutes and take a five-minute break. This way, you make the most of your 20 minute working sessions and get more mindful about the break. 

To sum this one up, take regular breaks, walk away from the computer and only check your messages at an assigned time.

6. Maintain corporate culture

Do you always have a coffee break with your colleagues at 10 a.m. and chat? Keep this tradition alive and meet via video conference for chitchat. It is important to incorporate relaxing elements from time to time in everyday work. Our team at NCube takes coffee breaks together and has even celebrated a couple of birthdays online – with gift opening and after-work beer. Working virtually doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have a sense of connection within the team. Proven by our portfolio of remote software development teams.

 

Hopefully, our tips will help you and your team make the most of your daily work in your home office. These strategies and tools will hopefully soften the blow of isolation as well as put your productivity right back on track. 

If you need help setting up a virtual team in Ukraine – we at NCube are here to help you. Let’s talk! 

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