Undoubtedly the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation presents an unprecedented challenge to organisations of all sizes and for each of us as individuals.
During this time, the well-being of our staff and customers is our top priority and so we have taken the decision at the beginning of last week to suspend on-site work for the time being. We will be exclusively delivering our services remotely, with our staff working from home.
Fortunately, we at BDQ have a great deal of experience delivering complex technical solutions remotely and we are taking all the appropriate steps to avoid any disruption to our customers’ projects.
We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to respond to events as they develop and will communicate any changes to our approach as soon as possible.
For organisations and employees that have less experience of working remotely, current events may be difficult to adjust to. We thought we would share some tips that we have found useful over the years.
- If possible, have a dedicated place to work that is not in your bedroom.
- Consider ergonomics and lighting; if you are not comfortable you will not be productive, and it can bring on problems like RSI, back-pain or eye strain. Simple measures like using a laptop stand or even just raising your laptop up on a pile of books with external keyboard and mouse can help significantly. Even a cheap office chair from Amazon is better than a dining chair.
- Depending on circumstances, it may be that you now have a quieter working environment than your usual one. For some this may be a blessing, but others may find the silence difficult to get used to. Try quiet instrumental music or an ambient noise app to simulate office hubbub.
- Due to your commute to work being now taking 0 minutes, you now have more time, but use it wisely.
- Try to keep to your usual start and finish times. New homeworkers expect to find getting started in the morning a challenge but often knowing when to stop can also be a challenge.
- Make it clear to others in your home when you are working and that you need to avoid interruptions.
- When working in the office there are often chances to take a break, for example a quick conversation with a colleague, a trip to the coffee machine. When working from home these chances to take a quick break are less common. Remember to take breaks and take a reasonable time off for lunch away from your new workspace.
- Working separately from your colleagues can be quite isolating. Having a team call first thing in the morning to check in and have a “stand up” meeting can be a good way to break that down, helping to remove any roadblocks that can stand in the way of making progress.
- Interruptions can disrupt work which requires long periods of concentration such as development. Use status flags on your remote tools so that your co-workers know when you are busy.
- If you need to discuss things, set up meetings with agendas, just as you would in the office - ringing your co-workers up without preparation can be disruptive.
Working remotely can make collaborating with your colleagues difficult but the right tools can help.
- Group chat
- We use Slack internally but there are many alternatives.
- For example Microsoft has recently released MSTeams, the old stalwart of Skype and Whatsapp groups are also great to keep a group of people informed about a particular topic - push-notifications to your pocket.
- Set up a channel for off-topic conversation – a kind of virtual water-cooler, if you like – where users can post interesting articles and maintain the social collaboration that you get at an office. Make it clear what kind of content is acceptable. A general chat channel will have different content to an official announcements channel, for example.
- Shared space to collaborate on documents
- Atlassian’s Confluence allows us to have a shared space for documentation, with change tracking, commenting and live simultaneous editing of pages - very useful for meeting notes or preparing documents for external consumption, e.g. for customers.
- For file sharing we use Dropbox.
- Shared view of work in progress and the current status
- Jira gives us this shared view across the distributed team, helping remote users understand what is going on and how work is moving towards being completed.
- Trello can also offer visibility to distributed teams.
Atlassian has recently expanded their free tiers for small teams across their Cloud products. For larger teams, the license costs remain reasonable given that they deliver such productivity.
The Atlassian products can get you up and running quickly but if you need configuration advice or support to get your remote teams up and working, contact us and let us talk about what you need.