Five Tips on Working Remotely

Posted: Apr 17, 2020
Strategy Tech Support

Due to the current global pandemic, many companies and organizations have had to close their offices and take their day-to-day jobs online. If you have been working from home during this time, you may be in one of two categories: “This is efficient and has not affected work flow” or “Working from home has been a struggle and I can’t wait to get back to the office.”  Vanguard has been working remotely since 2014, and not to toot our own horn, but we have become experts in working efficiently from home.

Whether you have been thriving or struggling, here are five helpful tips to help your organization thrive until things go back to normal:

Limit Distractions

If you are used to working in a quiet office space and are now stuck working at home in the same space as your spouse, significant other, kids, or pets in addition to a number of other distractions, it may be difficult to concentrate. Many people are out of their element and had to establish a make-shift space in their home. If this established workspace is not working, make sure the distractions in this space are limited.

  • The only electronics in your space should be the devices you are using for work. (Yes, you need to keep the TV off)
  • If you cannot isolate in a designated room, ask others who are sharing the same space to be courteous and limit noise/disturbances.
  • Turn off social media notifications on your devices during work hours.
  • Stick to your normal working hours. If you typically work 9am to 5pm, stick to that. During this time, stay in your workspace if possible.
  • If you find yourself distracted, it’s okay to take a five-minute break.

Communicate Effectively

It is important to maintain your similar workflow, only virtually. If you can keep the workday similar to the way it was in-person, the familiarity will help to better communication. Always keep to an agenda and stay in communication with your team throughout the day, as you would in the office, if not more. Do not make drastic changes to internal processes and procedures during this time. There is enough change happening in the work environment and making additional changes to standard practices that employees have come accustomed to may be confusing and overwhelming. Save that for when everyone is comfortable in their at-home setting, or when you are back in office.

If you have not been conducting morning meetings, now is the time to start. Give your employees a chance to ask any questions right at the beginning of the day over a conference line. Also, a meeting first thing in the morning can set the team on track for a productive day. Divvy up the workload as normal, but make sure everyone is aware what the other team members are working on. Send updates to your team on what you have accomplished and keep each other copied on emails. If you have noticed that less work is being done or there are flaws in the workflow, consider ending the day with a virtual meeting as well to go over what was accomplished and what will need to be worked on the following day.

Utilize online tools

Communication is the most important aspect of working from home. There are many tools you can utilize to continue normal workflow virtually. Vanguard utilizes several online tools to stay organized and in constant contact with our team. Here are a few essential tools you may want to utilize:

  • Instant messenger – Walking over to a coworker to ask a quick question is not an option, not everything is important enough for a phone call, and you may not get a quick enough response via email. We recommend utilizing an instant messenger tool. Tools such as Zoho CliqSlack and Microsoft Teams offer some great instant messaging options.
  • File sharing – Virtual file sharing is essential when you are working remotely. Applications such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are great options to share files with one another in a quick and seamless manner.
  • Note taking and sharing applications - Taking, sharing and organizing notes is made easy virtually. Applications such as Microsoft OneNote and Evernote allow you to take notes privately or share across an entire team.
  • Virtual meeting rooms – There are many virtual meeting room platforms available, such as Zoom, Skype and GoToMeeting to give your team the familiar in-person meeting aesthetic. Plus, it’s nice to see each other’s faces every once in a while.

Avoid Tech Issues

Since work has gone almost entirely virtual, avoiding tech issues is a high priority during this time. Make sure that you have stable, secure Wi-Fi connection and fast enough internet bandwidth to handle your day-to-day work. Try not to keep too many tabs open or too many programs running on your computer at once, as that can significantly slow your internet speed.

Now is not the time to ignore and close those “Updates Available” notifications. Be sure that all your programs and applications are up to date to fix any bugs that may hinder your online experience.

Lastly, you may want to invest in a second monitor, especially if you are used to multiple screens at the office. If you are using a laptop, you may want a mouse and an additional keyboard as well.

Be Understanding

Right now, you may have employees who have been affected by this pandemic in one way or another. Although they are lucky enough to have a position where they can work remotely, their loved ones may have lost their jobs. They may know someone who is sick. They may be fearful of the current state of the world and are struggling emotionally. Working in a completely different environment may be difficult for them to adjust to.

No matter the reason, this is a drastic shift in both their professional and personal lives, and they will need their employers to be empathetic during this time. Encourage your staff to be honest and open if they are struggling in any way. Having an understanding employer eases some of that stress, which in return, results in more quality work produced.

Remember, we are all in this together! If you have any questions regarding work from home tips, virtual tools, or internal governance, reach out to your client service manager at Vanguard.

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Emily Baca