Here at Point Jupiter, our team members in Zagreb (Croatia) are entitled to work from home three days a month. When the COVID-19 pandemic started and then blew up to a full-scale COVID-19 crisis, the whole team worked remotely for weeks due to general public health guidelines. I am still working from home because I am located in Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Being a project manager and a business analyst, I wanted to share some of my experiences and ideas about COVID-19 and remote working here at Point Jupiter.
Here are my five cents on the remote work topic, how to deal with work-life balance, maintain productivity, empower employees’ experience, adjust the home/office space and continue working in this “new normal” environment.
Communication is golden
The first and foremost condition to work remotely is communication. Regardless of your corporate culture or company culture, your team members might start feeling isolated after prolonged isolation. Some might even be concerned about job security if they do not see each other in the office daily.
This can have a considerable impact on productivity and loyalty to the company. That is why it is essential to build relationships between the team members and team belonging. Working models changed almost overnight, and remote workers are now our reality more than ever.
Daily stand-up meetings
Here at Point Jupiter, we have our daily stand-up meetings. It is the opportunity to touch base and update on the progress and status with all dev team members daily, at least once. In case there is a need to deep dive with a team member, or the whole team, we chat or call each other during the day.
Online coffee times
During the COVID-19 lockdown, we organized ‘online coffee times’ twice. Those were video calls, where all the team members brought their beverage of choice (coffee, tea, juice, etc.). We talked about what was going on in our lives, joking, but not talking about work. All of us even turned our cameras on to see each other and keep that personal touch.
We even made fun of each other’s hair. The feedback, later on, was very positive. All the team members said they felt we reconnected with the team on a human level. Think of this as a sort of water cooler talk and an excellent opportunity to connect employers and employees.
To make sure everything is clear and there is a common understanding of the matter at hand, over-communicate: repeat yourself, rephrase, and ask for confirmation – help your team, your people work. Misunderstandings can happen very quickly, and this is one way to avoid them.
Dress as if you are going to your office
One tip that I can share is: dress as if you are going to the office, i.e., wear pants. Seriously, wear pants, dresses, or whatever you typically wear when going to your office. I even do my make up and wear perfume. The reason is to have that mental switch that you are now working and differentiate from chilling-time on Sundays in your sweat pants.
It is very easy to blend the two together, which will most probably lead to burnout. The perfume, on the other hand, gives me the confidence and attitude needed for success.
Home-office and ground rules for COVID-19 and remote working
Have a comfortable working environment – a good chair and desk will do. It would be terrific if you could have a separate area or an office at home to have peace and quiet to work. You can also at least mimic the feeling that you can physically ‘go to work’ and ‘get off work.’
I would highly recommend having ground rules set with the people you are sharing your space with. If you have a dedicated workspace, they should know when to interrupt you and when you are on an important call with the client. Of course, it starts with you to follow these rules.
On the other hand, try to be patient, understanding, and flexible. Almost all of the calls start with ‘Can you hear me?’. Even on our clients’ calls, there were cases where we could see children in the background or hear some home-related noises. You need to focus on the essence of the meeting and accept these are the conditions at hand now.
Some clients ask for the camera to be on, some not. In our internal team meetings, we do not require video. We will do video calls, only if the team members will feel comfortable.
Remember, we all have our bad-hair days from time to time. Nothing wrong about that.
Maintain human contact
Your employees work remotely. But they are still, first and foremost, humans who need contact with others.. Another tip would be to try to maintain a human connection with friends and family. In work from home arrangements, you do not have social contact with your colleagues. With that in mind, it is even more critical than office-work situations to maintain personal relationships.
While the operational model might be different and even challenging, the need for meaningful human contact during COVID-19 and remote working is critical.
A positive attitude can spread across the team and is inspiring. So, believe in yourself and the team, smile, and keep the end goal in mind.
Also, we all need to accept that we are humans, and we all have bad days. It can be difficult, but we need to be easy on ourselves. The next day will be very productive.
Turn off distractions
One simple thing that could make the other activities much easier is to update team members on your status. For example, if you are on a meeting with a client, or if you are otherwise unavailable at the moment, you should turn off the chat notifications, not to distract you.
Plan your and your team’s day
Make your day plan and schedule and stick to it as much as possible. It is very easy to start working too long hours because you tell yourself, ‘I will just finish this and then go.’ However, you need to maintain regular work hours. On the other hand, you need to make time for every task to not slip through the cracks.
The team also needs to have an exact task list for the day, week, sprint, etc. There needs to be one source of truth. Say, for a specific project, the team needs to know exactly where to track their tasks’ progress and status.
Take breaks, keep your sanity
Make sure you also schedule your breaks and use them in their entirety. When I first started working, I would catch myself not having eaten the whole day, because I would keep pushing the break ‘first to finish this task’. The purpose of breaks is to reset your mind, and they boost productivity.
When you finish your workday, get up from your desk. Walk away from your computer, even for at least 5 minutes. You need to make the mental switch that you are now off work. Even if you go back to the same computer to complete some personal tasks, you need to tell yourself that your workday is over.
The final words about COVID-19 and remote working
Everyone’s work situation is different, yet remote work is taking over more and more. It might be different from the office work arrangements. Hopefully, the tips from this article will help the transition to the new normal and make it the best it can be. The COVID-19 and remote working are the things that will leave its footprint long after 2020 is done. However, we hope that some of these tips will find their way in your remote working practices, regardless of COVID-19.
We are hiring – and we do offer to work from home flexibility. Check out our open positions and come as you are.
Are you a prospective client looking to hire a team that is comfortable working remotely while delivering great products and services? In that case, you should reach out to us! But in any case, stay safe, strong, and healthy and follow your local public health authorities and their advice.
Useful COVID-19 links
- Croatia – koronavirus.hr
- Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – https://www.zzjzfbih.ba/covid-19/
- United States – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html