A tomato-shaped kitchen timer is a great productivity tool. This can also link to physical health. Working from home can be way more sedentary, so use the 5 minute breaks to get up and have a walk. If you monitor step count, then try to keep this at the same level as when in the office. This will benefit mental and physical health too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
A useful tool for blocking distractions during working hours. If you’re sitting where you would normally be looking extensively at Social media during your down time, the temptation may be strong when you should be working. This will stop you from looking at sites you know will hamper your productivity.
We’re sure you’ve got loads of great suggestions on how to create and maintain focus. Please let us know via that comments below!
Image: By The original uploader was Erato at Italian Wikinews. – Transferred from it.wikinews to Commons by Fale using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4719295
Many people will be thinking about the speed of their home Wi-Fi but far more significant is the speed of access to the Internet.
Broadband connectivity may be subject to contention: where several homes are competing for the same bandwidth to reach the telephone exchange and beyond. This will vary according to other people in your street using high speed broadband. Contention rates are often lower with business broadband packages.
In addition, many broadband technologies (at least in the UK) are designed for faster download than upload. That’s fine when streaming video from YourTube, Netflix, etc. but not so good when taking part in two-way conversations.
The actual bandwidth can be measured with various websites/apps (such as https://speedtest.net or https://samknows.com/) and it may be necessary to consider what others in the household are using the Internet for when you’re trying to deliver an important presentation…
Bandwidth is not the only factor: audio and video conferencing is particularly sensitive to latency and jitter. These are less of a concern for web browsing.
Businesses should pay attention to the following:
There is going to be an assumption that everyone has broadband but what if they don’t? Who will pay for the installation of a broadband service for staff to work from home?
Consider whether you can supply a mobile wireless router that uses 4G (separate from their mobile phone and often called a MiFi device) for workers with limited or no connectivity.
Check your mobile contract – if employees use their mobile for tethering will you end up with unexpected and expensive bills for data outside your plan?
Think about when you will use video on calls. Have you got a suitable camera and will you wear different clothes when talking to customers as opposed to colleagues? And what’s in the background – will it be an unnecessary distraction for whoever you’re talking to? (Some tools offer the capability to blur the background on video calls).
Whilst video can help with non-verbal communication in conversations, remember that not everyone has a suitable connection (see the post here on Conectivity) and it may be necessary to switch it off to save bandwidth, especially with the increased load on broadband infrastructure.
Even if you don’t use video, how will you manage audio? Video is not always necessary but a good headset often is, particularly if your workspace has lots of hard surfaces.
When taking part in online meetings, how will you take notes? If you have a single (or low-resolution) screen you might not be able to use your computer to type up notes while you’re in that meeting. Ask if you can record the meeting – most online meeting tools have this capability but sometimes only the organiser can do this. Some meeting tools have the ability to provide a digital whiteboard, or even a dedicated area for meeting notes.
We’re sure you have lots of tips & tricks to run meetings on-line. Please use the comments here to let us know your favourites!
Keeping set work hours (and sticking to them) as well as adding these to your email signature can help you to differentiate between work time and home time.
Depending on the culture of your organisation, you may find that people’s expectations of a response vary (there’s a whole section on the Cultural implications of remote working in this website).
Shared calendars are often a huge benefit to remote teams to see others’ availability. Google Calendar, and Microsoft Outlook are commonly used but even a spreadsheet can work at a pinch. Some organisations may use tools like Zapier to update employee’s Slack status based on Google Calendar entries and then report in Hubstaff. Other platforms may have close integration built in (Microsoft Teams automatically integrates with Exchange calendars, for example).
Manage expectations regarding your availability to “just pick the kids up” etc. when working from home. Focus is a valuable thing but then so is the flexibility of being at home.
Remember to get up, move, walk around and not be chained to the desk for the entire duration of the working day. It’s very easy to get sucked in to being more sedentary than usual as your working life and connections are all online. Consider using your (former) commuting time as exercise time, preferably in the fresh air. Working at home, you will take far fewer steps than you would travelling to work, in the office, or dashing out for a sandwich at lunchtime. A walk/bike ride/run or whatever exercise you enjoy also “bookends” the working day effectively, helping to provide a mental separation between home life and work life.
The following items should help when establishing a space to work at home – think of them as a “working from home checklist”
SETTING UP A WORK SPACE
Can you set aside a place for “work”? Is it possible in your home? Not everyone has a home office, but a dining table can work just as well as long as you don’t allow distractions. Folding furniture can give a real advantage here!
Employers have a duty of care. Not everyone has an appropriate space to work in their home, so support staff with guidance and information as to how they can use the space around them.
Be prepared that your brain can rebel if you’re not used to working from home. Try to make your working environment different from your usual hang-out places to emphasise the differences. Somewhere new, even if just a different chair, will make it easier to promote new habits and not just want to keep putting the TV on. Home is usually your sanctuary from work so you may well find it harder to motivate than expected.
You’ll want a comfortable chair, but not too comfortable. If you try a dining chair you’ll find a newfound respect for even the cheapest office chair.
And consider ergonomics! Check that your chair and desk are at a good height, and that you aren’t reaching too far or flexing your wrists at a bad angle on your keyboard. If you can, use an external monitor or raise up your laptop and use an external keyboard. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is a real thing, and if you’re a bit more stressed than usual you’re likely to be tensing up and placing more strain on your back, neck and arms.
Everyone love Martin Lewis and his moneysavingexpert.com site don’t they? Well you’ll be delighted to see he’s maintaining a list of all the best things which are not free to help you all get through the current situation!
email – check! Slack – check! Teams working from home – check!
Now you’re back to writing, consuming and editing documents but digitally, well it’s not quite the same as doing it with a green biro and some paper.
Here are some tools which our team has recommended as the perfect place to start on your digital journey into the written word!
Morning Reader – a website and app delivering top tech and blockchain news round the clock, useful for staying in the loop generally and for sourcing articles to share with your network.
Writefull – designed to augment research writing, Writefull compares and analyses anything you’ve written, lets you hear it being pronounced, and even translates text into English.
Otter.ai – I personally use this all the time, it’s a free program that automatically transcribes speech, which is ordinarily good for capturing meetings, but use it to record all those conversations you have with yourself and you could find you have a piece of original content, ready to share, that’s already been (mostly) written for you.
Enlight Quickshot – a photoshop alternative for mobile, it’s simpler to use than the desktop version, and means you can crank out quality vids without spending hours on them.
Insense Stories Video Editor– a free web-based tool that lets you upload video, trim it to fit Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat stories, and then send to your social media pages.
So now you’re all working remotely and you’v got through the first few days of acclimitisation your thoughts are probably moving beyond the question of “can people work?” to a more complex “how do we be as if not more productive than we were in the office?”.
We here’s a list of some tool, both big and small which might just help you and your teams be more effective over the coming weeks and months. We think that you’ll like some of them so much they’ll form a permanent part of the way you work!
15Five – named after the 15 minutes it takes to complete a report and the five minutes it takes to read it, this gives either you or your team a macro analysis of performance each week.
Todoist – replacing your paper notebook is this smart to do list, which processes natural language to understand what priority your tasks are and when they’re due.
Any.do – different programs work for different people, so while this is another digital to do list, you can access it from anywhere, including a smart speaker, and it comes with a really clean, simple interface.
ClickUp – full-featured project management tool with native time tracking that allows your team to stay in sync on projects, deliverables, tasks, and processes.
Asana – a project management tool to help you stay on top of priority tasks, the Chrome extension allows you to create a workflow from any web page and share it with team mates instantly.
Timpler – another powerful, simple task manager, this one helps collect your thoughts throughout the day, organise tasks and schedule work for the future.
OKRs App – OKRs are the new KPIs, in that it’s a name for you to call ‘targets and performance tracking’, this app promises to make hitting them more likely by helping you stay on top of them.
Droptask – a project management tool that works by dragging and (as the name would suggest) dropping tasks into your workflow, it’s a user-friendly way of seeing all the moving parts of your business in one place.
Effortless – a nice Mac app which will focus your mind, simply set your goal, set a time limit, and go for it.
Slash– a productivity app that forces you to do one thing at a time, useful if you’re in the middle of something like a meaty search, get interrupted by a phone call, and usually struggle to get back to what you were doing, this app’ll sort you out.
Collect – a nice tool to request documents and data from your clients or your team. You can easily track responses and make sure you get everything back.
What are your favourite productivity tools? Let us know via the comments below and we’ll do our best to take a look and edit them in!
Just because you aren’t in the same building together doesn’t mean any interaction with the team needs to be compromised.
WFH’s a great way to identify meetings which really could’ve been an email, and which are truly vital. For those, there’s plenty of resource available to you to keep communication flowing. Here are some of our favourites which may not be known to everyone!
Accompany – recently acquired by Cisco, Accompany provides in-depth information on a company in an instant, saving you research and prep time ahead of a meeting.
GoToMeeting – a simple and effective way to host virtual meetings, set up a meeting room, email attendees a link, and make sure you look smart from the waist up.
Houseparty – a group video chat platform, the app notifies you when friends and colleagues are online and jump into a virtual face to face hangout.
Phone Call Translator– naturally there’s a fee for this app, but it’ll let you call anyone worldwide, in 30 popular languages, to any device.
Meeting Owl – over 20,000 companies use this product and it’s easy to see why, a 360 degree camera makes your meetings a hoot and lets you reconnect with everyone in the room at once.
Muzzle – silences embarrassing notifications when you’re sharing your screen, so the WhatsApp message from your other half doesn’t pop up for your all to see.
Scriberia – offers a remote digital scribing service, which captures and distills meeting notes in a form that’s easy to share.
We’re sure you’ve got some excellent ideas to add as well! Use the comments below to let us know what else you think if brilliant!
It’s not easy talking to your kids about what’s going on, and that’s why there are a number of books being written right now to help you have this difficult conversation in a way that helps reduce the obvious anxiety that all family members, both little & large, re going through!