Going Remote

Following recent advice by the UK government, you may have had to take the plunge into working from home. If this is all new to you, I've put together the following list of suggestions that might help you to make the move to remote working.

This guide is written in clear and easy to understand language, if you’re stuck, however, DM me on Twitter and I will do my best to help you during this difficult time.

If you have ideas or suggestions to improve this document, my details are at the bottom. DM me and I'll fold them in.

I hope you find this list useful and, above all, stay safe! #payitforward

Chris

Establish a Shared Toolset and Agree Guidelines

Establish clear guidelines from the start, preferably before you move to a remote working situation.

If you can agree the tools you'll be using before you go remote, you'll have a chance to walk those who are new to remote working through the tools. You might be a 'digital native', but many others aren't. Help those who are struggling, it's important that everyone is included.

  1. Pin down the stack and establish what tools you’re using. There are many different tools out there, for example Zoom and Google Hangouts for video conferencing. Agree on a common set of tools that works for everyone.

It's also a good idea to include a fallback option – something simple like WhatsApp or Messages – that you can default to if your internet connection is struggling. This keeps the channels of communication open and provides a fallback method of getting in touch to help others get online.

For example, these are the tools we are using at designtrack:

  • Slack: General communications.
  • Zoom: Video / Audio Conferencing.
  • Notion: Rich Learning Materials
  • Dropbox Paper: Collaborative Documents
  • WhatsApp = Fallback
  1. Establish guidelines so that everyone knows what expectations exist regarding normal working hours and response times.

It's unhealthy to work 24/7, so establish some boundaries for your day and ensure that everyone respects those boundaries. Sending a direct message via Slack at midnight and expecting an instant reply is not healthy.

It helps to agree upfront what is expected and when, that way everyone understands what’s what and no one feels obliged to check-in night and day.

Dress for Success *

* Shoulder pads optional!

Whilst it might be tempting to lounge around in your PJs all day, I’ve found that it helps to treat the day as a normal working day.

Get up, have a shower and get dressed as though you’re heading to work. That establishes a mindset that you’re in ‘work mode’ and helps you confront the day ready for action.

Everyone is different, of course, and your PJs may work for you. Each to their own!

Working 9–5

Try to stick to your typical start and end times (9.00–5.00, or whatever works for you). Otherwise there’s a danger that you’ll end up working 24/7, which isn’t healthy.

I have a friend who works from home as a designer in Brighton. He used to get up in the morning, get dressed and walk around the block. He’d then return to his house and ‘let himself in to work’. He’d do the same at the end of the day, checking out. This might seem like overkill, but it establishes a good mindset.

Establish a Robust Backup Channel

At designtrack, we’re using WhatsApp. This is important when the internet – generally – is being hammered. You might not be able to get online with an agreed tool, e.g. Zoom, so it helps to have a fallback option in place.

Focus Your Bandwidth

If you’re using Zoom / Google Hangouts / etc. for video-conferencing, it helps to pause other tools on your computer that are using your network (e.g. Spotify or Apple Music) to preserve bandwidth.

There are tools like Little Snitch or Radio Silence (macOS) that help with this. I use Radio Silence as it’s a little easier to grasp.

If all else fails, switch off video and stick to audio. Lastly, if you are struggling and you have a lot of people on a call, ask everyone to consider switching off video. All that video is taking up precious bandwidth and it may not be necessary.

Windows and Linux users, you might want to suggest similar tools for your platforms. Do so and I'll fold them into this document. /* I’m adding these suggestions here. */

I’m reliably informed that Douane filters network traffic if you’re using Linux.

Pause Prime, Netflix and Spotify

If you have children at home who are using Netflix, Spotify or other streaming services, it’s a good idea to pause these while you’re on a call.

This will free up bandwidth for video conferencing. (My kids have left home, but I know this was challenging back in the day!)

Courtesy

It’s easy when you’re remotely to momentarily forget etiquette and mid-virtual-meeting start triaging emails and browsing Twitter. You wouldn’t do this during a meeting (or at the very least you’d be subtle about it in an emergency) so don’t when you’re dialling in.

A better approach: keep your meeting short and sharp, so that you can get back to these tasks when the meeting’s over.

Build Micro-Networks

One of the by-products of remote working can be a feeling of social isolation. When you don’t have colleagues sitting beside you, physically, in a room, you can feel loneliness setting in.

It‘s a good idea to establish micro-networks – virtual friendship groups – to support one another. These micro-networks serve a different purpose to work-related networks and might be more focused on peer support and improving mental wellbeing.

Other ideas?

There are plenty of other guides out there, this one's for my designtrackers, but I'm always open to suggestions. Thoughts? Ideas? DM me: @fehler