Collaborating from home; not the oxymoron it used to be

Over the last couple of days we have seen a lot of helpful guides pop up that focus on various aspects of working from home. From personal productivity to time management and useful tools, all great information that helps people stay happy and productive while working from home. That said, people rarely work in a vacuum. So, what are some things to consider and steps to take, when translating your collaborative practices from office to home office?

1. Know your tools

First things first. If you are used to having face to face meetings, be sure to test the tooling that you are using, whether that’s MS Teams, Workplace, Skype or any of the other tools that allow you to meet with your team virtually. There’s nothing quite as stressful as (unsuccessfully) trying to join a meeting knowing that your colleagues or clients are waiting for you.

2. Team files

Take a moment to sit with your team digitally to talk through the files you might need for the week to come; are any of them stored on local servers or drives? If you expect to need certain files, let your colleagues know so you won’t be blocked when that time comes.

3. Respect the rhythm of the team

Don’t forget about the fun stuff. Being isolated from your colleagues can lead to a sense of, well.. isolation. To keep up the team spirit make sure to allow or even schedule some time just for the “digital coffee machine talk” or a “virtual all-team lunch”.

4. Be inclusive

Be mindful of colleagues who may not have the ideal setup to work from home. In some cases circumstances will dictate which types of activities can be performed from home i.e. conference calls in a noisy setting or collaborating on giant files with 1 bar of WiFi depending on which direction the wind is coming from. Maybe the traditional work distribution is up for review in these cases, so it might be good to have that talk and see where you can help each other out.

Are there colleagues in the team who can not work from home at all? Make sure to keep them in the loop. And finally, who volunteers as tech support for team members who are new to this virtual thing?

5. Building on that;

Decide as a team if you want to schedule a quick daily check-in to focus on these three topics:

  1. what did you do yesterday?

  2. what will you do today?

  3. is there anything you need from someone?

Similarly, think about a structure for other meetings that you might traditionally host in a face to face setting, and discuss this with your team.

6. Use the status

In the office, all you have to do is shoot a glance at a colleague to see if they’re busy or not. When working from home, this may not be as apparent. Setting your status to either busy or available in tools such as Outlook or MS Teams, will help clear things up for your colleagues. Besides this, you can use your calendar to clearly indicate blocks of time that you have reserved for uninterrupted productivity.

As an added bonus, this practice will help you set a boundary between work time and free time, which is one of the (potential) pitfalls we hear most when talking about the home office life.

7. Turn on your camera

Make your calls more personal by turning on your camera.

Talking to your screen can be quite disheartening if you have no way of knowing whether your audience is engaged or even eh, present.

Video, while more personal than just audio, will still not give you the full range of non-verbal communication and cues that a face to face meeting will. If the tooling you use allows you to both host a call and chat with participants at the same time, use that to your advantage (or live to see twenty people trying to talk simultaneously).

8. Keep it in the cloud

To make team collaboration as easy as possible, try to refrain from storing files locally. This way, you will be able to easily link to files, thus preventing the creation of different versions of the same file while facilitating easy co-creation!

9. Make collaboration work for you

If working remotely as a team is new for you, take this opportunity to co-create a way of working that suits you and your team. Go full-meta and reflect on your collaboration, while collaborating.

Create a post on your social collaboration platform where the team can share concerns, tips and reflections during this time. What are team members currently struggling with? Does anyone have a good tip for effectively separating working hours from offline time? Does anyone have some nice music because my playlist is driving me nuts?

Creating one place to share these things will not only bring people together but will also result in a collection of potential collaboration best practices.

10. Work Out Loud

Now that you have successfully moved your meetings and files to the online realm, it’s time to stop playing catch-up and actually start using this way of working to your advantage. By sharing what you are working on frequently and in a structured way, you will find that you and your colleagues will be (and feel!) more informed than ever. We’ll explore this topic a bit more over the coming days.

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