Most of us are now working from home. So, we wanted to share some of our team’s top tips for working effectively and setting up for your home office.  We got together to create these principles for our team members and hope they’ll help you too. 

How to collaborate and communicate

1. Check-in daily with your team and your manager
Make sure you are all working towards the same goals just like you would if you were in the office. If you normally have a standup board, transfer this to an online ticketing management tool like Trello, Jira, Asana, or Microsoft Teams.

2. Comms, Comms, Comms
Use your preferred collaboration tools to regularly communicate with your team and manager. We think e-mail is the best, but Slack is a great way to chat with groups. You can also take advantage of other enterprise tools, such as Microsoft Teams.

To achieve good communication with your team, we recommend the following:

    • At the start of each day, report what you plan to do.
    • Throughout the day, actively engage with your team on progress and issues you/others face.
    • Let people know if you are going be to offline.
    • At the end of the day, let your team know what you accomplished. This is really important for everyone. Understand that what you set out to do and what might have happened don’t always match up…. just like in the office.
    • Understanding asynchronous communication (email and similar) is key. When working remotely, each person’s hours are likely to vary from day to day.  Asynchronous communication that doesn’t require an immediate response better accommodates different schedules. There’s no need to be present 100% of the time.

3. Continue your rituals
Attend your remote standups, planning and any other meetings. We talk more about this in our video conferencing guide below.

4. Use more formal methods of documentation
Increase formal documentation and add extra details to Jira, Confluence or Google Docs tickets, so everyone can easily trace what was done, when, and by whom. This can build greater confidence. Use collaboration tools to work on documents together.

5. Discuss and agree a social contract with your team/s:

  • Agree timings, regularity and mechanism for regular meetings or rituals.
  • Decide how you will notify people of your availability.  
  • Will you use your written comms mechanism to notify people if you are going off-line for a while.
  • Continue your 1 on 1’s remotely and do these need to increase?
  • Do you remote meet for lunch? If so, how often?

Here is some content from other organisations… Check out these links on working remotely in teams.

Webinar by Scruminc. – “Distributed Teams – Scrum Teams in a Time of Disruption”
Article on Medium – “Your Team Has to Work Remotely. Scrum Master: Time to Step Up!
Guide on Microsoft Teams – “Unlock Team potential with Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams blog – “Helping small and medium sized businesses with Microsoft Teams”
Article by Zoom – “Five Tips on Successfully Managing your Remote Team”

Video Conferencing Guidelines

We don’t know how long things will take, but what we do know for certain is that we will all become experts at video conferencing. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Slack and Microsoft Teams all have great videoconferencing and recording functionality. Here are some tips to get you going:

1. Ensure your technology works correctly

  • Check your hardware, plugins and video before meetings
  • Headphones with a microphone vastly improve quality and communication,  especially when there are background noises which may be unavoidable (eg kids). It also helps prevent nasty audio feedback.

2. Video cameras should be on if possible
Body language and hand signals are an important part of communication and it can be a bit weird and uncomfortable for others when video calls are not mutual.

3. Check your camera angle and lighting
Windows and bright light in the background tend to cause a backlighting effect, which makes it hard for other people to see your face. Try to avoid weird camera angles. Remember: we’re trying to simulate a real meeting.

4. Mute yourself when not speaking
This really helps with noise, especially for eliminating background noise and facilitating smoother, larger meetings.

5. Try to schedule meetings over ad-hoc
It helps everyone if meetings are scheduled ahead of time. Try to be on-time and remember there are many distractions at home, so set reminders if needed.

6. Try out an open call, hangout or Zoom
Have an open hangout or Zoom call that your team can check in on anytime. This lets your team ask each other questions, just like being in the office.

Your Home Office

Many of us have worked from home, albeit for shorter periods of time. Yet, setting up a physical home office can be a challenge.

Here are some tips from our team members of things you can do to help your physical body, as well as your mental health!

1. Get an office chair and use a monitor
Set your home working space like your work desk. It’s a long term investment in your body, so don’t skip this step . Either borrow or buy an ergonomic chair that you can adjust to the right height for your table. Ask work if you can borrow one, or buy a cheap one off TradeMe. There are lots of inexpensive options, and it is better for your back if you are supported correctly. Consider looking at gaming chairs which have a lot of ergonomic features. Also, take home your monitor from work to ensure you maintain the right posture and eye level, and don’t just default to looking down at a laptop.

2. Make sure your calendar is up to date
This should include when you might be out for breaks. Oh, and add break times into your calendar so that you actually rest. Also, a team chat can help let people know you are out.

3. Take physical breaks
Speaking of breaks, get out of your home, even if it’s just a walk around the block or park, but maintain social distance from people during this time. This helps you reset, not only your body, but also your mind. Walking will also help boost your metabolism and energy levels. Other activities could include yoga (Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube!) or stretching. The main thing is to move!

4. Set up a ‘work zone’
If you can, try to have an area in your house devoted to work, which is away from where you relax or spend time with family. This can help you feel like you are going to work and also leaving work for your personal time.

5. Plan to mindfully ‘start’ and ‘stop’ work each day
Start your day with a ritual like making a coffee, walking around the block, or “getting dressed” for work even though you don’t necessarily have to.  Also make a plan to end work for the day with a ritual too.

Your Work/Life

One thing we miss when we work from home is the conviviality and new ideas that come from spending time with our colleagues.Here are some ideas to have that ‘life’ part of your work life from home:

1. Lunch Club
Just because you’re not in the same room doesn’t mean you cannot have lunch with your team. Try to arrange a Zoom social lunch with your team and colleagues. This can help you stay connected, come up with new ideas, and fend off feelings of isolation.

2. Create a “random” Slack channel
More time at home probably means more time on the internet when you’re not working. Sharing fun and random things with your teammates can help you keep conversations going and continue to see each other as people you care about and not just emails.

3. Call your colleagues on the phone
Have a chat that isn’t about work with a colleague at least once a week. This is an uncertain time, and it’s great to be able to step away from the computer and just talk. It’s a mental refresh and will help nourish those connections you value.

Getting into a routine with your own home office setup and how to interact with your team members will take a bit of getting used to. By implementing some of these tips, this should make it easier and leverage all great tools out there to help. Good luck!