In the coming weeks, people across the world will find themselves in a situation where they are working from home for the first time as enterprises support social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. For those who are not used to working remotely, it may sound fun at first, but many will quickly realize that it can be very difficult to remain focused and productive with the distractions of laundry, dishes and other family members (people and pets) in the home.
Whether you are temporarily transitioning to working remotely during the coronavirus outbreak or making the switch full time, we recommend these tried-and-true tactics for telecommuting success. Not only does Maven Wave employ many team members who work from home occasionally or year-round, but we also advise Fortune 500 companies with increasingly digital workplaces. Below we will share some of our top tips, including how to leverage the tools in Google’s Workspace, a key resource that “veteran” virtual workers leverage to maximize productivity and team collaboration.
#1: Stick to Your Routine and Office Hours
Treat working from home just as you would if you were going into an office. Wake up at your normal time, shower, get dressed and take a little bit longer to enjoy that morning coffee (because you don’t need to commute!) End your day at the same time as your normal schedule and be sure to fully “turn off” work. If you don’t, you may get the feeling that you are always working, which can overwhelm and burn out even the most driven employee.
Google Calendar can be a helpful tool to “set” your working hours so others in your organization are aware. Simply click on “Settings” and scroll to “Working Hours” to add in the days and hours that you work, so meeting organizers receive a notification if they request a time that is outside of that window.
#2: Establish an Office Space
Whether it’s a home office or a kitchen table, it’s important that you establish a place to work each day. An ideal space is quiet with good lighting and minimal distractions – especially if other family members are at home while you’re working. This type of environment is not only important to help you focus, but it’s also ideal if you will be videoconferencing with your colleagues, partners, customers, or patients. An office or area that’s designated for work helps to offer a change of scenery and create separation – to encourage the elusive work-life balance. You don’t want to feel like you never leave the office!
#3: Continue Real-time Conversations with Coworkers
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to cut back on having team conversations. Google Hangouts Chat is a great way to continue to talk with colleagues in real-time. Before, you may have walked to their desk for a quick conversation, but Hangouts Chat can still help you get someone’s attention quickly. It also allows you to create Group Chats for small group communications as well as virtual rooms for team projects that require ongoing, long-term chats. Learn how to get started with Chat here.
#4: Maximize Document Collaboration in Real Time
Google Drive and the Docs, Sheets and Slides apps make collaborating on documents, spreadsheets and presentations easy. Edit files simultaneously with colleagues and view those edits in real time, with the peace of mind that changes are saved automatically so no one misses an update. Embrace the comment function to “plus” your colleagues into content to make them aware of it, as well as assign tasks and request approvals. Be sure to leverage Google Sheets to create a project plan where your team can provide updates, change deadlines, and add tasks in a centralized document so everyone stays up-to-date on initiatives and can track progress.
Find out everything you need to know about Google Drive and its apps here.
#5: Utilize Video Meetings to Feel Connected
The isolation of working remotely is greatly reduced when you see other people, so utilize Google Hangouts Meet to connect with a colleague or a group via a video meeting. If you haven’t enabled Hangouts Meet in your environment you can see how to do that here. Once Meet is turned on you need to enable live streams and meeting recording features.
Here are some tips for the best video meeting experience:
- Position the camera so you’re looking at it when talking or presenting and be sure the camera angles aren’t cutting you off or giving viewers an extreme closeup. And make sure to turn video on as much as possible. While it’s tempting to keep calls audio-only, video really helps teams feel connected and engaged.
- Make sure your lighting is adequate. It’s best to be near a window for natural light to brighten your face, but if that isn’t possible, be sure to turn on some lights. Try not to have a window behind you, which can create a “witness protection” style backlit look.
- Check your audio. Use the same audio source for input and output. For example, don’t use the audio from your monitors and the microphone from the webcam, which can cause echos and other less-than-desirable audio issues. If you run into audio issues, use a headset with a built-in microphone. Hint, there was most likely one included in the box with your last cell phone purchase.
- Remove clutter from your background. For example, if you’re working from your kitchen table, be sure to keep dirty dishes out of frame.
- Dress the part and be sure you are wearing appropriate professional clothing.
- Test your setup before your first video meeting to make sure you aren’t struggling to fix something when others are signed on.
- Use the app (browser, mobile, tablet) to join the meeting to eliminate the awkward “Who’s the 914 number?” game at the beginning of calls.
Google has provided all Google Workspace licenses the full Enterprise functionality of Hangouts Meet through July 1, 2020. This means that meetings can be recorded and saved to Google Drive. The full functionality allows up to 250 active participants to join a meeting, while up to 100,000 users can view it as a livestream. In addition, organizers can turn on live captions to provide Closed Captioning in real time.
By the way, by holding a job interview via Hangouts, you can test candidates’ skills by asking them to write or code in a Doc. HR can easily understand how a candidate solves problems by analyzing their thought process through the assignment they were given to complete.
#6: Take Advantage of Virtual Whiteboard Capabilities & Other Apps
If you and your team are used to planning or brainstorming with a white board in the office, check out Google Jamboard, a collaboration tool with virtual whiteboard capabilities that can increase productivity during video meetings. In an office environment, Jamboard is most often used with its associated 55-inch digital whiteboard device, but the good news is, remote workers can leverage the same collaboration software via the Jamboard app on a tablet or phone. Click here to find out how your Admin can turn on the Jamboard services.
Remote teams are layering many other apps onto Google Workspace, as well. For example, AODocs, the first enterprise document management solution built for Google Drive, is a great solution for integrating your systems, managing all documents, and creating more efficient workflows and processes. LumApps is Google Workspace’s recommended enterprise portal to connect employees and effectively deliver the right content to the right person. It brings everything you need to work in one place: personalized content, business applications, and social communities. These are just two examples from a toolbox filled with valuable apps that sync with Google Workspace.
#7: Emphasize Great Company Culture
At Maven Wave, company culture is incredibly important to us, so this topic is close to our hearts. We believe our company culture is the basis of all of our success, and telecommuting shouldn’t limit that. Many of our team members routinely work from home and still feel just as much a part of our full team as the people commuting to the office everyday. Maven Wave has won many awards for our workplace atmosphere; in fact, we were just certified as a Great Place to Work® for the fourth year in a row.
It may seem impossible at first to keep company culture intact despite a remote working environment, but it can be done! Following the above steps will go a long way toward that goal. Building and maintaining friendships with coworkers is still very possible regardless of location; you might not be able to grab lunch together or head to happy hour after work, but you can have occasional “coffee meetings” just to catch up. We also recommend meeting in-person with the entire team at least once or twice a year (when it’s safe to do so).
If you’re a Maven Wave Client and you have any questions on how to enable these or other great features in the Enterprise version of Google Workspace, please contact your Maven Wave CloudCare representative.
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