How to work from home successfully, according to an expert

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How to work from home successfully, according to an expert

It's about more than getting out of your PJ's and staying hydrated

While many people have returned to work under level 2 of lockdown, for others working from home has become the new normal. Helené Smuts is the founder of Credo Growth, with a background in organisational psychology. She weighed in on what success looks like when working from home (hint: it’s more than just staying hydrated and getting dressed in the morning). Here are her nine top remote working tips.   

Working remotely runs the risk of being impersonal, disconnected and isolating. This can hurt team engagement. Smuts says a loss of team engagement begins with silence. The solution, she says, is to be "unbelievably responsive". If a colleague sends you an email, reply with a friendly thumbs up or a simple, “I got your message”. This way, your team members can feel assured that you’ve received their message and move on,  and it also helps them to feel heard.  

Even if your team has always worked remotely, it’s highly likely that things have changed since the coronavirus became part of our lives. It's more important than ever to have a clear direction and attainable goals. Managers should ask themselves, “what does winning look like for the company, and what does the team need to do to get there?” 

Your work rhythm is the day-to-day routine of the team. Getting into a good working rhythm means there’s structure and stability, which is crucial in these uncertain times. Smuts recommends daily 15 minute morning huddles and 30-minute weekly team meetings. This way, the team can establish and track their daily or weekly goals together, and have regular check-ins to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

Without a water cooler or lunchtime walk, there are far fewer opportunities to engage with your teammates. Smuts says that there are several ways you can achieve this. One way of doing this, she says, is to “make sure you have weekly individual check-ins with your team”. During this time, she adds, “you are not allowed to talk tasks or operations”. Use this time to personally check-in with your colleagues. 

Values can change when working remotely and it’s important to readjust them according to your work environment. Smuts suggests we ask the question “what are our values in a remote space?”. Once you’ve readjusted, Smuts says it is then much easier to be in a working mindset and essentially “show up for work”. 

It’s important to understand the way you work, and how that compares to the way your teammates work. Spending time understanding each other can save time and create a stronger working relationship. There are plenty of personality tests you can do as a team to help you get to know each other better. 

When you’re working from home, the line between your personal life and work-life can blur. Life can get overwhelming when the two become one. "Together with the team, identify what time zone is the no-go, no-work time period,” suggests Smuts. “Make sure that’s a rule that no one is allowed to work and send work emails and coms in that time frame”. 

Celebrate the wins, small or big. Smuts encourages managers or leaders to create a platform dedicated to team victories. Keep it short and sweet, but make sure you take five minutes out of your meetings to congratulate a colleague or the team on their wins.

Remote work can be overwhelming with all the communciation apps, meetings, and messages. Smuts suggests that a team should "identify when everyone has to be online so that there can be collaboration, and also when can you have deep work time". She explains that this is "where no one is allowed to interrupt anyone, and you can switch off online and focus on what it is you want to do". As a team, you can choose when your deep work sessions are, but everyone should be aware of it and respect your colleagues' time.

Smuts encourages team members to also make time for the fun things you would have done in the office. These could be things like team lunches or Friday afternoon drinks. Make it virtual, using Zoom or any other video conferencing apps. And keep it strictly casual, warns Smuts. “Have some form of social engagement where you do not talk operations”, she advises.


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