18th March 2020

Our advice on working remotely

Mariola Romero
Delivery Manager
Working from home

At Deeson, we are already quite familiar with working remotely.

Yes, we have a handful of compulsory co-located office days, such as the monthly all-company days in Canterbury and the weekly office day for Canterbury and London staff. However, the majority of the time, people have the freedom to work from where they want. No questions asked. 

Given the recent global developments with relation to Covid-19, all Deeson staff are now working from home for the foreseeable future. Often, home is where most of us feel more comfortable and productive, but a lot of us enjoy commuting into the office and sharing a cup of tea with colleagues. 

When you work from home (WFH), there are no impromptu conversations about a shared project, no squabbles over the office playlist, and no communal biscuits after a colleague returns from holiday. 

To help everyone get organised during this continuous WFH experience, and to ensure all of us are still maintaining a good work/home balance, we’ve introduced a few things here at Deeson: 

  • Open office hours on Fridays. At 3pm every Friday, we all dial into Zoom to chat. It does not substitute the ‘water cooler conversations’ we would have in person, but it does allow us all to have a laugh together and connect as colleagues. So far, we have ranted about broken boilers and raved about local restaurants - not everything has to be about digital transformation! (But we do talk about that a lot).
  • Encouraging each other to take breaks. In an office environment, you do not spend eight hours a day staring at the screen. You go and grab a snack, you pop over to ask a question or two, you get forced to take everyone’s drink order after losing at Wheel of Tea: when working from home, people lose those natural breaks and work straight through the day. Over on Slack, we have a recurring reminder on the #general channel to encourage people to stretch and go for a walk. These are small nudges that help you look up from your computer and take a breath or two.
  • Turn Slack off. We have also been very vocal about turning Slack off to concentrate on tasks and being more open about when we are spending time away from the computer. We are all making very liberal use of the ‘Do not Disturb’ function, and blocking time off on our calendars to do uninterrupted work without a meeting in the way. Some of these tricks may be obvious to you, but, by actively promoting and discussing these ‘tips’, we hope to remove the stigma that working remotely means you must be online at all times.  
  • Share wellbeing practices. Without doing it consciously, we use the commute time to process information, unwind, and disconnect from work. By removing this commute, you risk being stuck in a hamster wheel of work, never truly feeling like a new day has started. During one of the recent “Well Good Wednesdays” (a weekly topic of  discussion), our Creative Lead asked us how we like to keep our mental wellbeing in check. Here are a few :
    • Try to maintain the same routine you follow when you go into the office. Wake up at the normal time, have a shower, get dressed in ‘work clothes’ (no PJs!), have breakfast, go for a walk outside, then sit down to work.
    • Remove distractions and ‘background noise’. If you’re working and cringe at the sight of your dirty washing staring at you, take a 5 minute break to put the washing machine on. You’ll have moved from your chair, removed a source of stress, and reduced the number of chores you have to do over the weekend.
    • Use the time you saved in your commute to do something apart from working. Maybe try preparing some food for the day, going to the gym, or catching up on that pile of ‘to-reads’ collecting dust in your shelf. Do something that frames your workday, and don’t let work creep into your home life.
    • Turn your laptop off at the end of the day, and put it away. There is no ping on Slack that is worth looking at once you’ve logged off for the day, trust me.

A good summary of the practices above can be: We talk openly about how we work at work. 

It isn’t taboo to want to log off when you’ve been cooped up in a home office for three days (or weeks!), and it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure it doesn’t become one. 

home office

Here are a few quick wins you can implement too if you’re suddenly working from home and need some guidance on how to reduce disruption to the business:

  • Implement some of the ideas we wrote about in our guide to remote meetings and make sure you are setting an example when you host your own meeting.
  • If you are onboarding new employees, have a nominated person in charge of checking in with them daily and helping them settle in. Changing jobs is already stressful enough without the additional strain of having to quickly learn how to be effective when working remotely.
  • Encourage photo or idea submissions of different topics. It could be as simple as asking what people are having for lunch, or getting people to ‘show off’ their home set up. You want to remind people that it is OK to be themselves at work, even if there is no in-office banter. Make that #random channel live up to its name.
  • If a conversation has a lot of back-and-forth on Slack, jump on a Zoom call.
  • Use the two-minute guideline we mention on our guide to check-in with your teammates and ask how their days are going. Allowing for some natural conversation is good for everyone, so try to build some extra buffer time between meetings.
  • If you have a meeting with a heavy agenda, make sure to speak to the participants individually beforehand for any questions or comments. It’ll be easier to keep on track and might save some time.
  • Set an example and build breaks into your longer workshops and meetings.  A couple of minutes here and there when you remove your video and grab a cup of tea: everyone will be grateful. 
  • During video calls, be more explicit than normal and ask direct questions to ensure that nobody fades into the background. You want to ensure everyone ‘walks away’ feeling heard.'
  • Set up an announcement channel (we called ours #biz-continuity), where you keep everyone in the loop about the measures you’re taking during this period and provide updates. We’ve included our plans as part of our handbook.

At Deeson, we have multiple measures in place to help people balance life and work. Things such as core hours (10-3pm), volunteering days, and wellness funds help team members to be happier and more fulfilled at work. 

Most importantly, however, we trust our team to know how to do their work and we trust them to tell us if there’s anything getting in their way - Covid-19 related or not.

This two-way trust and genuine belief that the people around you are doing the best they can, whether from home or in the office, is going to ultimately decide if this ‘remote working’ experiment is for you. We hope it is.

Get in touch and let us know what you are implementing to make this period better for everyone. Our employee handbook is open and so are our ears.