Work from home demystified

Startups often pride themselves with small and efficient teams, focused working and having a cool culture at work. Coworking and working in Cafe is the trend, music in the background, post its, whiteboards and productivity tools in the backdrop of the culture shining bright. 

Over the last 10 days, we have been moving from the coworking culture to the work from home culture, and with the coronavirus situation escalating, we will see more of WFH happening. 

In times of crisis business always takes a huge hit, you lose clients, business and eventually money, start-ups are no different here, they too have been forced to take a hit. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been testing and trying so many tools to build an efficient WFH system for me and my team, trying methods and playbooks, talking to experts and more. I might not have figured out the most perfect method for WFH but then these are derived from my experiments and are ideal for a smaller team, with the more casual timeline and high productive approach. I am not going to talk much about productivity tools here but focus on setting up work zones at home, setting up processes and a few very specific tools which I feel are amazing and free to use. I am not going to go into specific tools for specific teams but will link to the list of tools you can try. 

How do I approach work from home? 

The first thing which matters is the location of work and an office routine. Even when you don’t head to a separate building for work, it should feel like a separate space. Have a separate space as much as possible. A separate office is ideal, but even if you don’t, just allocate a space you can leave at the end of the day. Decorate the space as your own, put plants, some notebook, pens and stationery which stay there and boom you have an office space ready. Furniture plays a huge role here, get a good desk, comfy chair, laptop stand etc, whatever you think you need.  Avoid working from Living Room, Bed, Couches and Garden, they often feel good but can distract, also avoid doing housework during the WFH period, rather do it after office hours. 

Mentally, it helps me to disconnect. Close the door, I’m done with work. Also, get dressed every day, do your routine. It’s easy to procrastinate showers and stay in the same PJs for three days and that’s a fast track to lethargy. Make sure you do things that you would do in the office, drink coffee, sneak a smoke, take a walk etc, recreate your day as it would be at work, this would help you be just as productive. A tip for the founder, make sure all of your team follows through on setting up the office space, this is a long term investment which will help you in future as well.

Most Important part of getting work done is an office routine, approaching WFH and trying to replicate the office environment is a very important part of keeping people productive. Most corporate soften have a defined routine for how people work, and when they shift WFH, they copy the same process but do it online, so meetings which happen in rooms happen via zoom calls, secure systems are given or replaced by VPN, they already have task managers, email chains to make sure all support is given which is there in the office. For smaller teams’ challenge is different, its harder to replicate the process, and that’s not the solution. It is always more effective to create a new process than copy the same one as corporate or one which other start-ups follow. 

The process here ideally can start with Check-in time and Check-out time being set just like a regular office day, this helps you stick to a routine and keep yourself active. Then comes fixing task for the day, this can be done on a project management tool like Trello, Asana or a simple task manager like Todoist, This defines the tone of the day, helps you understand what each team, the team member is up to and what to expect the whole day. 

Next comes effective communication, which is one of the largest things which makes people feel like they are at work. Corporates often here have all day long zoom calls to replicate the feeling of being in an office but then it doesn’t help, rather sticking to slack has helped keep it more productive and having calls during breaks to give a connected feel can help boost productivity. Setting a Routine also helps to keep a person in track, identify and fix a routine with the whole team which connects to everyone and helps stay on the track. Towards the end of the day, take an update, update the task manager, commit and update the code/design/tracker and then have a short check-out call, replicating the exit conversation which the team has. One Tip for the founder, let the team have a communication channel without your involvement, this helps them feel free and replicate offices like communication over chat or video call.  Not all in-office habits and systems are going to translate directly to a remote equivalent. A video chat may not always be convenient, so ask yourself, “Can this meeting be a document/email/Slack message?” Learn to move more of your communication to asynchronous channels.

Tools to use

Now the part you all have been waiting for, some tools to use during WFH situation to improve productivity. These are very general tools which all of us can use, for specific tools refer to – this is the largest collection of tools I have seen. 

1.Communication – Slack/Whatsapp 

2.Video Conference – Zoom (they removed the 40 min rule for now) 

3.Product Management – Trello 

4.Task Management – Todist 

5.Document Management – Google Docs

So in conclusion, it’s best to behave as we are in office, create a space that feels like an office, dress like we dress for the office, pretend to work as we do in the office, have a great day and get up and Netflix at end of the day.  

Contributed by:

Vasishta Chary

Volunteer- Headstart Network Foundation

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