Hey, I’m Lucy! I work within the People Team at DevOpsGroup. I support employee retention, performance, and development as well as creating and developing an awesome culture. I have been at DevOpsGroup for 3years now, based in our Cardiff HQ. I work in the office daily, but with 40% of our workers being remote, and part of my job being to make sure they are all happy and have what they need, I decided to do a bit of an experiment…
At the beginning of February, I decided to do 1 whole week of remote working. Why? I want to try and understand the real experience of it. Granted, it’s only one week, but I’ve only ever done the odd day here and there throughout my whole time at DevOpsGroup (3 years!). So, in order to try and truly experience the ins and outs of remote working, I thought I would give it a go for a week.
Before I started my remote week, I asked our current remote workers at DevOpsGroup what their top tips and tricks were – after all, they are the experts! The advice I was given massively helped me with setting up the right area, mindset and most importantly making it an enjoyable time whilst at home.
So, let’s get to it. What did I actually learn whilst remote working for a full week?
The right setup gets you in the right frame of mind
For me, I have the perfect setup in the office. A nice spacious desk, a monitor and a comfortable/adjustable chair. At home? Well, that was a different story for me.
After a week I think you’ll get why a good desk, chair and monitor are so importantRael Winters
The first and second day I decided to set myself up in the kitchen. Bad move Lucy, bad move. I was getting distracted by the TV, thinking about slouching on the sofa and what unnecessary snacks I could eat. The wooden chair I was sitting on was comfortable for two hours, max.
Make as much of an office space as you can so it feels separate like you are going to workKate Jones
All of this was very distracting so for the rest of the week, I set myself up in the spare bedroom. I had a desk (or dressing table, you decide) and a proper chair (it wasn’t the comfiest, but it was a lot better than the one in the kitchen!). It also meant I had a quiet working space, something I never thought I’d need. But, being able to have an area felt like I was in work mode and helped as no one was distracting me or asking me to do some house chores (mum wasn’t happy when I said I couldn’t do the washing up ha!)
Once I move out of the parents house, one of the first things I want to do is create an office space not too dissimilar to my setup in work. It will hopefully give me the right mindset for the day and help with having a separate work environment, as Kate says.
Video calls make conversations more personal
Having tools such as Slack and Zoom have certainly made the remote experience a much more engaging one. It means you still get interaction with work colleagues. Yes, interaction is definitely less often compared to being in the office and you do feel lonely at times (I wish I had a dog to keep me company!) but the tools are good for keeping in the loop with things and just day to day chat. I was glad when I had a Zoom call, it was nice to speak to a human, rather than listening to the radio or Spotify. However, there were some times where I wanted to be asked how my day was, what my plans were for the week etc. So one tip I learnt is to make those conversations happen yourself. Before heading into a meeting, ask people on the call a simple questions such as ‘how are you?’. They make such a difference to your day!
Be available via Slack and shift it quickly to a video conference if it goes to 3 questions.Ashley Petherick
The tip that Ash gave me, it worked a treat. It made interactions a much nicer experience (personally) as I found I got more value of a call rather than Slacking back and forth to someone. If you do find yourself doing that in future, think about how much quicker or effective it would be to just talk over a Zoom call!
It’s easy to stay indoors and not take a break
…So easy (especially if you are in your loungewear all day, which I’d advise you not to do – I learnt that rule quickly!). The first two days I stayed in, the weather had been miserable and the last thing I wanted to do was get absolutely drenched in the rain. But, I did take Wills advice and decided to head to the gym on my lunch on Thursday and it was the perfect break. I got some exercise in and it was a way to get out of the house (winner winner!) It was also a good way to refresh my mind and helped to get me to be focused for the remainder of the day.
Get out of the house every day, a walk at lunchtime for example.Will White
I also realised its so important to take breaks away from your laptop. I was upstairs, so having a cuppa break meant walking downstairs and giving my eyes a rest from the screen. We can all get into finalising a piece of work, whether it be a report, confluence page, email.. whatever it is, always take a break. Sounds easy, but when working remotely, I did find this a bit harder.
Productivity is increased…
I felt like I was on a roll with my work! Fewer distractions and “have you got 5 minutes?” conversations (which is usually more than a 15-minute talk) had disappeared which meant I could get my head down and crack on with some work. I am someone who finds it hard to focus from time to time, so working remotely has helped me conquer getting on with prioritising my work for the day (a list massively helps me) and completing bigger pieces of work (like this blog for example!). Yes, less people interacting with you meant less distractions, but I love being surrounded by others when I work, so being remote was strange for me. I missed the general chit chat, getting to speak to people when making a cuppa (I did find I talked to myself a lot more, ha!). But then again, I got so much sh** done, I felt super productive and gave me the boost I needed!
…But, it’s hard to switch off once the work day is done
When switching off for the day, it just doesn’t fee the same when at home.
When you have a busy day, again, no reference point, so you end up working and working… it’s now dark… you haven’t noticed… now it’s 7pm… Be conscious of time and try to end on the normal time you normally would in the office.Sia Gholami
Sia and Kim are completely right. By keeping an eye on the time I was able to plan in my head what I would do and when. Most importantly, it made me think “I haven’t had a tea break yet this morning” and it forced me to take a break. It also helped with the end of the day. It is so easy to carry on with work and think “I won’t be long finishing this” then suddenly its been a good few hours. Most days I set myself a reminder on my phone that it was the end of the day. It seems silly, but it worked for me. I finished my conversations, updated my tickets and work then shut my laptop off.
Keep an eye on the time. It’s easy in the office to see everyone leaving for the day and therefore knowing it’s the end of the day.Kim Hutchinson
Whether remote or not, It’s also important to consider when to speak to colleagues. Everyone (at some point) has been a culprit to sending an evening Slack message or email – but there are things you can do to feel like you don’t have to reply. One of our ways of working in the People team is having set times for when we can message the team (eg, we have a rule of 8 am till 6 pm). That’s not to say you can’t answer a message when it’s urgent or even complete some of your own work in your own time, it is just to ensure some boundaries are set (we all deserve a break from work!). When sending a message outside of work hours, consider if it needs to be sent there and then and can wait until the next day. Most importantly, think about how it can affect someone else. If they receive that message, do you expect them to reply straight away? I didn’t really experience this whilst remote working, but I always think it’s important to highlight!
I hope you enjoyed this snippet of my remote week. It has definitely given me a different outlook on remote working for sure. Everyone has a way of working, and granted, people’s experiences may be different from mine, but it has taught me to be mindful of remote workers and the interaction you have with them!