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Lessons learnt about working from home before it was mandatory

Lisa Giese

April 22, 2020

“Can you hear me?“

“Do you see my screen?“

“You have to turn on your mic!”

…Who hasn’t experienced this in the last few weeks? The current situation, which has banished almost all of us to work from home, raises many questions for teamwork and often presents itself as a major challenge.

For Peerigon, the motto has long been: “remote first.” Although we used to have the choice of coming to the office or connecting remotely, since the shutdown nothing has changed in how we collaborate, communicate, document and organize everything. This is made possible not only by the tools and platforms we use but also by our culture and approach. We would like to present why we have been celebrating work from home and why we consider it an opportunity in the following points.

1. Patience and the daily struggle with technology

The sudden switch to remote demands one thing above all: patience. Patience with the technology that doesn’t always work, patience with the person you are talking to who isn’t used to video conferencing, and even patience with yourself. It’s perfectly okay to take the time to create the remote setup that suits you best and to set up your own working structure at home. These are all investments that will pay off long after the crisis is over. Good communication is the key, and particularly in remote communication you learn to listen better and to summarize your ideas efficiently. The good thing about it is: almost all activities (e.g. team discussions or training courses) can be switched to remote with a bit of creativity and the right tools.

2. Keep your pants on, even if no one can see them

One of our most important lessons is: Even at home, act as if you were going to the office. Get up, take a shower, have breakfast, get dressed and then go to work. It’s easy! Of course, you can imagine how great it would be to always work from the couch in jogging wear. But in our experience, this weakens motivation after a short time and is also bad for your back. Our extra tip for this: If you want to work in a jogger, arrange a day with your team where you all do it, similar to Casual Friday at the office.

3. Make yourself a plan

Structure is extremely important, especially while working from home. Make a to-do list, structure your day and deliberately plan breaks. For example, take a long lunch break and go for a walk. In the office we often meet for a quick chat at the coffee machine. We have digitalized this in the meantime and introduced a special video room where we meet with colleagues, have a coffee together and talk about our day. Afterward, we have found that we approach the next task with a bit more motivation.

a young man in a kitchen getting a pizza out of the oven

#PeerInside: Take your time and have a pizza break ©Maike Rammler

4. Close the door and let’s go

A lot of people do not have a dedicated room for an office at home, but it is still important to recreate the effect of “I’m going to work now” for yourself. It is often enough to consciously close the door (living room/kitchen/ wherever you have set up your workplace) behind you and then begin working. And even if you are one of the many people with an improvised workplace, think about the ergonomics. Improvise a standing desk with two smaller tables, for example, so that you don’t always work seated (yes, we’ve actually done this).

5. Give yourself a break, too

Even if your workplace happens to be in the kitchen at the moment: please take real meal breaks. This does not mean having breakfast on your laptop while checking your email. Please take your time and enjoy your break. Small pauses during work are also important. A simple trick is: don’t put a whole water bottle at your desk, just a glass instead. That way when you need a drink you will have to leave the computer regularly. A short change of scenery often helps you to reflect and sparks new ideas.

6. Use the right tools

While working from home you need a bunch of tools to communicate with your team. And communication means time, and time also means money… and nerves! All the more reason to invest in the right ones. Although all-in-one solutions from large companies are often advertised, we rely on a selection of smaller tools that fulfill different needs. For project documentation and our company wiki we currently use GitHub, for example, and for team chat we use Mattermost, Zoom, and Whereby. When selecting our tools, we increasingly focus on open source products.

7. Talk is second to writing

The best tools can turn out to be useless if the form of communication itself is not right. That is why we have worked together to establish some guidelines for our internal communication. Among other things, they regulate how quickly we report back across the various communication channels and how decisions should be documented so that they are still comprehensible in the long run. And it is not only important to draw up the guidelines, but they must also be applied and internalized: we too must remind ourselves from time to time that a decision has to be documented so that it does not get lost in the ether.

8. Remember to have fun

Last but not least, and this is very important to us: stay in touch with your colleagues! Meet to share a virtual coffee or evening beer. Spend the time you would normally spend together in the office with each other from home. Often there are topics that would have been discussed informally in the office that are still on the table, and for us it strengthens the team spirit enormously if we can review the day together in the evening over a beer. Afterward, you can just close the laptop and enjoy the rest of the day.

screenshot of a video call with two persons both showing a similar desk lamp to each other

#PeerInside: Finding similarities at each others home

Of course, there is no ONE way to do remote work. All these points are from our experience and we do not claim they are a universal truth.

Nevertheless, it can be summarized like this: whether remotely or in office, the right communication and cooperation within the team starts with an appreciated company culture.

Building and establishing this can take years, but it is worth it: both for long-term and sustainable corporate success and to build the build best team possible! #PeerInside

Remote Working

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