As a digital nomad couple, our life is often about working remotely from beautiful and exotic places around the globe. However, since the Coronavirus crisis started, we are stuck at home with our family and their children and travelling has ceased to be an option for the coming weeks.
Nevertheless, work is still remove, it is confined, the view is no longer the beaches of Costa Rica or Greece but the Seine view of our countryside family house.
We wrote this article to share our advice on how to best do remote working, being confined due to Coronavirus and how to cope with life in those difficult times. When the travel restriction will be lifted, we hope to continue our search of the best locations to work remotely.
How to organise your day while working remotely
When you work remotely, one of the hardest challenge is to find the right split between your personal life and your work life. It is easy to let them mix a bit too much and find yourself stressed. For people with children, I do not think there is much choice if nobody is available to keep your children while you work: you will suffer.
- Wake up early: eat breakfast, do some yoga : now that do not have to commute anymore, there is no rush. Spend the time you freed in the morning for yourself and to pick up some good habit (or pay off your lack of sleep debt).
- Get ready for work: setup your computed, get dressed appropriately (at least for video-call), get your coffee, take your breath and start your day!
- Say hi to your coworker: first thing in the morning, check your messages, and the most important : say hello ! That’s part of the remote work etiquette.
- Take regular break: you won’t be as distracted at home compared to your office. Make sure to take break while you work remotely. At least a 10 minutes break every couple of hours and a long one hour break for lunch.
- Don’t put the TV on while working or on call: it’s work time not Netflix time.
- If you have children and you work with your significant other: take 2 hours turn and work in separate room. One of them will have the children while the other can focus on working.
- Keep your working hours reasonable: there is no point exhausting yourself in a 100-hours+ remote marathon. You will be less productive, nobody will notice that you worked so hard, you will get frustrated, tired and it will eventually just backfire. If you have a flexible work, work when you are the most productive and log off when you are tired.
- Accept that communication is more complex: In the office, a quick 5 minutes break at the coffee machine can solve much more than we can imagine. While working remotely, communication is a challenge. Accept it and dedicate time for your coworker.
- Pick up the phone (or video call): While very convenient, slack and other instant-chat tools can’t replace voice conversation and seeing-each other. Anything not solved in a few sentences in a chat or by email should be replaced by a meeting. Long conversations on chat usually lead to misunderstanding.
- Understand and use “Do not disturb”: If you can, set yourself to “do not disturb” while completing complex and focused tasks so your colleague know they should not be calling you or understand your slow replies. When your colleague are showing a “do not disturb”, respect their time and do not interrupt them except for emergency.
- Keep your calendar updated: Make sure it is clear for your colleague when they can and when they cannot set meeting with you. If you are on holidays, your calendar should say so. If you work on an unusual timezone, your calendar should say so as well.
Our hardware choice to work remotely
Many people not used to remote working simply thing remote work is about getting a microphone and a laptop and meet on Skype. This is incorrect! To work remotely and efficiently, it is key that companies and individual select and use correctly the appropriate hardware and tools.
In term of technology, as a “geek” couple we are well equipped :
- One macbook Pro 15″, 2015 and one Macbook Pro 13″ 2015 : when we acquired our computers, we decided to buy 2015 Macbook pro as the connectivity of those computers still include the HDMI port which we use almost daily. They have a very good trackpad compared to most computer we tried on Windows, the battery life is about 5 hours now that they are a bit old, and the screen are very good quality. In term of price, they are quite expensive (1900£ for the 15″ bought in 2016) and less reliable than Apple Marketing let you think (we paid over 500€ twice already to fix the motherboard).
- One Ipad Pro : our company recently provided us with one iPad Pro. It is an amazing tool to work remotely while travelling as well as at home. It has impressive drawing capability and it is possible to add a keyboard to take notes. If your work is mostly meetings and writing up documents, it can be your probably be your only tool. The only issue with the iPad Pro : you can’t plug much, and you have to use earphone or headset with bluetooth so it is hard to work long hours without pause.
- Jabra Evolve 40 or 60 headset : Francois spent a lot of time choosing the headset with the best value for money and he was right to do so! After long research and several failed attempt, he found out the Jabra evolve headset. Those headset are pretty cheap (50 €) and come with a shortcut to mute. The sound is pretty clear and we are often the best heard people in our call.
- Apple earpods pro: if you are travelling and doing call at the same time, those are great. With their noise-cancelling feature and a very good sound and microphone, they can be used easily for any ad-hoc meeting. They are pretty expensive and pair well with the iPad but we would not recommend them to work for home – they are more to work while travelling.
- A 26″ screen: Any good 24″+ screens will help you be as efficient as possible. Dual monitors has proven now to increase productivity of most computed-based job by 25 to 30%. When you chose a screen, check its quality first and that it is easy to adjust its height.
- A keyboard : it is pretty bad to work on the laptop for your back for long hours. If you work from home for long, you should consider investing in a keyboard, even if it is a cheap 20€ one and make sure to keep the right position for your back.
Of course, there are plenty other things that will be useful for your work at home : a nice desk and chair, a good internet connection, good phone with mobile data to call your clients… If you are working for a long time at home, you should consider investing in those things as well!
Our usual software to work remotely
One big difference maker to work remotely is to ensure or advice to your company to use the best software available on the market to work remotely. I will introduce a few of my favorite there :
- Slack: We do not need to introduce Slack to most people working in Start-up as it’s made its way to our daily life. In short – slack is the Swiss Army knife of the remote worker. In few words, slack is centralising all the communication between the employee in a company (and clients, partners) into channels of discussion. It integrates well with any other tools and replaces internal email almost entirely. Slack also provides video-call and file-sharing and for a small company, it can probably be the only paid software required to work remotely.
- Zoom: Zoom is a video-conferencing tool that can integrate with Slack or Google Suite. While both of those solutions also provide video-conferencing, none are as mature as zoom in term of quality easiness. Zoom call have high capacity, up to 1000 people simultaneously and only the organiser of such call will need a paid license.
- Google Suite: As we are all used to gmail, google provide what is probably the best company business tools solution. Our favorite google Suite tools are gmail, google drive, and the calendar. Google Drive, notably, allow you to have people working simultaneously on a document and share it easily across the company.
How to keep your team spirit up while working remotely
Now more than ever, keeping the spirit of your team up is a day-to-day challenge as everyday brings new bad news, and being confined due to Coronavirus is very different than remote working for fun.
- Organise regular meeting: the main issue for anyone working remotely for a long time is solitude. None of your team member should ever be let a full day of work without talking to anyone, even if it’s just a quick “wake-up morning call” to say hi. Regular meeting and continuous communication with your colleagues is very important.
- Work part time: Now is a good time to take time for yourself. Working in confinement is not very productive, we have to do it but more often than not, it’s not necessary to do a full week of work as the activity is very reduced. Ask your boss or give your employee the ability to work part time, they need to relax.
- Have a positive Slack Etiquette: let people have casual discussion in the chat, allow the use of Emoji, encourage people to talk about their successes and challenges. When your team member start to work, say hi, when someone helps you, say thank you. Those advice seems basics but are easily forgotten once you are in the middle of a very business remote day.
- Set a place for casual discussion: If you use slack, ensure to have channels for people to have casual discussions, post photos, share how they are coping with the current situation and help each others.
- Find new team building activities: online poker, videogame, remote quizz-pub, best joke contest… it is up to you to find new team building activity to do within your team and continue to have fun.