Coronavirus and Remote Work — How to Get Started?

Coronavirus or CoVid-19 has already taken its toll, and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like countries can easily contain it. Besides the fatalities and many inconveniences, the pandemic also quickly changed how we interact with each other. No contact deliveries being just one example, and I believe such solutions will be on the rise to lessen the potential impact of any similar future cases.

What can you do to make sure business doesn’t stop?

The obvious reaction to CoVid-19 is remote work for most companies. But very few enterprises are really experienced in that, most only starting out, and do not even know what and how to do. The challenge relies on arranging remote work, being totally counterintuitive to what we have been socialized to do.

We are built to interact with each other, and most of our business is built on creating trust by personally meeting and talking to each other. Shaking hands and feeling the gestures. We at AbilityMatrix have been doing remote work for the last eight years and remote sales for the previous two years. As we intentionally do demos, meetings remotely, we gained experience in supporting tech and how you can mimic (partially) physical presence, create trust and even have the same mood as being in the same room.

We collected some of our best practices developed through years of remote work. This includes technologies supporting remote work and remote sales.

The Basics

  1. Remote work is not 9–5. Remote work simply doesn’t operate this way. Assign tasks and deadlines, estimate the work needed, and hand out the tasks.
  2. Have proper task management/project management/administration. People are not in the same room, so that coordination will require some extra effort. Hopefully, you already have such a system in place. If not, this is a great time to start with something. The smallest step can be a Trello board. We use Breeze to track projects, tasks, and hours. There are plenty of solutions out there, the cheapest being probably an Excel Sheet or a Google Sheets file.
  3. Remote work can get you isolated. You can get lonely, maybe even depressed if you do remote work for long. We would advise going to cafes, coworking places, even if just for a day, but due to CoVid, this is not the right solution at the moment. What could work, on the other hand, is using Discord. Discord is the go-to platform for online gaming, but it can be great for remote teams as well. You can always be online, and it can give you the feeling of being in the same room.
  4. Every meeting or call should be a video call. Face to face meetings cannot be replaced. It is just not the same, but the video call is the closest you can get. If there is an issue that requires more than just a short text message on an instant messaging channel, make it a video call. It is easier for people to express themselves, to look at mimics, some of the non-verbal signals.
  5. If you have a video call, make sure everyone is using video and not voice only.Some special situations aside, it is rude to be a voyeur — at least wave in at the beginning of the meeting.
  6. Make daily video calls. Each day, like the daily stand-up, do a short 10–15 minute call with your team. It must be a video call again. It helps your team gel and given it’s a home office for everyone, and it can be a good conversation starter. Your dog beside you, a painting on the wall, or just the draperies. Try to give room for small talk and jokes.
  7. Have an instant messaging platform for work purposes only. Everyone has questions that might require quick, immediate answers. Or you just don’t want to write emails. We use Slack for this, and we have a dedicated channel to put in anything you want. All other channels are for work and project-related discussions. Still, in our “random” channel, you are free to post anything from funny to outrageous or just shocking. Or your daily problems, like how can I assemble this IKEA wardrobe all by myself?
  8. All of this is weird at the start, so be patient. Try to stick with these rules as it is built on our long experience on what works and what doesn’t.
  9. Have trust. People will work. Work is passion and self-actualization. If they do not want to work, they won’t work from the home office, and they will find their way to dodge work in the office as well. The only difference will be that non-performers cannot hide anymore. So anyone underperforming is not the result of remote work. You seeing it is the difference.

The Extras

Here we tried to cover all the things that you would typically do with a client. How to do that when you cannot meet, or you want to do that remotely? Workshops, presentations, whiteboards, facilitated meetings.

  1. Presentations. To keep the possibility of seeing faces, make sure to use two screens. If you are using a laptop, make your TV your second screen, one screen for the presentation, the other for the video call participants. This way, you get a similar feeling of looking at participants and talking to them.
  2. If you are doing a sales demonstration, have two independent accounts. Use one account for presentation and another for seeing the faces (and the presentation). This is a nice workaround for situations when you don’t have two screens, and also adds the “control monitor” option for your live presentation. You will see what the other party sees; therefore, if you see an issue, everyone else sees it.
  3. Whiteboards. There are digital whiteboard solutions that you can integrate into your call using screen sharing. Some examples: Microsoft, AWW, Miro. The more advanced version is to have an actual whiteboard (either in your meeting room or at home) and a special camera. I have to admit we planned to test drive it this year, but haven’t tried this yet. Based on our research, we believe this is the best solution right now, but we do not have actual experience. (the camera for whiteboard)
  4. Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps. Whenever you have a meeting or a call about a document, use a shared file that everybody can work on. Sometimes it can replace the whiteboard approach or the “projector way.” Projector way is a method when you project a file on a large screen, and everybody is trying to guide you where to look and what to change. With shared files, it is easy: you highlight it, and everybody sees it at the same time.
  1. Mute your mic for video calls when not speaking. It is not fun to hear all the background noises.
  2. Use a headset. Some computers generate an echo when on speakers. Test yours and if others complain of echo effect, use a headset. Usually, just a standard pair of earphones, even without a mic, can do wonders.
  3. If the video call/web conference system allows, use “raise your hand” function; if not, mute/unmute your mic quickly a few times. It is probably the least aggressive and easily recognizable signal (we use this with Whereby).
  4. Pick a video call platform that is either preinstalled for every participant or doesn’t require installation at all. This is why we prefer Whereby, as it runs from the Chrome browser and needs no installation. If every party uses Microsoft Teams or Webex, or Zoom, pick that.
  5. With clients, always make sure tech details are tested BEFORE the call. Either have a 5–10 minute technical test call the day before, or do some self-service test possibility. If you are using the same platform, again and again, this might not be necessary.
  6. Always include the video conf link in the calendar invite. Add a detailed description if you think it will be needed and an emergency phone number for technical support.

Tools listed in this article:

  1. Whereby: our go-to platform for video calls. No installs needed, just click and go.
  2. Slack
  3. Breeze
  4. Trello
  5. Kaptivo physical whiteboard camera
  6. Office 365
  7. Google Apps
  8. Discord
  9. Whiteboard apps: Microsoft, AWW, Miro

I hope this fast setup guide will help you kickstart your remote work efforts. If you have any questions, let us know, we’d be happy to jump on a Whereby call to help you 🙂 And if you think it is time to change your sales game to a fully remote sales, we are here to help, too.

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