Overnight, mastering digital tools such as Microsoft Teams has become critical for effective collaboration as people adjust to working from home. Read 9 practical tips for digital collaboration.
Some of us are already used to the opportunities the home office gives us, while for others it is a whole new way of working. New tools and training are needed. The coronavirus pandemic involves a change that none of us was fully prepared for and nor do we know how long it might last.
If possible, find a place at home where you can sit comfortably and mostly undisturbed. If you don’t have a room where you can close the door and work in peace, a headset is a good way of creating a calmer environment.
Teams is designed so that you can work anywhere, so don’t worry about your surroundings being a little messy while you are on a video call. Plus, you can always blur the background so that the other participants cannot see what is behind you.
In the office, we often take regular breaks during the day, such as morning coffee, lunch and, perhaps, a coffee in the afternoon as well. At home, with no colleagues around to help us maintain these routines, we may require some more self-discipline. One useful idea is to have set routines for yourself so that you can structure your day.
Do you also have children being home-schooled or needing help in other ways? Here, the extra flexibility that the home office gives you is great. But do remember to communicate your availability to colleagues throughout the day.
Without the pulse of office life to get you moving, you can quickly find yourself grabbing lunch at the keyboard. Make sure you take breaks – get up and make a coffee rather than having a flask at your desk, have lunch in the park if the weather is nice, or have an online coffee or lunch with your colleagues. And don’t forget to ‘go home’ when the working day is over.
During online meetings, it is more difficult to relay non-verbal communication. Using a camera can be a way to rectify this. Online calls with many participants can make it tricky for many to share their opinions.
The meeting organizer must, therefore, be good at calling for regular breaks and asking questions, as well as reminding those on the call that they are free to share their thoughts. Another option is to set aside time for each participant in order to ensure that everyone is heard.
Do you miss the cohesion that comes with physical meetings? This can be a major challenge, but, fortunately, we have the opportunity to conduct digital meetings in Teams. We recommend using the video whenever it’s possible, as it gives you a better sense of belonging and improves communication.
At the same time, it allows us to reflect on whether a meeting is actually necessary or if it would be easier to make clarifications quickly and efficiently by using the right channels in Teams. This secluded time in our lives may actually give rise to more effective work habits.
Make sure that you record important Teams meetings. Thus, those who could not make the call will have access to the same information. This is perfectly acceptable, as it can be difficult to find a time that suits everyone, especially since the home office often gives rise to additional tasks - such as helping children with schoolwork. Having a recording available means you can keep everyone on the same page.
Many people who work from home find that they miss the many social benefits of working in a physical office, including informal conversations. Chatting over a cup of coffee not only helps people keep in touch but also allows for the exchange of information.
It is therefore important to actively reach out to colleagues, through either the chat option or a digital meeting. Remind yourself and others to have a regular chat, phone call or video meeting in order to stay in touch with others.
For many, working away from the office can feel isolating. As a leader, it is advisable to bring the entire team together through regular virtual meetings. In addition to online meetings, there are a number of other good interaction tools that you can use to get people together.
Microsoft Office 365 has features such as file sharing, conversation, scheduling and notes, while MS Teams lets you easily share documents. For planning and task follow-ups, you can use MS Planner, which is both flexible and user-friendly. There is nothing like writing notes for yourself in everyday life and with MS OneNote, you can organize these notes and have them readily available.
With all the changes required to start working at home, it is important to keep your motivation high. Instead of leaving it to chance, there is a great deal that can be done to ensure that employees continue to feel positive and engaged.
As mentioned earlier, an important measure is to keep everyone informed about what is happening – whether it is news, stories or other activities. How about a photo competition on Yammer or Workplace? Or a Friday quiz on Kahoot?
A different way of thinking is required now that the home office has become the new normal. Your own creativity is the only limit.
Hanna has wide experience in challenging HR and Talent Acquisition roles in both big and small companies. In the tech industry she especially likes the continuously changing environment, that challenges also HR to be more business oriented in everything they do.
Hanna focuses on designing and developing the desired culture, employee experience and leadership. She enjoys working in a diverse, multi-competency and multicultural organisation, and has a passion for turning business strategy into people actions. She is helping leaders and teams to meet their full potential with the support of modern HR.
Hanna is passionate about driving diversity, inclusion and equity at Tietoevry, and she works actively to encourage girls and women to pursue a career in tech.