Preparing Your Home for Remote Working During the Coronavirus (covid-19)

Remote WorkingAs Telecom networks deal with “unprecedented” pressure it may feel like there isn’t much you can do to prepare yourself for working remotely from home. While that’s somewhat true, it isn’t entirely true. Here are some things you can likely do:

  1. Plug directly into your internet service modem/router. If you think you don’t have a cable, try looking in your original computer/modem/router boxes if you still have them. They usually come with a cable and you may have collected some unwittingly over time.
  2. If online stores are still open, invest in a good router. I talk more about this in my article: “Forget a bandwidth upgrade! Try these 4 things to make the home internet experience better“.
  3. If your router has a Quality of Service (QoS) feature, use it. Assign your work computer to the “highest” setting while making sure junior is watching TV on a lower QoS setting. Break out your router’s manual to find out if you can do this.
  4. Set any video, including video for a teleconference, to its lowest quality setting. Most video streaming services have a “download to device” feature which can make sure the device is not streaming while you’re trying to teleconference. Switching from HD to SD can save up to 25% of your bandwidth – article: “Netflix And YouTube Switch To SD To Ease Pressure On European Networks
  5. Think you’re ready for your work teleconference? Test your changes to see how well you did. The Cisco Spark WebEx Network Test measures all pieces of your internet service to make sure you’re ready; it’s not just about bandwidth!
  6. While you might not need a webcam, you’re going to need a really good headset (again, if you can still order one online). I talk more about this in my “PMI-SAC Remote Working Tips” article. Don’t forget to mute if you’re not talking while on a teleconference!
  7. Make sure your workspace is ready:
    • Have a room with a door that can be closed and that is quiet.
    • Have a proper desk and chair setup. Do your best to make it ergonomic.
  8. Wear something that makes you feel productive. For many people this means not wearing pajamas but if that’s not you, then you’re good!
  9. Keep consistent work hours as much as possible.
  10. Go outside at least once during the day; especially important for those who live in areas where vitamin D supplements are necessary.
  11. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  12. Get used to thinking about what is the best way to communicate to your team members depending on your needs. For instance, if you need to discuss something right away and at length, instant messaging might not be the right forum. Know when to pick up the phone or start a teleconference.
  13. You’re going to have to develop your ability to pick up on tones people are using. You may have heard that if you lose one of your senses, another sense goes into “overdrive”. Well, the same with remote working. You don’t have the luxury of a physical presence. More on this subject and more via the article “These are the 7 reasons why working from home can make you a better communicator“.
  14. If you need 1-1 check-ins, schedule them. Don’t assume someone is going to stop by regularly; make that happen.

I hope it’s clear that being good at working remotely doesn’t just “happen”. It takes preparation and some skills development. Don’t beat yourself up though, it takes time. Try to make the changes gradually if you can.

For more remote working suggestions see them here: https://www.inc.com/lindsey-pollak-eileen-coombes/remote-work-home-productivity-communication-self-care-morale-team.html

How to write Productive Emails

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Considering how much office workers use email it’s appalling how bad we are at it. Luckily there is a resolution and it doesn’t take more than a couple minutes to review the productivity tips and start writing emails effectively.

Starting by writing an appropriate subject line will immediately improve the productivity of all your recipients. Keep it to 3-4 words and make sure it describes the content in a unique way. More here: http://www.asianefficiency.com/email-management/productive-email-subject-lines/

For the email body, as long as it’s appropriate to your subject, keep it to between 50-125 words, use a 3rd grade reading level and do not include more than 3 questions.

Always consider the intended audience and adjust TO:/CC: lines. Consider if “reply-all” is appropriate and if changing audiences, consider if the subject needs to be modified in order to take the conversation in a new direction (thus avoiding the “grouped conversations” stack).

If your email is attempting to “hook” your audience – e.g. to get information, sell/market something or get an invoice paid, consider sending it in early in the morning or during lunch rather than mid-morning and afternoons. More here: https://blog.boomerangapp.com/2016/02/7-tips-for-getting-more-responses-to-your-emails-with-data/

Thinking that instant messages and shared calendars are going to be the answer to productivity challenges? I encourage the reader to reconsider: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/08/21/640596144/why-people-cant-get-work-done-at-work

Remote Working Tips

* As published in the PMI-SAC April 30, 2018 email newsletter.

Remote Working Tips

Sometimes its impossible to avoid having remote team members. Here’s some tips for preparing to communicate:

1) On teleconferences, mitigate any “bad connection” problems by reminding all participants to mute unless they are talking.

2) Check the internet connection before the meeting. If possible, choose a wired connection over wireless. If the internet is bad or unavailable a participant may become audio only. As a contingency to audio only, having a team sync tool that offers use in offline mode can be useful. Examples are: Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox.

Extra tip: Cisco Spark has a tool for testing internet readiness for softphone calling, screen share and conference calls. In addition to bandwidth it also tests for critical real time application requirements such as jitter: https://mediatest.ciscospark.com/#/main. If the remote work site is a location that will be used often then it might be worth having the local internet service provider look into any issues the Cisco Spark tool finds.

3) Ensure the remote worker has a good headset. As long as the internet connection is good typically a stereo headset will noticeably exceed cell phone quality. It also avoids having to connect two tools: a phone and a screen share. Here’s a site with headset reviews: http://www.toptenreviews.com/business/articles/best-voip-headset-review/

Extra Tip: Have a visual cue to remind yourself of your mute status. This reduces the chance for the dreaded “talking while accidently muted” issue. The author uses the Logitech H820e wireless headset as the boom mike has a red LED.