Remote working: What we’ve learnt

Like many other agencies, we’re all working from home at the moment. Whilst we’re no stranger to the world of remote working, there’s plenty we’re learning having our whole team working from different locations that we’d love to share to help those in the present and future. 

I sat down (virtually, of course!) with people from all corners of Cite, some seasoned remote-workers and some newbies, for their thoughts and tips:

Maintaining routine is something we’ve all found so important when working remotely. Senior Developer, James, explains:

“I’m lucky to have a study already which helps a lot as I’m not pitched up on the dining table or anything. I still get up early, get dressed and have breakfast as if I’m going to the office, and start at the normal time. I try to make sure I have a proper hour lunch break, and shut down the computer at the normal finishing time!”

Our Senior Account Manager, Ravi, is no stranger to being busy. He explained a few tips on communication and working effectively:

“Keep in touch with your team regularly, and choose video calling over messaging (so you can actually see each other!) Staying social is important. It can also be tempting to continue working at the end of the day as well, so turning your computer off/tidying up is a good way to officially mark the end of the day.

Being aware of your and other people’s calendars and availability is also key. Keeping your Slack status updated helps as well!”

When it comes to making use of your lunch break, a bit of exercise can go a long way. Tom, our Senior Designer, told me how exercise helped with problem-solving:

“Make the most of your lunch break, just like you usually would. Whenever possible, I’ve been using my lunch break to go for a short, local walk. I find that when I come back, I’ve usually solved whatever issue I was stuck on over the morning. And if you can’t get out, just taking your lunch elsewhere in the house can be enough to kick-start your subconscious problem solving. 

I find being adventurous with music is also beneficial. Different sounds are a vital experience when you’re in a familiar environment for long periods of time. Ask friends and family for some recommendations, and if you find music distracting then why not pop the headphones in and give a go?”

Director Daf, is all about innovative ways of working. Working in a digital world, not being afraid to try new things is key:

“I’d advise people to look at the Pomodoro Technique: it’s a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for ‘tomato’, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.

Working at home, it’s very easy to get sucked into long periods that become unproductive after a while. It’s much better to attack in short bursts most of the time and save the long sessions for when they’re really needed. Don’t be afraid of working a slightly different regime to normal either. So, for instance, on some days I’ve started work at 7am, worked until 9, gone for a 30 minute run then picked up again at 9:45. So long as your availability is in your calendar, it should be easy enough for colleagues to accommodate.”

The atmosphere can be very different at home to the usual agency space. But Senior Designer, Mateen, has a few tips up his sleeve:

“It’s not much different once you get into the zone. Obviously, one of the great things about being at Friar Lane is the working atmosphere we share, but sometimes it gets a bit quiet working from home. My tips are; work in a room with minimal distractions and create to-do lists for the morning and afternoon. Do stretches and take fresh air breaks every so often, they’re just as important.”

PJ, one of our developers, explains how he finds morning catch-up calls useful:

“Maintaining communication is even more important than usual – utilising Slack channels has been vital when discussing projects. In addition, I find it helpful that we’ve been having morning development team catch-ups via Google Meet where we set out the tasks for the day. On another note, I think it’s pretty important to get outside the house at some point during the day – you don’t want to end up like Edmond Dantès.”

Our Commercial Director, Ken, has been familiar with remote working since 1988. He shared a few ways to get creative when working from home:

“Plan to contact colleagues or friends at the end of blocks of work. Give them a call. You don’t have to chat about work, chat about personal stuff…whatever…but take a break and have a chat – you would at work, so just do it virtually. A change of scenery is always nice too, where appropriate, if you can do something efficiently away from your laptop…do it! When you’re finished for the day – sign off…properly. Say ‘Ciao’ to your colleagues and put your computer away. Don’t force yourself to keep going. The BIG takeaway… Think “Mars Bars” – Work… Rest… Play… eight hours of each = twenty-four hours. If one is out of whack, the others are out of whack too and it all goes Pete Tong!”

When remote working in general, it’s best to keep things as normal as possible. Under the current circumstances though, for example, we’re all still meeting for drinks after work on a Friday over video call in the ‘virtual pub’. A big group of us have also been showcasing our “WFH” setups on social media too. 

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