We can’t believe it’s now been over 12 weeks since IT Foundations began working remotely. We asked the team to talk about their experiences working from home, revealing their hints and tips that have made remote working manageable.
Striking a family-work life balance at home
Remote working has brought its challenges as a family. My wife is self-employed and has not been able to work during the lockdown and we have two primary school-age children.
For me, the responsibility of ensuring I was able to continue to deliver on my work responsibilities while managing the difficulties of homeschooling and keeping my girls occupied has been tough.
However, we have found as a family we can make it work with the flexibility and support from Graeme my Managing Director in his understanding that family must still come first. I can structure my day around my work responsibilities, being a dad and supporting my family.
Investing in the right home office setup
Usually, when people think of working at home it seems like the ideal opportunity to work from your bed or the couch, but to get real work done you really need to have a proper setup.
I like to have a separate room in the house where I can have my “office” at “home” which means when I go in, I am in the office and working. This helps keep out distractions from the rest of the house, except the occasional tea delivery.
Given the current expanded nature of working at home, I have upgraded my home office with a new transforming/standing desk, it has been one of the best pieces of kit for the office I have bought. I would highly recommend getting one if you can as it can help improve your overall health while working.
Creating a new routine
All of my previous working from home experience (quite a lot of it though) has been a couple of days here and there – nothing like the three months of continuous working from home that we’ve been doing up to now.
My tip is to have a good routine around the working day. Now, I don’t have commuting time to break the day up and help me transition from work to home again. It’s sofa, cuppa, desk, cuppa, sofa, bed, repeat.
I make sure that I get fresh air every morning going a walk with the dog to replace my commute time. I stretch my legs again at lunch and head out for another walk with the dog when I finish for the day. Stable routine gets me in the work mindset every morning and helps me break away from work to my own family time in the evening.
I make sure I have breakfast like I normally do, I still get out of bed at my usual time – even though I could squeeze an extra 45 minutes in bed. A sleep–in every day sounds great, but I tried it early on during lockdown and I felt lethargic and lacking concentration. I was pretty useless all day and because I didn’t get Pippi out for her morning walk, I got the puppy dog eyes giving me a guilt trip all morning.
Finding a healthy home office environment
For me, working from home has been a new experience and a learning curve to identify the do’s and don’ts, but most importantly understanding what works best for me. At the end of the day, everyone works differently and will have differing home environments.
My first tip would be to make sure you have a suitable setup and space to work effectively. Having a proper desk, chair, and monitors makes life a lot more comfortable and easier which I can testify first-hand. The pictures below show how my setup has evolved to meet my needs, ensuring I could work comfortably for extended periods.
For those missing the normal bustle of the office, my second tip would be to have some background noise. For me, that is a bit of Absolute Radio and being lucky enough to have a spare room to work in – drowning out the sound of my terrible singing much to the relief of the rest of my household!
Making technology work for you
I was used to working on a desktop PC in the office and without the software solutions available to me through IT Foundations, I would have had to take this home. This would have involved carrying the equipment through Edinburgh city center and then onto my train home – we can all agree no one wants to do this!
In the leadup to lockdown, I was able to test remote working using my own laptop. This has been brilliant. I can access everything I need to continue to work as normal. Using cloud technologies that IT Foundations have chosen has made the transition from office working to remote working easy for me.
Being able to use the 3CX phone system has helped our technical team to continue to support our clients. We can download a mobile app, and all calls directed to the office come through to our mobiles. I have even had feedback from clients saying that they thought we were still working in the office because of how clear the call was and how available we were.
As a relatively new member of IT Foundations, using Microsoft Teams as our main method of co-working and communication has really helped me settle into remote working. We have daily catch up calls, discussions on projects as well as general chit-chat between the team.
Accessing key systems securely and safely
We have 3 young adults in our household and have had to adjust to returners from university and being a family unit again. I found it important to discuss my working hours during lockdown so that everyone knows when I will potentially be busy and when I am free to spend time with them.
At IT Foundations, we use a CRM system called ConnectWise and I use part of this called Control to remotely access my PC in the office. This works well and means I have not had to take my work PC home with me but can access software I do not have on my home computer. It also means when I disconnect from it, I feel I am switching from work to home which is important as I no longer have the walk home to transition.
Resolving technical issues
Working from home was a welcomed transition for me – having just completed my degree I was used to spending my days with an open laptop at the kitchen table. However, video conferencing was a new concept and not quite so welcomed by my Wi-Fi connection. At first, I improvised and moved my home office into the living room (closer to the router). Thankfully, I work alongside some technical geniuses who advised me to get in touch with my internet provider and fix the issue. Thanks to them, no more frozen faces, speech glitches, or poor connection notifications.
Thanks to my IT Foundations team, tech headaches have been remedied.
Managing a remote workforce
12 weeks of working from home and I can honestly say that I feel relaxed and confident that the team is doing everything they can every day to deliver the best possible service to our customers.
Looking back to 12 weeks ago, I wasn’t so sure things would be so seamless. I had confidence in our systems and processes, but I was concerned staff may get ill due to the virus, and I worried about their mental wellbeing too. Staying home all day, every day, especially if you live alone, or in a busy household with small children is challenging.
On day one, we decided to hold a daily Microsoft Teams video call for all staff at 9:30am. This has proven to be an invaluable part of the day. We deliberately keep it work free. This is a personal news time and a chance for social bonding and camaraderie – we are all in this together after all. We also set up team chat for posting up funny stories, pictures, saying good morning or good evening. We take these interactions for granted when together, but they have been so important when remote too.
I am proud of our team and I know that we’ll bounce back stronger in the weeks ahead as the next stage unfolds.
To my team – Thank you everyone for being awesome.