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Working from Home During a Pandemic: 5 Things We’ve Learned So Far

Maria Homann

Maria Homann

Working from home is no longer an option for most people around the world – it’s a necessity. While some are thriving and enjoying this new reality, others struggle to stay productive, engaged and connected. For most, it’s undoubtedly unknown territory.

At Leapwork, we are used to coming to the office every day and working face-to-face with our colleagues. So for most of us, the work-from-home scenario is relatively new. However, quite a few Leapworkers are used to remote work from previous jobs, so they were able to share a few tips and tricks with the rest of the team.

After a few fruitful virtual conversations with these Leapworkers, we’ve gathered some tips on how to ensure productivity and keep a strong sense of community while working remotely – something that now, more than ever, is relevant to teams around the world.

1. Revisit the company’s culture and common values

Many global businesses can probably testify to the fact that it isn’t easy to create a sense of community between people who have never met physically, and who also don’t necessarily work together on a day to day basis.

Nonetheless, building a sense of community in a company is one of the most fundamental elements in creating an effective workforce, and it’s now more important than ever to have in place.

Having a strong culture is something we’ve worked hard on creating at Leapwork, and it’s something we know keeps us connected during these times.

Our culture is built on a set of values that work as a common point of reference and generate a sense of community, despite physical distance. It’s the glue that keeps us connected while guiding us in the right direction.

Two of our values at Leapwork are: always improve and always solve the hard problems. These values shape our approach to work these days, guide us in our decision-making, and help us navigate and prioritize.

It can certainly be a challenge to practice values, but it’s nevertheless core to creating a productive and efficient organization.

If you're not already spending time on the values in your organization, now might actually be the perfect time; one benefit of this sudden remote work culture is that all team members are now much less divided by national borders, and it’s just as easy to start a conversation with a colleague in India as it is to start one with a colleague in Denmark (time differences aside, of course).

So instead of seeing this remote working time as a barrier to staying connected with the colleagues you’re used to seeing every day, see it as an opportunity to get connected with the colleagues you’ve never spoken to before, and let those common values play a central role, instead of leaving them at the periphery.

2. Leadership is key

Leadership is fundamental during this time, but it’s also all the more difficult to lead a team when you cannot sense how your employees are doing in the same way as you’re used to; sensing stress, emotions, productivity, and motivation can be extremely difficult through a screen.

For this reason, Leapwork’s founders and management team are working harder than ever on leading teams in order to maintain motivation and productivity.

It’s a balancing act of keeping hopes high, while remaining realistic – and it’s not easy.

One of the things the management team is doing to keep in sync with everything and everyone is to turn up levels of communication. For example, they are now spending more time on 1:1’s, and having them more frequently, in order to check in on employees.

Everyone is handling these hardships differently and, as always, it’s the leader’s task to keep aware of the well-being of their employees, and to guide them and help them prioritize based on individual needs and capabilities.

3. Invest now in creating the right processes

It’s very likely that this is only the beginning of remote work, and that we’ll be spending much more of this year working from our own homes.

So instead of waiting for things to get back to normal, focus on creating the right structure and the right processes now.

There’s no doubt that ad-hoc discussions are more difficult when working remotely, so it’s important to find ways in which team members can ask each other the small questions too.

It’s also important to get rid of the rigid mindset that a meeting will take either 30 minutes or an hour, as dictated by Outlook. Working remotely requires structure but also flexibility, so while some meetings may take 25 minutes, others will only take 5. There’s no need to stick around to fill up gaps of time.

At Leapwork, we started week one by adjusting our daily processes to get the teams set up properly for remote work. For example, in addition to virtual daily stand-ups in the morning, the marketing team also introduced stand-ups in the afternoon (or lie-downs, if you will), to triage any issues that emerged during the day and to ensure that we stay connected (we’re a social bunch, after all).

4. Create a common point of reference

As a part of these incident triages, the teams also introduced daily progress updates via dashboards. Again, it’s important to have a common point of reference, and this is something that dashboards can provide.

Leapwork’s software development team, for example, use Leapwork’s dashboard to get a quick overview of regression tests that have run overnight and to help understand and maintain the health of the system. The marketing and sales teams also use dashboards to stay in sync and to keep track of leads and sales.

In general, it’s important for all team members to follow progress, and to be able to see that their work is either continuing to progress as usual, or slowing down. That way teams are able to quickly create an actionable plan for change if necessary.

Transparency is key in all of this. There is no blueprint for action, so it’s better to face the challenges collectively, head-on, rather than sugar-coating them and creating a culture of uncertainty. Therefore, a common point of reference is the simplest yet best way to do this.

5. Don’t forget social activities

Although we’re all left to ourselves with four walls and a screen, social activities can, and should, still take place. Particularly for the people without families or roomies to chat with, social activities at work can really be a savior.

It’s now more important than ever to stay connected, and luckily, we live in a digital world where that is very possible. Also despite irritating factors such as time differences and unstable wi-fi connections.

At Leapwork, we hold weekly virtual Friday bars where we have the chance to catch up and even play a game of “guess who’s remote workspace this is” via Kahoot. Other game ideas that emerged were “guess who’s fridge this is” and “guess who this is as a baby”.

As it turned out, more people turn up to the virtual Friday bars than to our usual ‘physical’ Friday bars. Who knows – perhaps this time of social distancing will connect us in ways we never thought possible.