Smart Working 101

So you're moving your first steps in the world of "WFH" (working from home); we've been doing it for a while: here are some tips & tricks we learnt ;)

Nowadays, everything is "smart": phones, watches, cars, etc. The way we work evolved as well: technology gave us the tools to make our jobs more flexible: if we are lucky enough, we can potentially work from anywhere at any time. It's easy, though, to feel lost in this new Agile approach to working: go on and read eight best practices for the perfect smart worker.

1. Master your digital tools

Apart from having an excellent Internet connection, to work "smart" it's important to know the digital tools defined by our team and when to use which ones.

iPad Pro 11" & Apple Pencil
Photo by Daniel Romero / Unsplash

In our case, we use Slack as the internal messaging system and Trello to manage our roadmaps and to communicate their progress. Confluence represents our knowledge base, in which we store all of our internal documentation, whereas we use Google Docs to share the documents with the external world. Google Meet allows us to video chat with our colleagues or to organise digital meetings that we plan on Google Calendar in advance. The source code of our projects and the next activities are stored in GitHub and, finally, we use Horace to keep track of how we spend our time over them.

The digital tools we can use are many:

choose wisely which ones to adopt, together with your team! πŸ”¨

2. Adapt your communication style with your team

Did you know that in one minute of face-to-face conversation we exchange up to 10,000 non-verbal clues? Unfortunately, we lose part of this quality while communicating online: therefore, it's important to learn a few tricks to ensure an effective information exchange.

orange sheets of paper lie on a green school board and form a chat bubble with three crumpled papers.
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko / Unsplash
  • Take a second more before to send a message, and reread it to ensure precision and clearness: you will save yourself the time of a possible back-and-forth in the following clarification.
  • Add some context: don't take for granted that who's on the other side is fully aware of the whole situation.
  • Use emojis to add a sentiment to the sentences you write: it will be easier for the receiver to correctly interpret the content of your message, moreover when you play with humor or sarcasm. πŸ˜‰ Shortcut: "Windows + ." on Windows or "Command + Shift + Space" on macOS.
  • Always assume positive intent in the messages you read: tones and nuances can be lost in writing, and it's easy to misread the situation.
  • When the chat isn't enough, use the video! If you notice a mutual misunderstanding or difficulty in communicating a particular situation, organize or plan a video call.
  • To give feedback online can be even harder than doing it in person; anyhow,
feedback is essential to ensure continuous improvement in the way we work. Watch this for some quick strategy!

3. Plan accurate virtual meetings

The recipe for the perfect meeting is very easy on paper. Still, it can be hard to implement: you need (ONLY) the right people, a well-defined (and shared in advance) structure, a fixed duration, a facilitator, and written output. Many meetings, planned with the best intentions, fail because we don't give attention to these primary ingredients. The virtual sessions aren't an exception to these golden rules.

Remote Working in Iceland Self-Portrait (See a video tour of this co-working space at
Photo by Kristin Wilson / Unsplash
  • The more doesn't mean the better; as for the physical meetings, a limited number of people makes the session more involving and efficient: select your invitees with care. Everyone else can still read the report.
  • Plan the event in advance (at least a few days) and share an agenda that the invitees can review and complete: it will help everyone to attend more aware of what is going to happen. For a productive meeting, this agenda should define a fixed amount of time for each topic.
  • Follow the development of each topic, trying to respect the timing. A person assigned to be the facilitator will ensure a correct course for the meeting.
  • A meeting should always have a written output of some sort (report). It will be a helpful summary of what has been discussed and decided. Also, people not participating can still be aware of what happened.
  • Direct the webcam at eye-level (no one wants to see the internal of your nose!) and try to look at the camera – and not the people in the video chat; otherwise, it will seem you're watching elsewhere while you are speaking. πŸ‘€
What is the best spirit to face a meeting? Listen more than you speak; do not interrupt who is speaking and adopt active listening.πŸ‘‚

4. Organize your workplace and reduce distractions

You couldn't wait to start working from home to make the bed your new desk, right? ❌ to avoid! It does not only decrease your productivity, but it will get harder and harder to fall asleep since your brain won't be able to distinguish the work environment from the resting place anymore.

Having a defined and organized workplace is essential for practical remote working. If you can, use one of the rooms (with door) of your home as an office; if you don't have this possibility, reserve a table for this specific function - avoid the kitchen table, because you will have to use it for other purposes during the day. This station will be your magical space: once you enter this room/area, you will know that it is time to work, while once you leave, you can completely detach from your duties. Also, try to keep your work environment clean and organized: it will reflect in the way you work!

My workspace
Photo by Dmitry Mashkin / Unsplash

Being at home means being able to do your laundry between one meeting and another (yeah! ... mhh ... meh). Procrastinating productively is one of the biggest problems of working from home: we are facing a particularly tricky task, and we can't figure out how to proceed... "why don't we sweep the floor in the meantime, so at least do something productive?" ❌ If you often fall victim to this trap, create a "to-don't list": define a series of activities that you are forbidden to do while you work - however productive they are - and write them down for later.

Finally, while we remind ourselves how much multitasking hurts,

we should try to limit distractions (external or own) and organize work in short, highly concentrated sessions. πŸ…

5. The suit makes the monk: put some work clothes and follow a routine

Lavorare in pigiama è il sogno di ogni smart worker alle prime armi. Ma è assolutamente da evitare. ❌

Getting up and having a morning routine, similarly to when you go to the office, is vital for ensuring productivity. Getting dressed is a signal that helps the brain understand that it's time to work – and not to relax or continue sleeping. It is not necessary to dress fancy, but the simple fact to change from night clothing is essential. Also, remember that during the day you may have virtual meetings with video: do not be caught unprepared – at least from the torso up! πŸ™†β€β™‚οΈ

Young caucasian businesswoman working on her laptop in her bed during the quarantine because of coronavirus
Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska / Unsplash

6. Plan your day and define its end

It is crucial to structure the working day and to know when we will do what: in the absence of this framework, it will be much easier to work aimlessly and be distracted. Our brain likes when we have a plan, and we follow it: we consume much less energy! Even better if you can plan what's next at the end of the previous day, saving your future self the effort to face this first obstacle – early Β in the morning. πŸ₯±

I see you
Photo by Trevor Cole / Unsplash
Did you eat the frog? One of the simplest and most effective productivity techniques is to perform the most challenging task of the day first; once you've eaten the frog, everything else will be tastier! 🐸

Another common problem of working remotely is to... work too hard! Without a clear boundary between home and work, you may find more difficult to understand when to disconnect. Plan a "ritual" that ends your working day: write down a summary of what you did today (perhaps using Horace), plan what you want to do tomorrow or simply turn off the computer and rearrange your workstation. After that, rest! πŸ”š

7. Mens sana in corpore sano

When your workplace is a few steps away from your bed, it is not obvious to reach a healthy minimum of daily movement. Yet, in order to work well and maintain proper concentration, you need to look after your body. Take breaks during your work sessions, if possible, avoiding the screen of your digital devices: stretch your legs, look out the window or eat a fruit. The lifestyle of a remote worker can be sedentary, so

promise yourself about 30 minutes of daily exercise to make your heart beating and the blood to circulate. πŸ’—
Virtual Yoga Class
Photo by Kari Shea / Unsplash

8. Smart aperitif

Just as you usually would, it is important to find moments to spend with your colleagues... without talking about work! Whether it's a virtual coffee break or a smart aperitif, plan these moments to socialise, have fun, and bond with your teammates. The same digital tools used during the day are available: Slack, Google Meet, etc.

Photo by engin akyurt / Unsplash
See you soon for a smart aperitif!

Do you have any smart practices to share? Contact us: sharing is caring! πŸš€

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