Remote working – tips from the team at Wholegrain Digital

Written by Neisha Glen - April 3, 2020

As a semi-remote company, transitioning into fully remote work – or what I like to call ‘isolation mode’- has been somewhat simple for our team at Wholegrain Digital. We like to think of ourselves as experts in the area of working remotely, so we thought we’d give you some productivity tips, and some general suggestions to help you stay sane while working from home full time.

Working from home is still work

In order to be productive, it’s important to look at working from home as you would if you were going into the office. So here are our top tips:

  1. Have a routine: Continue to keep a routine as you would if you were getting up to go to the office. Have breakfast, get dressed and organise what you need for the day.
  2. Take a proper lunch break: It’s so easy to get caught up in work when you’re at home, so make sure you step away from your emails, turn off/mute Slack, move away from your workspace and make yourself something to eat, to give yourself that separation and refuel for the afternoon.
  3. Have a dedicated workspace – I for one am guilty of working on the couch, however I don’t recommend that you make that your permanent workspace. You’ll most likely find you’re much more productive when working from a dedicated workspace like a study, or if this isn’t possible, then even a desk or just any space that you can keep relatively separate from your home life. Keep work in the work space.

Look after your mental health

Sometimes, the isolation of not having people around can really impact your quality of mind and mental health. It’s important to make sure you still have some interaction with other humans, even when working from home. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Set up a recurring meeting: At Wholegrain, we have a weekly team call where we spend 30 minutes catching up with each other and asking how our weekends were. We celebrate each other’s personal and professional milestones.
  2. Celebrate the positives – We celebrate our successes as a team on a regular basis through calls, general updates in Slack and also through our monthly team newsletter.
  3. Encourage openness – It’s so important to not suffer in silence. Therefore, encouraging a culture of openness so that team members feel they can discuss any issues, at any time, is important.
  4. Have a virtual water-cooler chat – With the use of good tooling, it becomes quite easy to facilitate virtual water-cooler chats. We have many channels in Slack that allow us to do this. For example, a direct message to your teammates about something random, keeping it unrelated to work, and just general conversation. We have channels for music, random topics of conversation and even a dedicated environment channel.
  5. Get outside! The beauty of flexible working is that you can make the most of nice weather by taking an extended lunch break or going to your lunchtime gym session. While that might not be possible at the moment, it still gives you the opportunity to take a bit of ‘me time’ during the day.

Communication, Trust and Planning

  1. Set up with tools that help facilitate good communication. Some tools that help facilitate good communication are Slack, emails, and conference calling such as Google Hangouts or Zoom.
  2. Give regular updates – we have specific channels in Slack where we can update our teams members about what we’re doing. For example, our ‘breaking-not-bad’ channel is where we post a note if we’re heading out for a lunch break, so everyone is aware that we’re not available during that time.
  3. Have tools set up that allow you to plan. Some tools that we use at Wholegrain include Basecamp for client communication and task management, Forecast for scheduling, and Harvest for time tracking. All of these help to provide us with a clear plan of what we need to do each day.
  4. As our MD, Tom, mentioned in a recent presentation he gave with Flywheel on remote working, “It’s extremely easy to be suspicious of the invisible”. That’s why we think it is incredibly important to build a culture of trust. Trust that you have hired the right people and trust that your team members are getting on with the work they’ve been assigned. If you are unsure, just ask – don’t speculate.

Tips from our team members

1. Our Account Manager Gary’s top tip is ‘Pet Time’ with his dog Bruce. Pet time is the best time, and working from home gives you the opportunity to forge a winning team with your pet whilst achieving a better state of well-being and quality of life.  If you have a pet, 10-15 minutes of play or cuddle time has proven to reduce stress and cortisol levels. Plus, it provides a welcome mental distraction. If you don’t have a pet, then here’s a picture of Bruce to get you through your day.

Bruce - Gary's companion dog while working from home
Bruce – Gary’s companion while working from home

2. My top tip is to greenify your work space and create a space you enjoy being in. I know we probably all stare out our windows during the day and wish that we were out in nature. So, why not bring the outside in and get yourself some plants. Apparently plants reduce stress, boost productivity and reduce air pollution within your home, or should I say home office.

Laptop with plants and coffee next to it
Neisha’s working arrangement

3. Our ‘Team Genie’, Rachael, is always focussed on connection, so she likes to start the day with yoga (she loves the short videos from Yoga with Adrienne) to set positive intentions, and get outside and get some daylight before starting work. She usually takes her son to school in the mornings but if not, just standing in the garden or a short walk around the block can give you your daily dose of vitamin D.

Rachael also recommends connecting with colleagues even when everyone is really busy. Just a quick personal message to even one colleague can brighten your day, and theirs too!

And finally, especially if it feels like everything is too much – remember every now and then to take a minute to step away from your workspace and just breathe.

4. Our Queen scheduler and Project Coordinator Nicole has quite a few tips to help you be as productive as you can be, working from home:

  • Noise cancelling headphones for less distraction in your home
  • Switching off after work is important, so make sure you shut down your laptop, turn off your work phone and fully sign out for the day
  • Look after yourself. Make sure you take mini breaks, stretch and close your laptop screen at lunch time.

5. Our Lead Developer Josh is often in a few client meetings. He thinks it’s super important to get dressed and make yourself presentable. In turn, you’ll feel motivated and always be ready for that spontaneous client call.

Josh - Our lead developer looking formal on a call
Josh – Our lead developer looking formal on a call
Josh not so formally dressed
Josh not so formally dressed

6. One of our Project Managers, Caoilainn’s top tip is to clear away all your work stuff neatly somewhere out of sight at the end of each day. Leaving it out all evening blurs the line between home and work. Once you sign off, put your stuff away to help yourself mentally check out of work.

Whether remote work is something you’re transitioning towards, already do, or are thinking of doing more of, we hope that these tips from the Wholegrain team will help you on your way. Stay safe out there, and do feel free to get in touch if you want to learn more about running a remote business. We’re always happy to help.