11 Experts Share Their Tips on How to Adapt to Working From Home
If you are working from home for the first time, you may have needed some time to figure out what works best for you.
However, when you’re asked to do this for the very first time in a limited timeframe, what do you do then? You turn to someone who has done this before, made mistakes and learned from them, and knows the best practices like the back of their hands.
Likewise, in these pressing times, it’s best for you to learn from veteran WFH professionals on how to work remotely like a pro. In this blog, we’ve charted all the essential tips you need to know on all things remote work-related.
On migrating to a completely remote workforce
#1 Be prepared: psychologically and physically
Alan Berkson, the Global Director of Community Outreach and Analyst Relations at Freshworks, rightly said that just like anything you’re doing for the first time, working from home can be really hard at first too. For instance, if you’re running for the first time (or even after a very long time), you might feel tired very quickly. But, when you keep at it, with each day you can increase your stamina and cover a longer distance. Likewise, you have to realize that working from home gets easier with time.
The first thing I will say for anybody who’s doing this for the first time, is that it’s hard. And if it feels hard, it is hard. You’ve got to learn some new skills. – Alan Berkson, Global Director of Community Outreach and Analyst Relations at Freshworks
Apart from being psychologically ready to work remotely, here’s are a few things that have helped Alan work from home successfully for the past seven years:
– Creating your own rules of engagement: A common observation that most employees have made since they shifted to a remote setup is that it’s hard to switch off from work-mode. That can be quite dangerous because if you don’t carve out time for yourself, then you’re putting yourself at the risk of a burnout.
So, it’s important that you highlight your work hours and even block time for your breaks on your calendar. This way, you’re disciplined and have enough time to do something you like or take a walk, or spend time with your family.
Pro tip: Alan recommends maintaining a dedicated workspace at home, so whenever you enter your workspace, you know it’s time for you to tune in and focus on the tasks that you have to do.
– Being well-equipped to work remotely: We’ve already put together a comprehensive list of tools that can enable you to work seamlessly from wherever you are, but a tool for communication and collaboration, taking notes, monitoring time-zone, and a good pair of headphones (with a mic) are must-haves.
Once you get into the rhythm of working from home, you will start to focus on the pros of working remotely instead of the cons.
#2 Maintain a unified message
Drafting a communication plan, being transparent and empathetic, and maintaining a common voice as an organization business are the most important things to do when you’re going through a crisis – according to Parker Trewin, the VP of Corporate Communication at Freshworks.
Treat your crisis communication strategy as the source of truth to make sure that your entire organization has a common voice. – Parker Trewin, VP Corporate Communication at Freshworks
If you belong to a customer-facing team, not being prepared for a crisis can be quite frightening. You’ll have to face curious and worried customers all day. Here are Parker’s wise words of comfort:
“If you are at the frontlines, when a crisis happens, you need to take a breath, and understand that you are supported by a team. Remember that your team will have a communications plan ready for you, and all you have to do is stick to the plan.”
Don’t forget that we are all in this together, and that your team and colleagues have always got your back.
On remote team management
#3 Always play as a team
At the office, having regular meetings to plan or track projects helps ensure that everyone is on the right course. Likewise, conducting meetings to plan or measure progress can turn out to be even more helpful when you’re working remotely.
I think the biggest challenge or pitfall is that teams can have a lack of clarity of what they’re supposed to be doing, and when they’re supposed to be doing it. – Joshua Zerkel, Head of Global Community at Asana
Like Joshua said, planning your projects, assigning tasks, and setting deadlines together with your team can provide clarity on who needs to do what and when they are supposed to complete it. Using a project management tool such as Asana or Basecamp, and a status sharing tool such as iDoneThis can bring everyone on the same page and also reduce the lapses in communication.
#4 When in doubt, create a knowledge base article for internal teams
Do you ever feel like you’ve been answering the same questions again and again over chat? Handling dependencies within and outside of your team can get tedious while working remotely – most of your communication is through chat, and sometimes the conversations can get quite repetitive. This can get in the way of you completing other tasks too. However, if all your communication is documented, everyone in your organization can find the answers to their questions without having to depend on someone.
It’s way better to create it than to have the same question being asked multiple times. – Elisabeth Powell, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Guru
Maintaining a knowledge base for your team or business can reduce dependencies within and across teams. Document learnings from informal conversations and questions that are answered at home can prevent the same questions from being repeated.
Pro tip: Elisabeth mentions that creating bite-sized chunks in the form of a card or FAQ is easier to consume than lengthy articles. Plus, adding a trust score or a verification functionality can help ensure that the information you have created is up to date.
#5 Open lines of communication
As a remote team, one of the most effective ways to stay productive is by communicating often and clearly.
Finding a strong form of communication and defining a process for how you want to communicate is the key to maintaining your work culture remotely. – Justin Cruz, Senior Client Success Manager at Stella Connect
As Justin recommends, you can decide if you and your team need to catch up daily, or weekly or biweekly, and also create an agenda for these meetings in advance. It’s great to be proactive and decide what your meeting agenda will look like and share it with your team. This way, your team understands what needs to be shared, and your meetings can be more streamlined.
Another huge factor that affects productivity is maintaining a work-life balance. At home, the line between work and life outside of work becomes finer because of various reasons – a lack of change in your surroundings, a mismatch in timings between you and your colleague to name a few. This makes it harder to put a hard-stop to work every day.
So, it’s your duty to remind your team to maintain a healthy work-life balance by encouraging them to build a routine that involves important things such as taking time off to stay fit, and focus on their hobbies.
Pro tip: Justin also says that a few words of appreciation can boost your team’s morale. So never miss an opportunity to recognize someone’s efforts.
On remote customer service
#6 Switch to cloud-based solutions
Businesses that use cloud-based applications managed to switch to working remotely in no time. Why?
When you think about the cloud, all you need is a desktop or a laptop, and a proper internet connection. It’s a one-time setup, and you’re ready to go. – VC Harish, a Customer Support Lead at Freshworks
Apart from enabling your team to work remotely without any hassles, cloud-based applications come with a lot of advantages that on-premise solutions do not offer, such as:
– Automatic updates: Cloud-based solutions get automatically updated and eliminate any dependencies on this front.
– Easy to implement changes: While using a cloud-based solution, you can make changes to your workflows in no time. You do not have to depend on a developer to do this for you. Plus you can even test your changes in a demo-environment using a Sandbox.
– Can use one account: Another advantage of using cloud-based solutions (one that is very relevant to the work-from-home situation) is that you can use one account and access it from anywhere across the world.
#7 Invest in building self-service options
With more businesses looking to maintain a lean team, self-service is increasingly becoming the need of the hour – customers can’t wait to find solutions, and agents might not always be available to provide answers.
I don’t think that after the current situation passes, you’ll see a call center with a few thousand people sitting like they used to. The environment will change. And to adapt, organizations need powerful technology for this forthcoming transformation. – Sagi Eliyahu, the CEO of KMS Lighthouse
Investing in building a range of self-service options can enable your customers to find answers on their own. Here are a few options you can set up to provide an excellent self-service experience:
– Knowledge base
You can document FAQs and help guides in a knowledge base, and publish a branded self-help portal. This is a basic and yet strong self-service option, that is used to power more advanced self-service options.
Also read: Knowledge Management System.
Chatbots play great assistants to support agents by suggesting relevant answers from your knowledge base. Deploying a chatbot on your support portal or website can help your team field the basic how-to questions.
– Website widget
You can deploy a widget on your website to help your customers or prospects find what they need quickly. You can also set up triggers that display a pop-up when a customer shows visible signs of frustration such as rage clicks or dead clicks.
– User-community forums
You can foster an active user-community by creating a forum that your customers can use to have conversations amongst themselves and even help each other out.
A customer support team that is backed by a strong support operations team that does all the number-crunching and forecasting, is one that has a fail-proof customer service strategy in place. Especially in a remote work setup, it’s important for everyone on the team to know where they are headed.
Constantly over-communicate with the team and share as much information as possible on new updates, products, critical issues, and so on. – Chak Srinivasan, Senior Director of Customer Support at Freshworks
As Chak pointed out, the support ops team at Freshworks has been more helpful than usual. The team has been proactive in identifying instances when support agents needed assistance. They also share daily, weekly and monthly reports on volumes and key support KPIs, and this helps in keeping everyone on the same page.
#9 Offer timely customer service
During the time of a crisis, a data breach, or a pandemic, customers tend to get anxious and flood your inbox.
Customers tend to send multiple emails or tend to create multiple tickets, hoping that one of the tickets is going to get a reply very soon. – Andrew Navin, a senior support manager at Freshworks
Andrew’s solution to tackling the flurry of customer conversations is to assist your customers at the earliest by automating your workflows. The customer support team at Freshworks has been able to build robust and streamlined workflows using Freshdesk. For instance, we’re using an auto-ticket merger app that merges two or more tickets that were created by a customer within a specified span of time. This helps reduce the number of tickets that the agent actually has to resolve.
Likewise, you should leverage the capabilities of your customer service software to enable remote support by automatically assigning and routing tickets, improving agent productivity, and monitoring performance using live dashboards.
Pro tip: You can use Freshdesk’s agent collision detector to ensure that no two agents end up responding to the customer issue.
On adapting your e-commerce business to the current trends
#10 Switch from reactive to proactive
If you’re an e-commerce business, then most of your business activities might have reduced due to the lockdown. While that is worrisome, you can use this is the time for you to strengthen customer relationships.
The better businesses are looking out for their customers and always striving to ensure that their customers are kept aware of the situation, and keep them informed about issues ahead of schedule, rather than letting them get into a state of panic after things have gone wrong. – Sriram Sridhar, the CEO of lateshipment.com.
Here are the three things you can do to help your customers during a lockdown:
– Proactively assist your customers: Communicate delays in shipping or changes made to your terms of service in advance and let your customers know when you resume business as usual.
– Keep your customers engaged: You can drop in an email or message in a non-intruisive manner to let your customers know that you’re there for them.
– Improve the experience that you provide: You can identify effective ways of improving your customer service by scaling your self-service or analyzing past customer feedback and making changes accordingly.
On remote IT management
#11 Add a layer of checks and balances
The role of the IT team becomes all the more important in a remote work setup – there are more people who need access to different tools or VPN, gadgets need to be distributed to new joinee and collected from people who are exiting the company, and more. Above all, the IT team needs to ensure that every employee is working using a secure connection.
Security involves keeping away bad actors who try a 1000 times and need only one chance to be able to gain access to your environment. So you need to have security controls, which are independent of this current situation. – Prasad, the Chief Information Officer at Freshworks
In Prasad’s words, IT and security cannot be compromised at any time. You need to make sure you protect data that is important to you and your business by establishing secure lines of connection using VPN servers and remote desktop control.
To sum up
Navigating through the new normal at first might seem challenging at first. But, it gets better with time. Just remember to:
– build and follow a schedule,
– document FAQs to reduce internal and external dependencies,
– stay connected with your team and customers,
– provide a secure line of connection for your team to work from.
Do you have any other effective tips to improve the work-from-home experience? Let us know in the comments below!