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Eight remote working essentials to stay productive

Microsoft Canada   |   August 26, 2020   |   Share this:  

The second in our Keep your business moving securely series, this post offers eight remote working essentials to help you stay focused, productive, and secure from home. You can try out these tips at your business and/or share this post with anyone who may be procrastinating!

The legendary humorist Mark Twain once quipped, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” It seems Mr. Twain understood the procrastination problem, which can strike anyone, especially when they find themselves working from home.

Why do some of us tend to procrastinate? The answer may not be that complicated. With so many distractions on offer at home (kids, pets, Netflix, Xbox, phone calls, neighbours, podcasts, errands, appointments, exercising, meals, naps, laundry, and the list goes on) is it any wonder self-directed efforts fall by the wayside?

“Self-directed” says it all. Grouping into teams gives employees working remotely more structure, motivation, and support to succeed.

Instead of criticizing yourself or anyone else for procrastinating, take a moment to consider what’s missing: structure. Workplaces like offices and schools act as social networks, complete with expectations, rules, processes, hours of operation, meetings, whiteboards, and all the other mechanisms to keep people stay focused and productive.

When working from home for long periods of time, many people lose their sense of structure and, by extension, the benefits it yields. The goal then is to mimic part of that structure using technology and practices that give us the necessary human interaction and motivate us to deliver results.

Eight remote working essentials

1.      Get set up properly

2.      Schedule every day

3.      Share your screens

4.      Co-author with colleagues

5.      Keep records

6.      Encourage etiquette

7.     Automate your processes

8.     Practice business self-defense

1. Get set up properly

In our last post, we covered some of the remote working fundamentals including how to set up a productive, ergonomic workspace. Plunking a laptop on a coffee table or counter somewhere may seem convenient, but in the long run, a dedicated, quiet, ergonomic workspace provides the most comfort and productivity. If you can’t find a quiet spot, try noise-cancelling audio headsets or buds.

2. Schedule every day

Build structure into your day with healthy start and end times. Schedule daily status calls with colleagues. Use Microsoft Teams, the teamwork hub, to stay connected. Follow up via routine phone and video calls with your clients/customers and vendors. Set up formal and informal meetings to collaborate. And make sure to share and calendar with colleagues! Microsoft offers a step-by-step guide with a video on how to share your calendar in Outlook.

3. Share your screens

Go beyond your calendars. Get feedback in real time by sharing files and documents during calls. Microsoft Teams makes presenting files easy. To capture visual feedback, like comments on a website design, for example, you can use the Whiteboard app. With Whiteboard, you can insert a file, like a photo or design mockup, into your whiteboard and/or use different pens and highlighters to markup documents.

Break the language barrier with employees. Make your meetings more accessible. Use Presentation Translator to automatically display subtitles directly on your PowerPoint, in any of the 60 supported text languages.

4. Co-author with colleagues

Instead of circulating document versions by email, try co-authoring. Let’s say your company has a proposal you need to put together. Instead of tasking one person with drafting that proposal, build the file as a team in real-time in your productivity cloud together. With the modern version of Office, you can co-author documents and see who’s working on what. Welcome transparency and say goodbye to versioning issues.

5. Keep records

Speaking of transparency, did you know you can search people, meetings, chats, files, and apps from a single Teams workspace? Persistent chat threads capture and record your chats, including any links you share, so you do not have to search through emails to find shared information. With a single click, you can also record your meetings in Teams for future reference or get up to speed in case you were not able to attend.

When Office subscribers record calls in Microsoft Teams the recording automatically appears in the subscriber’s Stream, the video organization service in Microsoft 365. Stream allows users to view, label, tag, and share all their videos from one place. Stream can also auto-generate closed captioning transcripts to improve the accessibility of the recordings. In fact, subscribers can even access and edit those transcripts. You can visit this Microsoft support page for instructions.

6. Encourage etiquette

Like any professional meeting, online meetings require its participants to follow etiquette. Can your meetings benefit from applying these tips?

  • Make sure to click mute. Staying on mute, except when talking, eliminates background noise and takes care of any potentially embarrassing sounds.
  • Never put the call on hold. If you absolutely must step away to deal with an emergency, simply put the call on mute.
  • Do not talk over others. Wait for an opening, and then identify yourself as you begin. Try to direct all questions or comments toward a person by name. Or you can use TEAMS’ newest feature and “raise your hand” to be given an opportunity to speak in a meeting room with multiple participants.
  • Call in early and do not announce late arrivals. Eliminate the interruption and the embarrassment of people calling in late, including yourself.
  • Send out an agenda and meeting materials ahead of time. If you use Outlook, you can add both an agenda and preliminary meeting notes via OneNote and attach files to your calendar item.

7. Automate your processes

Office subscribers can take advantage of powerful automation technologies and smart services to convenience their clients/customers. For instance, Microsoft Bookings gives small businesses (like salons, dental offices, law firms, etc.), who provide services to customers/clients on an appointment basis, the ability to streamline the process. This type of service can save business operators buckets of time fielding reschedule calls!

More technically ambitious organizations with Office subscribers should experiment with Power Automate. This clever automation service enables teams to turn repetitive tasks info multistep workflows. Organizations can use the templates in Power Automate to accomplish tasks requiring multiple applications, like:

  • Save Office 365 email attachments to OneDrive for Business
  • Send yourself a reminder in 10 minutes
  • Get today’s weather forecast for your current location
  • Get a push notification when you receive an email from your boss
  • Send a customized email when a new SharePoint list item is added
  • Record form responses in SharePoint

8. Practice business self-defense

Do not compromise your security just to get the job done. Instead, make sure you rely on technologies and practices you can trust. Adopt a layered security strategy. Use multiple layers of security together to better protect your business. Do things like:

  • Keep your data and applications in a secure cloud, like Azure
  • Use professional software and hardware with built-in security features
  • Keep your applications, devices, and systems up to date
  • Train every employee to spot and avoid phishing and malware
  • Make sure you run antivirus software, like Windows Defender
  • Use multi-factor authentication to control/restrict network access

Keep your business moving securely series

  1. How to work remotely, for everyone who needs to stay productive from home
  2. Eight remote working essentials to stay productive
  3. Your security checklist to help protect your employees working from home
  4. Empowering Canadian healthcare teams with new remote working tools
  5. Secure remote working solutions for government agencies
  6. Secure remote working for human resources teams

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