What have we learned from a rapid move to remote working?
By Hugo Tilmouth, ChargedUp
We took at decision to move to remote working and made this happen on 10th March 2020. We held a meeting to discuss it with the team in the morning and we said goodbye to our physical office that evening.
We’ve invested heavily in building a fantastic team of people and it was important to prevent them, or their families, getting ill. As a small start-up we have very little redundancy and often have one person per key task – therefore losing any one of our team would be very disruptive.
Now, with several weeks of experience of remote working, we can see that we’ve learned a lot. I hope that sharing our tips will be useful for you in your business.
- Continue coaching on how to work remotely. It’s not too late to do this, even if you are already up and running from home. It is vital that each team member is well equipped to work remotely. Team leaders should discuss the logistics of remote working with their team members; providing guidance on creating a quiet space, setting a schedule, limiting interruptions from social media and other members of the household, etc. We coached the team on good working practice, including maintaining regular working hours, scheduling breaks, etc. We have a very committed team and we don’t want them burning out by working 24/7. It’s never too late to do this, so if you haven’t already, then do it now – even if your team has been working remotely for a few weeks already.
As a precaution, we had been advising staff to take laptops and other tools essential to remote working home with them on a daily basis for about a week before the office closure. We asked staff who used larger monitors to take them home and paid for a taxi to facilitate this. We left the office on the 10th and have not returned.
One of the key lessons we learned from this is that it is often difficult for people to find room at home for a desk to work on. I recently took the plunge and purchased a small second hand desk from eBay, after trying to work at a coffee table for a week! The extra investment was well worth it.
- Use available resources rather than reinventing the wheel: There is a wealth of online resources out there. I would recommend https://www.notion.so and particularly Notion’s remote working guide as a source of excellent information for start-ups.Notion is a wiki where companies share best practice and experiences to help other start-ups. Start-ups simply do not have the resources to produce extensive guidelines and policy documents so Notion has been a life saver. For example, in preparing our team for remote working we mined Notion. I would particularly recommend the video Zapier’s Guide to Working Remotely. We also used https://seedlegals.com Free Coronavirus Workplace Policy to guide us through the swift planning and preparation stage.
- Get daily working routines in place right away: To facilitate a structured approach, I suggest starting each day with a 15 minute team stand-up at 08:45. I would also encourage you to introduce a progress tracking tool such as https://clubhouse.io It allows you to create templates so that people can report what they did yesterday and what they intend to do today. We use the https://slack.com automation tool to prompt everyone at 8:30 each morning to complete this form. This is then visible to all team members. This is so important to keep our team focussed and to keep projects moving in the right direction.
- Support remote working with inexpensive tools: Like most companies we already use collaboration software for audio conferencing, file sharing and communication. We chose Slack, from Slack Technologies Inc., although there are many offerings out there. Slack is a great option for small companies. When we want full video conferencing, we turn to Google Hangout. This enables us to share screens, presentations, etc.
ChargedUp uses https://Loom.com from Loom Inc, to record processes, new code, etc., to then share with the team. For example, the operations team have recorded all of their policies and processes via Loom. This is so useful for on-boarding new employees.
- Ensure strict discipline for online meetings: I would strongly recommend implementing a robust meeting policy to ensure that meetings are effective and that each one is time limited, has a clear agenda and that outcomes, actions and owners are agreed. I found a great article on ‘How to run a more effective meeting’ from the New York Times Business section. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/business/how-to-run-an-effective-meeting
- Focus on staff wellbeing: Of huge importance to ChargedUp is the wellbeing and mental health of our team. We want them to stay well so we can hit the ground running when we get through these difficult times. Feeling isolated is one of the key issues raised by habitual remote workers and so we have made a particular effort to create opportunities for colleagues to socialise together online.
The team meets online for lunch at 13:00 each day, encouraging down time and an opportunity to chat and share ideas.
We also use https://www.donut.com to arrange 121 coffee breaks with each other. Many of the best ideas originate by the water cooler so do encourage opportunities for chatting and brainstorming.
- Reward and praise are important: Although cash may be tight, go out of your way to praise and celebrate successes. For example, I arranged for a case of Jubel beer (https://jubelbeer.com/sales/) to be sent to each staff member so that our regular Friday 17:00 beers could continue, albeit remotely. We meet online at 17:00 and celebrate our successes and have a laugh. Not only does this boost morale but also supports a local brewery.
- Looking to the future: We fully anticipate a huge bounce in our business when the crisis is over and we are using this time to plan for the next stage in ChargedUp’s expansion. This quieter time allows us to develop our capabilities, hone our processes and improve our application.
For some of us the move to remote working has been hard, while others have relished it. Overall we are taking the change in our stride, getting used to a different way of working, and are looking ahead to the next phase in our company’s development.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hugo Tilmouth is CEO of ChargedUp, Europe’s largest phone charging network. Building on the British philosophy to promote sustainable innovations, ChargedUp gives customers power on-demand through its network of portable power banks. It also provides venues with a unique marketing tool that drives footfall and increases dwell time. 50 people work for the young company, which has expanded its charging network to over 3000 stations across the UK, Netherlands and Germany since 2017. The ChargedUp app now has around 210,000 users.