Yessi Bello PerezFormer Senior Writer, Growth Quarters
Approximately two months ago, Western countries shut down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and most employers asked their employees to work from home.
For those not used to working remotely full-time, doing so proved to be an understandably challenging time: working away from colleagues, potentially surrounded by family and small children, makeshift desks and offices, and uncertainty-induced anxiety about what lay ahead.
As always, the tech community has been quick to share productivity tips and advice to help others deal with what some have already deemed ‘the new normal.’
[Read: Here’s why ‘if you build it, they will come’ is shitty advice]
But what’s changed some 60 days later? We spoke to several tech founders and CEOs to find out.
Let’s face it — loungewear is the way to go
Caroline Plumb, founder of Fluidly, a cashflow management tool, says working from home during lockdown with three children has been a completely new experience for her.
Her working day, she says, has lengthened considerably but become more efficient.
“No one wants to stay on video calls longer than they need so meetings tend to be 20 to 40% shorter. We are also better at keeping minutes and notes in shared documents so less time is wasted on missed actions or misunderstandings,” she explains.
Early morning runs have been keeping Plumb sane and she’s used this time to clear her head and sort through priorities but also to get clarity on many longer-term strategic questions.
In terms of how she and her team have adapted to the monotony of working from home over the past two months, Plumb says that they’ve kept their weekly leadership meeting but also decided to add a daily standup. This, she notes, has been a good way of checking in with the rest of the team and addressing concerns in a speedy manner.
Although it’s often been challenging, there have also been some positives: “With more remote working and more mixing of work and parenting, it’s created more informality and deepened relationships between myself and many of my colleagues — especially with some groups such as customers and investors, where there is usually more of a barrier.”
Despite many insisting that loungewear and pajamas aren’t conducive to productivity, Plumb says any pretence at dressing in normal work clothes and blow drying her hair went out of the window in week one.
“So if anyone ends up on a video call with me and I look vaguely professional it means I must really think it’s important,” she quips.
Triaging your messages
For Nikolaus Suehr, CEO and co-founder of KASKO, a company that provides insurtech as a service, lockdown has been a particularly interesting experience.
“My routine has changed a lot in the past two weeks, not because of COVID-19, but because I welcomed a newborn daughter into the world,” he says.
“There are now a lot of early-wake ups, diaper changes, and making sure both baby and mum are OK. I still make sure I exercise and meditate, and take breaks to cook and prepare food for us both,” adds Suehr.
Work-wise, the biggest change to his life has been travel — or the lack of it.
Before going into lockdown Suehr says he was on the road for 100 days of the year. “This has come to a complete stop and I like it.”
Overall, Suehr says lockdown has pushed him to share even more tips with the team: “Allow for asynchronous communication. I ask people to send emails which I can work through and where things are urgent to send a WhatsApp or Slack message.”
Gamify all your tasks
Romanie Thomas, the CEO and founder of Juggle, a recruitment tech startup that helps businesses hire flexible experts, says she’s been working longer hours, but taking longer breaks while in lockdown.
“I actively put aside time every day for exercise, and I make sure I am learning each day by listening to a great podcast or listening to a book. Interspersing ‘work work’ with time for me breaks everything up and makes me feel happier and more productive as a consequence,” she notes.
Over the past two months, Romanie says she’s had to gamify the experience to avoid procrastination from fully taking over.
“I plan out what I need to do over three days and write down three things that are ‘important’ (essential but boring); three things which are ‘creative’ (exactly that); three things which are ‘urgent’ (what I would term as admin but cannot be left either),” she explains.
“These nine items are placed in a hat and in the morning, I’d pull out one ‘important’ piece to start my day as that is when I am full of good intentions and energy. Creative comes after lunch, which propels me to the ‘urgent’ item — because I’m energised by the creative item, I feel compelled to finish the day well,” Thomas concludes.
Educate your loved ones
Ruslanas Trakšelis, co-founder and CEO of food tech startup Millo, has had to make do without an actual home office, so he converted a corner of his bedroom into a makeshift one, in order to keep his productivity levels up.
“The concept of home office was new for my children, meaning that, delighted at the prospect of me being home, they would constantly come into the bedroom and want to play or interact with me,” he says.
It took a while, but eventually his family understood his need to focus and put the work in.
“It’s really important that parents are not too strict with children in this regard, it’s natural they will want to ask questions about work and play, and it’s a good opportunity to do so to a certain extent. As a reward the kids also get home-made sourdough bread and family cooking time,” Trakšelis adds.
There’s no denying that the lockdown experience has been different for everyone — much of it has been shaped by the varying decisions of governments and personal circumstances but it’s clear that entrepreneurs have constantly adapted to unpredictability.
The key takeaway from this should be that even if you start off by, say exercising in the morning because it’s what works best for you at that precise moment in time, this doesn’t mean you have to keep doing that for months on end.
Implementing changes to your routine is crucial if you’re hoping to stay productive, but don’t forget to assess and evaluate these if you want efficiency to stay in the long-term. So, don’t get stuck with a routine that stopped working for you weeks ago.
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