If you are following the news and don’t live under a rock, you are likely ordered to “shelter-in-place” and are challenged to work from home (WFH). If you live under a rock, it might be best to stay there for at least two to four more weeks. Many people are working from home for the very first time and are most likely experiencing something much different than what they have at the office and even what they imagined WFH would be like. I’ve been working remotely going on nine years and have learned a lot along the way and forget just how foreign it is for most.
Fortunately, companies like Google, Cisco, Microsoft, Zoom, and Zoho provide services that allow us to do work from home. I will go through the services they provide for working from home, and some tips from them that will help you bring the office home. I have also written a WFH blog with tips from companies that provide WFH infrastructure that you can find here.
Webex is Cisco’s collaboration platform to connect teams for sharing information. It includes two apps, Webex Meetings, and Webex Teams. Both of which include a mobile and desktop app. Webex Meetings joins the team into a virtual room for a meeting to share and collaborate. It is fully integrated with Microsoft Teams, and people who don’t have Webex Teams can easily join the meeting. Webex Meetings shares information from the team and delivers pre-built solutions with third-party apps like Google Drive and Google Calendar from Webex App Hub.
Cisco suggests here finding a workplace in the home that is comfortable and productive. Set up a workplace so that the background of a video call won’t distract your team. Being able to reduce the distractions that come when working will not only help keep you focused but also your teammates. One of the ways Cisco recommends reducing distractions in a Webex video call is by muting yourself when you’re not talking which is a bit obvious, but you never know. Cisco says video calls help teams interact because it is the closest way to having an in-person meeting which I take for granted. Cisco says don’t be afraid to show your face! Video calls make it possible to show reactions and emotions that phone calls and messages don’t allow.
Google’s G Suite platform is all of Google’s apps for business. It includes Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts Meet, Drive, and all of Google’s office apps. Google’s apps include web apps that are used in the Chrome browser and mobile apps. App information can be shared securely between teams with collaborative Docs, Sheets, and Slides being stored in the Drive. Hangouts Meet is Google’s app for meetings. Google’s service also gives your business a custom email. My company has been using Hangouts for messaging and video and GSuite for our back-end services.
To sum it up, Google’s tips for working at home here are personable. Just as we learn differently, we also get work done differently. For example, some people are night owls and work better late, and some are morning people that get things done early. Google emphasizes getting into a daily routine. The goal of making a morning routine is to get into healthy habits that make you a more productive worker. If that means not working in your room where you sleep, so be it. With that being said, a part of having a daily routine is considering your teammates might have a different time slot in their day for work. Either because they live on the other side of the globe or because their daily routine is different. Net-net, Google says your daily routine shouldn’t affect the communication between your teammates.
Microsoft 365 is Microsoft’s productivity solutions that include all of Microsoft’s office apps, cloud services, device management solutions, and Microsoft Teams. Office apps include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Skype, and many others. All apps are available on mobile and desktop for cross-platform productivity. Microsoft Teams is a collaboration tool for teams to share and brainstorm content, virtually chat, and meet with employees, customers, suppliers, and partners. It also has all of the Office apps built right in.
Microsoft’s approach to emulating the office here is keeping teams and management healthy. Microsoft has created guidelines for teams and team leaders to discuss with employees rules for working from home so that the office rules are not abandoned. Another way to emulate the office is by giving workers time between meetings to prevent burnout. In the office, teams have time before and between meetings to be social and interact. Inserting a break during these times can prevent burnout. Similarly, provide a way to disconnect after a day of working. Typically, the office and the home are separated. Now that they are the same, it can be difficult to disconnect and transition to the other. Microsoft encourages different ways to disconnect. One of the ways Microsoft disconnects its employees is by offering a virtual meditation session to unwind and focus. Microsoft also recommends promoting team culture and having team socials virtually or in team chats.
My company has used Office or Office 365 for our “front end” operations for nine years.
Zoho is a suite of business software solutions that covers every facet of a business. Zoho says it is “the Operating System for business.” It has different bundles that include CRM Plus, Workplace Suite, Finance Suite, IT Management Suite, and an HR Suite. Its newest bundle is Zoho Remotely, to help with businesses that are now working remotely. It is free during the Coronavirus crisis until the first of July. It includes apps to meet online and communicate, collaborate in teams, assist with employees and customers and office apps for content creation. Zoho has been building its app portfolio since 2005. It built Zoho Remotely in less than a week. That is impressive.
Zoho’s first piece of advice here is to set yourself up for success. Like the other WFH service providers, put yourself in a position where you are the most productive. Not only physically, but also mentally. Keep your purpose in mind. Have a mindset that you are your own boss. Not that you should undermine your boss but more so to look at your work as indispensable. Self-motivation is a key practice in being productive, especially when no one is around. To make this applicable, Zoho recommends setting short term goals with rewards that are independent of your work. Relate this to your team to spread motivation and ultimately collaborate better. The next tip from Zoho is to create a culture of asynchronous collaboration. Set apart times to complete different tasks. This separation puts a short-term goal and allows you to focus and prioritize tasks appropriately.
Apart of Zoho’s initiative to fight the global crisis is its Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program (ESAP). This program is to assist its small business customers who are struggling by giving them the Zoho software they use currently for free for three months. All Zoho customers with 25 employees or fewer who have been severely impacted by the coronavirus-related downturn may apply.
Zoom is another video and collaboration software platform for teams. Zoom Meetings is its media conferencing app for mobile and desktop. It can support up 1,000 video participants and 49 videos on the screen. It has built-in collaboration tools to share screens and co-annotate content. It records and transcribes the meetings into searchable transcripts. Third-party apps like Microsoft Teams are integrated into Zoom Meetings to enhance collaboration.
Zoom’s first tip, which you can find here, when conducting an event online is distinguishing between a Webinar, where attendees will primarily listen, and a meeting, where attendees will actively participate. For hosting one of these events, make sure everything is working properly-internet connection is secure, the audio and video are working, and the content being shared works. As the host of a webinar or meeting, ensure attendees know the expectations and tone of the event as they would in a face-to-face event. Enable Q&A, ask for feedback, and encourage attendees and participants by using features like polling and Zoom’s reaction feature. Zoom, unlike offerings from Google, Microsoft, Zoho or Cisco.
Most, if not all, of these tips can be wrapped up into a couple of over-arching tips. The first being, find a comfortable and productive place to work. You know yourself and at home you the freedom to make a productive environment. The second is to have a healthy and productive mindset. Adjusting and adapting to a WFH environment can be difficult, and sometimes intimidating, but the right mindset brings pleasure to your workplace. The last over-arching tip is to communicate on multiple different platforms. Communication between teams is an essential component of working from home and can determine the success of your experience with working from home.
I imagine that after the crisis, working from home will be a more permanent thing for many people. It is a new experience for most people. Hopefully, these tips from these top WFH service providers will help the transition to work from home.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.