Our Remote Working Kit

So – we’ve all been working from home for a veeeeeeery long time now, and generally speaking, it’s all worked pretty smoothly, at least in terms of the logistics.

I’ve been asked by clients a few times for software recommendations, so I thought I would share a few details of how we’re working remotely and the kinds of things we’ve put in place to help the team feel ‘together’ even though they’re apart.

Daily routines

The first thing we put in place for remote working was a daily routine. Everyone is still expected to work normal office hours, ie 9-5 with a half hour lunch break. We believe this is really important, not just because clients have an expectation that they can contact us during those hours, but also we believe it’s really important to stick with a strong daily routine to keep motivated. This is not to say that as and when needed, there isn’t flexibility available. But having a set daily routine really helps define the boundaries between ‘home’ and ‘work’.

We also put regular calls in the diary – we have a shared Google Calendar and use Google Meet for ‘catch up calls’. Line managers speak to their team members on a regular basis, and then report up to their line manager in turn.

Once a day we have a 15 minute ‘water cooler’ slot in the diary, which is purely for social chit chat – no work talk allowed!

And every week, without fail, we have a meeting for the whole team.

Software

As luck would have it, when lockdown hit we were about 80% of the way through migrating a lot of our day-to-day operations to a system called Monday.com. Previously we had different time logging systems for web development and digital marketing, and a separate CRM.

By moving all (well, most) of our business systems into one place – in the cloud – we’ve all had access to a ‘central source of truth’, which has really been fantastically valuable.

What the lockdowns have done is force us to crack on and adopt new ways of working that we were already planning to do, but we were struggling to find the time to fit in the migration. Nothing focuses the mind quite like a pandemic, I have found…

On Monday.com we have all of this in one place:

  • Work scheduling across all our teams – everybody plans out their work at the start of each month and puts it onto a schedule, with estimated time against each job. Typical sets of tasks – like ‘set up a new client’ – have pre-made task lists associated with them which can be used to help everyone remember to complete all the required tasks without missing any.
  • Time logging, with associated dashboards and reports, so at any given time we can see what % of our monthly work is done, who’s behind and who’s ahead of schedule. This allows team leaders to move resource around, proactively preventing workload issues before they happen.
  • Support logging for our web team – showing at a glance how much support time clients have per year, and deducting time spent on support tasks automatically.
  • Our sales pipeline, giving all the team visibility of incoming opportunities, their potential value and subsequently whether we have won or lost those opportunities. We have a whole series of charts set up as well allowing us to see where our best leads are coming from, how they fluctuate across the year and so on. An associated enquiry form allows any team member to log a new lead and send it through to me to handle. We’ve started using Proposify for our proposals and we’re looking at how best to integrate that too.
  • Our processes, which were previously stored in a Wiki that nobody ever logged into because they kept forgetting it was there (and then telling me they didn’t know the process for something). By putting everything in one place it means people are more likely to remember to use the
  • Staff holiday booking is integrated too – staff who wish to book holiday fill in a Monday.com form, which sends the details through to management for approval, and automatically deducts the day/s from their allocation for the year. We also have associated board that calculates staff long service days and reminds us about work anniversaries.
  • Invoicing isn’t literally done in Monday, but we use the data in the system to pull off the monthly invoice list. Further work in this area is on our ‘to do’ list for the future.

The other key tool we use alongside Monday is Google Workspace (previously GSuite). This is where we store all our documents, spreadsheets and presentations in one centrally accessible location. And of course it gives us Google Meet, which we use for our virtual meetings.

And for internal communication? We use Slack, which allows us to ‘live chat’ with each other throughout the day. This has been a massive help with morale over the last year – it almost feels like you are literally in the same room as your colleagues. We have channels set up for serious work stuff like ‘let’s put our heads together about a client issue’ but we also have channels such as #random, which is generally full of memes, pictures of staff cats and so on.

In Summary

The last year of home working has actually accelerated our ‘business improvement’ progress beyond belief! Our systems are so much stronger, easier to use, and better connected than they were a year ago.

I have had a piece of A3 paper in my desk drawer for about 5 years showing the ‘dashboard of my dreams’ which would give me all the key data about our business at a glance, at my fingertips.

Without really realising it, over the last year, we’ve come really close to achieving it.

And we aren’t stopping here – pretty much every week we are improving our internal systems further.

So, Covid – you’ve been a complete and utter disaster for the entire globe, but at least we got our processes sorted…

 

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