BUSINESS IMPACT

Mar 20, 2020

Top 5 Ways to Increase Productivity While Working Virtually

Leo Furlong Posted by Leo Furlong

As companies are moving to remote/virtual work in droves because of COVID-19, many people are becoming virtual employees for the first time.  Entire departments and companies are learning how to be a virtual team in a trial by fire. To help you out, BlueGranite has compiled a list of ideas/concepts to help you be effective virtually.  Every company is different, but these concepts have worked well for us in our decade of experience as a remote company. 

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1. Have a Video Conference Tool and Get Comfortable with It

A good video conferencing tool is imperative for virtual work. BlueGranite uses Microsoft Teams, but there are many great tools out there; as long as everyone is on one platform and is actually using it, you’re on the right track. 

As everyone gets started, make sure you  leverage the video and audio capabilities of your tool.  The ability to actually see your coworkers helps folks transition and keep meeting participants engaged.  Since this is new, it may take a while to work out the kinks. Not everyone will have a PC camera, microphone, and/or a headset right away.  Encourage employees to do test runs with their “setup” prior to getting on real meetings.

While you get going, remember to , pardon the interruption – no, not the show on ESPN —but your coworkers.  As we all make life changes and perform our civic duty to self-quarantine and help control the pandemic, be patient that your coworkers will have background interruptions.  It will level off as everyone gets used to their routine.  

Finally, video conferences can take up a lot of internet bandwidth.  Make sure the teenagers aren’t ruining your virtual meetings by chewing up your bandwidth.  It helps to enable Quality of Service (QoS) rules on your home router to make sure your work tools are given priority.  

2. Connect Socially, but Virtually

Many people struggle making social connections at work without in-person interaction, but they natively know how to do this in their personal lives through texting and social media.  Encourage your team to adopt some of these virtual networking concepts in your new workplace. It helps to get employees chatting about fun stuff as well as work.  

At BlueGranite, we have Channels in our chat platform for sharing Family Fun, Watercooler Talk, I’m new, and Industry News.  We also have a weekly staff meeting to discuss a collection of topics including wins, learnings, and strategy.  

3. Have a dedicated work area if possible

Considering everything going on right now, this one is the hardest.  If possible, have a dedicated workspace separate from normal living space. Create the mental border that says, "When I'm here, I'm working."  This can be challenging with kids at home doing virtual schoolwork and spouses/significant others also working from home. Consider lighting, internet connection, and ergonomics – you may consider sitting and standing throughout the day as standing is better for your back.  

 

4. Track Tasks and Initiatives using a Virtual Tool

Use a tool to keep track of initiatives and tasks so everyone can see status.  This could be done in an Excel spreadsheet or a more formal tool like Microsoft Planner, Monday.com, or Trello.  Software development teams should continue using their familiar tools to track sprints like DevOps, Rally, or Jira.  To keep things moving along, try having a daily call to discuss how you are tracking towards your goals and what is holding you up.  If you’ve never heard of SCRUM or Agile, regardless of whether you are IT or business, I’d encourage you to check it out: “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

 

5. Track Your Time

This one might be the weirdest for most people.  Try tracking the time you spend actually working and discount time for taking breaks and stepping away. Take notes on what you worked on as it is very difficult to reflect on a past week and recall the information.  Many consultants at BlueGranite use time tracking apps like Toggl to keep track of our time and activities.  

You may also end up working less during regular business hours and more during non-regular business hours as you increase your flexibility to take care of your family and other obligations.  This is ok, and you and your co-workers should be patient. If you will be stepping away, make sure to block your calendar and update your status to reflect what you are doing.  

 

Use Power BI for Self-Service Data Analysis

This wouldn’t be a true BlueGranite blog if we didn’t mention data and analytics.  As more and more companies go remote, the self-service capabilities of Power BI are crucial in empowering everyone to do their jobs efficiently.  The Power BI Service enables safe and secure viewing of data from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. You can:

  • View existing reports and dashboards
  • Tap into existing datasets in the Power BI Service, and
  • Creating new reports right in your internet browser.

With Power BI Desktop, you can access cloud data sources from home and on-premise data sources using your VPN connection.  When you are finished with your models and analysis, you can publish and share your reports to the Power BI Service even when remote. 

Making traction on strategic initiatives remotely can be a challenge. BlueGranite consultants know how to execute projects remotely and successfully from design/prototyping, building out solutions, and driving adoption. If you need help starting or completing a Data or AI project, BlueGranite can help.  

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Leo Furlong

About The Author

Leo Furlong

Leo is a Solution Architect at BlueGranite. He is an experienced Data and Analytics Architect with extensive experience implementing Digital Transformation Strategy, using on-premise and Azure cloud technologies. Leo is also comfortable in Management Consulting roles around Data and Analytics or leading and contributing toward deliverables across the entire project lifecycle.

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