The Top 6 Pitfalls of Remote Working & How to Avoid Them

No daily commute, no office distractions, extra time with loved ones, a flexible schedule – and waistband. Welcome to the new world of remote working! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, with kids, pets and even partners to contend with as new co-workers, not to mention the aesthetics of the new office environment, there’s more than a thing or two that can go wrong when working from home (WFH).

Here we take a look, spiced up with some of Valo team’s experience, at the most common things that can go wrong when WFH!

1. Kids Rule!

Juggling full-time childcare and working from home has its issues. Remember Professor Robert E Kelly, the BBC’s South Korea expert who became known as ‘BBC Dad’ after the video of his two children bursting through the door during a live interview went viral? Everywhere, parents who are conference-calling into their jobs are suddenly in danger of the same mishap. If the family members don’t make you a global star by their sudden appearance, they still might interrupt you during an important meeting, or make a noise and require attention when you’d need to concentrate on your work.

Remote working

A sign asking for quiet at Susie Ferguson’s home. Photograph: Susie Ferguson

During lockdown, one New Zealand broadcaster resorted to placing hand-made signs around the house warning her family members to keep quiet. Susie Ferguson, co-host of Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report program, who was broadcasting from her home office, admitted she felt a “slight sense of panic all the time” about whether her children were about to start screaming as she began the three-hour breakfast program.

PRO TIP: One of the biggest challenges with remote working is keeping a separation between your home and work life. Your work-space doesn’t have to be a different room. It can be a designated corner – as long as it feels separate. If you live with other people this distinction is even more important. Set boundaries during your working hours and try to switch off at the end of your shift to give the kids your undivided attention.

2. Pets at Home

The chance to meet our colleagues’ pets during video conferences has livened things up whilst we’ve been stuck at home. Our Software Designer, Minna Teerimäki who owns two lovely felines, has first-hand experience of them interrupting her workflow now that she’s WFH. Often, one of them will decide to sit on top of her keyboard while the other might show off her, well, let’s say not the best side of her, to the camera while a video conference is on! Cats are the best and worst remote working buddies, and can steal the spotlight whenever they feel like it.

Cats disturbing your workflow

When your lovely pet can be anything between the worst interrupter to the best remote working buddy ever. Here are Minna’s loved ones in action.

PRO TIP: Pets enrich our lives and can provide much-needed company for remote workers. Dogs provide the perfect opportunity to get outdoors as they need regular walks. If you are about to join a video call, try to take the dog for a walk beforehand to tire them out. Set up a cozy zone for your pet away from your desk. Alternatively, you could look at noise-cancelling headsets or software to mask background noise.

3. Funny Filters

Most of us by now will have seen the woman who turned into a potato in a Microsoft Teams meeting, and remained stuck like it for the entire time. But not many will have seen how one of our Premium Partners turned himself into a 10-year old kid in our bi-weekly check-up! We did nothing but laugh and had to praise him for his awesome sense of humor during these challenging times. It didn’t take anything out from the actual meeting, instead it added more smiles for the Friday afternoon.

Snapcamera on action

Filters work for adults can cheer up a meeting, it doesn’t need to be only a teenager’s privilege. Here’s Justin Short, from Valo Premium Partner Synergi, appearing as a child.

PRO TIP: Bring some joy by goofing around at meetings if that suits your style. Okay, so you might not want to pop up as a vegetable during your work video call, but there are a number of other filters out there to enhance your appearance and more subtle filters that will change the light and colors to smooth out skin tones and present a more polished appearance. 

4. “Dressing up” the background

Inviting colleagues or customers into your home via video chat gives them an uncensored view of the things you normally leave behind before the morning commute – the unmade bed, and dirty laundry to mention few. Thanks to handy tech features on certain apps, including Microsoft Teams, it is now possible to design backgrounds to your videos to disguise the messy remote workspaces. We at Valo created a set of Valo Online Summit backgrounds for our recent two-day online event to make it more fun and to create a united atmosphere. That was a great success!

 

PRO TIP: Before a video call, tidy the space behind you and check the background in the external camera. Make sure your face is well lit. Natural lighting, side lighting or overhead lighting works best. Back-lighting can sometimes make it hard to see you. Don’t sit too near or far from the camera. If you want to obscure your home environment set up a virtual background. That will also prevent the unsuspected partners or kids wandering in the background to be seen through your camera. 

5. The WFH Wardrobe

That was definitely not anyone from our Valo team! One of the biggest bonuses of working from home is you can wear what you want. Here at Valo, we’re not concerned about people wearing official clothing (unless that’s someone’s style). As in so many other IT houses, the most common work uniform is jeans and a hoodie. So has anything changed during the forced quarantine? We conducted a quick poll to see how our team members are dressing after multiple weeks of remote work.

It seems the most common way to dress at work now is called “anything that can be considered clothing”. Loose pants, bare feet OR woollen socks with a hoodie seems to be the most common items worn. One colleague says her one-piece “looks like a hoodie in meetings, but it’s actually a giant one-piece”! Genius!

Often the common compromise for the new WFH wardrobe is to only dress your top half.  So it is business on top, party on the bottom! Bye-bye jeans, welcome loose pants!

Valo Hoffice look

It seems casual and comfortable are the words to describe Valo team’s ‘hoffice’ look after weeks of forced remote work.

PRO TIP: Switch from home to work mode by washing and getting dressed. This will not only improve your state of mind, it prepares you psychologically for the start of the working day. Put on your regular work clothes even if you don’t need to dial into a video call.

6. Staying Connected

One of the best things about working in an office is the opportunity for random chats. This is harder to replicate whilst working remotely. But introducing new scheduled rituals, such as a virtual coffee break where team members come together and chat over a cup of coffee is becoming common. We’ve even come up with a Microsoft Teams channel where you can just turn your camera on and listen to others to type to mimic some usual, daily background noise which can be enough to bring comfort.

Other activities incorporated into the working week could include team yoga sessions, a scheduled hang out to chat about what TV has been watched over the weekend, online meditation sessions, sharing photos of what’s happening in people’s lives or even have a company-wide costume party!

PRO TIP: Work in short bursts. During a day in the office, your time is broken up by those chats by the coffee machine, lunch and toilet breaks. It’s easy at home to sit for long periods of time so aim to work in 45-60 minute chunks followed by a short break. Step away from your desk to stretch your legs or use one of your mobile apps to link up with colleagues for a virtual water cooler chat rather than emailing or messaging.

These are only the start in the pitfalls of remote working! Do you have any funny stories you can share with us? Or helpful tips on WFH effectively? We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us on social @valointranet using #ValoWFH!

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Hey techie or business-minded reader! Yes, you. Check out our 24h non-stop virtual event Valo Fest on June 25-26, 2020!

We’ve got amazing speakers and keynote sessions, such as Karin Zingmark, Mark Kashman, Laurie Pottmeyer, Paul Miller, Christian Buckley and Susan Hanley, topped of with real-life Case Studies!

Valo Fest Karin Zingmark Mark Kashman Laurie Pottmeyer

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