Practical tips for working from home

Practical tips for working from home

We held an expert PR Roundtable on "Taking your PR team remote"; here's what we learned.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Following the recent PR Roundtable: Taking your PR team remote (psst! you can watch the full recording right here), we wanted to bring together the main practical takeaways for working remotely as a PR team. Let's do this.

Make time for deliberate chitchat

When everyone's working from home, you need to be more deliberate in cultivating casual conversation.

  • Make time for it at the start of every video call – just 5 minutes to catch up can make all the difference to morale and mental health
  • Create special chitchat moments during the week, for example, scheduling virtual team drinks or a quiz (Kahoot! is a great site for setting up team quizzes, and Drawful 2 is wonderful for remote pictionary, though you'd need to buy a copy to play)
  • Take the question "How are you?" super seriously and always answer it honestly; make sure your team tries to do that as well

Get the right software

Having your baseline tools in place is essential. If you're still using on-premises software regularly and it's part of your workflow, it's really hard to make the switch. A few tools we use and recommend are:

  • Asana (task management and organisation)
  • Notion (company handbook/wiki, databases, kanban boards, creating collaborative docs)
  • Slack (virtually indispensable right now!)

We're also thinking of trying Whereby as a Zoom alternative, given the recent security issues, though it does have some limitations (e.g. only allows up to 12 simultaneous seats for video, with the rest having to be audio-only).

And speaking of Slack...

Slack is the closest you can get to mimicking an office floor, and it gives you a good sense of what's going on in the company. However, there are still a few things to bear in mind here.

  • If you're a manager, you need to be very careful not to start micromanaging; you don't need to be involved in every discussion, thread or channel
  • Slack can easily become a distraction as well, so it's good to put in place some kind of Slacketiquette, for example, around muting channels and when you should ping people
  • Be transparent and avoid using DMs for discussions that can be had in a thread on a channel; think of it as speaking in the office – if you wouldn't mind someone overhearing your conversation, use a channel and give interested colleagues the chance to pitch in (or react with the odd emoji) if they fancy; it really makes the place feel more like home!

Make video compulsory

Yes, video calls can be really awkward if you aren't used to them, but seeing who you're speaking with is super important to communication. Seeing someone's face during conversation aids understanding and empathy, helps you see that people are listening, and helps you remember they're people too, not just words on a screen.

Besides, it's fun to snoop at colleague's home-office setup as they shoo away an errant child or attempt to prise their cat from their keyboard. (My cats are now regulars at most team meetings...)

Make it a requirement to put video on when calling and you'll soon notice an improvement in team communication.

Offer flexible hours

Working from home isn't a reason to be less productive; on the contrary, once you work out a good flow for yourself, we've found productivity to go up!

That's without corona, of course.

During the lockdown, things are much harder, whether you have kids at home, are distracted by your partner/family/roommates or just stressed out. (You're living through a global pandemic; it's natural and fully understandable to be stressed out!)

By offering your team flexible hours, you're showing that you trust them, looking after their mental health and generally helping them live better lives by organising their work together with the rest of their lives.

There is no replacement for meetings offline

There's no way around it – some things are far better achieved with face-to-face, offline discussions. This is worth bearing in mind when you're planning your remote-working now, and something to consider if you're thinking of making remote-working the norm after the lockdown.

  • Creative discussions, long-term strategy planning, anything requiring the bouncing around of ideas – these are all hard to do over web conference
  • Web conferences can be really energy draining, more so than meeting in person. By being aware of this and re-structuring our sessions to shorter bursts, we can make progress while keeping up our productivity
  • For team bonding, you really need to see each other in real life at least every once in a while, go out for a drink, grab dinner at a restaurant, etc. Plan a team getaway or event for after lockdown so everyone has that to look forward to, chat about and plan for

Taking your PR team remote? Find out how Prezly can help.