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The Isolation Conversation Welcome to the series & how to remote work

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The Isolation Conversation – Welcome to the series & how to remote work

We are thrilled to introduce our first episode, ‘The Isolation Conversation – Welcome to the series & how to remote work ’. Featuring Mark Stokes– Chief Technical Officer at Attollo Intranet, used to working both remotely and from home. Christina Wheeler – Principles Solution Architect at Canviz, after being independent for a decade discusses what it’s like to work back in an organisation during a lockdown. Jon Levesque – Senior PM on the Power Automat Team at Microsoft, focused on community, evangelism and trying to get Power Automate known. Finally, Rebecca Hill – Digital Marketing Manager at Attollo Intranet, from the perspective of joining an organisation over the last 4 weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you want to watch this episode click here & enjoy!

What lessons have you learnt over the last week?

With the COVID-19 outbreak, our working worlds have changed even for those that are used to remote working. We asked our panel what lessons they have learnt this week whilst working in lockdown.

  • That usual remote working/home working is easy until you add family and pets into the mix. As they wouldn’t otherwise be at home, it brings a new dynamic to working from home.
  • Getting up and ready earlier in the day. Doing makeup and hair to look presentable in case people want to video call, which now of course they do.
  • Learning about the transitions from being independent to working for an organisation.
  • That it takes a lot to become a twitch affiliate partner, it’s more difficult that one had assumed.
  • Internet is key – For everyone.

Do in-person meetings and travel still need to happen?

For this session, we connected via Microsoft Team from different parts of the world. Ramsbottom -UK, Telford – UK, Seattle and South of Atlanta, Georgia. One benefit we’ve seen is bringing people closer together virtually as we begin to break down those barriers to communication. This led us to ask, do in-person meeting and travel still need to happen? On one hand, we have all these great communication tools that allow us to connect and on the other hand, we’re missing face to face social interaction. Here is what our panel thought:

  • I’m missing people in person. Although we are seeing the benefits of coming together quickly from different places, there is something magic about people and it brings a different experience entirely. I miss the magic of people with people. Missing someone’s energy. This can’t be replaced through a different medium and technology – it a feeling of someone’s essence so I personally would still be up for travelling.
  • I really love working from home, until I HAD to!
  • Restrictions on travel have been difficult to swallow. I’m used to doing 80-90 thousand air miles to none. The travelling is something I miss.
  • It’s having a positive impact on the environment, maybe individuals and organisations will rethink the business trips and meetings in person and switch to connecting virtually.

Connecting Virtually:

During the last two weeks, Microsoft Team alone has clocked 9,000,000,000 minutes of video meetings each week and business app downloads have increased by 221% in March (Goat, 2020).

What is our panels take on connecting virtually in this new ‘normal’ working world?

  • It’s an up and down rollercoaster. The down is you have to stomach things that are hard to see. The ups are connecting with people that I’ve known for a long time but haven’t really ‘connected’ with them.
  • There are many ways to stay connected and each one has their benefits and their drawbacks. Like text chat, we lose information and may interpret information not as it is intended. Voice calls, we gain slightly more information such as inflection. Video calls, we can see micro gestures and facial expressions, but we can’t see what’s happening off the camera. Virtual Reality (VR) allows for an extra level of immersion and increased social interaction with personalised avatars. Even this doesn’t show facial expressions so what’s next? Maybe Facebook Horizon?

How has the current situation affected the business you work in and your workload?

With the world on locked down, the impact of individuals and businesses can’t be ignored. But what knock-on effect does this present for other businesses that are still able to continue working?

  • We’re still signing on new clients for projects but also spending time working on internal projects for Microsoft. Projects are slower than usual and not progressing as quickly as they were before.
  • This has opened opportunities for businesses to get ready and work remotely.
  • It’s business as usual for us although development cycles have slowed to allow for the adjustment period. Some people are being scheduled home until at least May 10th.
  • My team, the experience team, have seen an increase in their work as they are trying to build solutions that will help during these difficult times. We have a lot of internal conversations about what we can do to help.
  • Some businesses think that technology is needed now to facilitate home working which has accelerated their need for change. Whereas other businesses and individuals are stalling projects, making projects delayed, due to lack of resources.

Inspirational how big organisations are helping out:

We’re seeing many technologically savvy businesses giving back to their communities and have ramped up their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity. Is this a genuine act of kindness and wanting to provide something useful and of value or could it be misconstrued as trying to capitalise on a difficult situation?

  • At Microsoft (United States), they have made the sincere gesture of paying people that are on hourly contracts such as canteen workers and cleaners that are no longer needed at the office. So, they don’t miss out on money they would have otherwise earnt.
  • There is a fine line between capitalising on a product you have and getting it out there quickly.
  • You’re also a business and you have a product to sell. If that product helps people, then that’s the nature of the product regardless of the situation we are in. Never shy away from offing value. If your business offers value, you should stand by that.

Joining a new company – then heading straight into lockdown

As we know, joining a new company can be difficult. There are the products to learn about, your new workload to manage and build relationships with your new colleagues. What’s it like joining a new company and going immediately into lockdown after only knowing your colleagues for 1 week?

  • I had 1 week to build up key relationships with individuals in the organisation before heading home for remote working for an unknown period. With my role, like so many others, I rely heavily on individuals’ contributions to create and send out communications that keep the business current.
  • My main concern was regular communication and growing the marketing activity. I was worried that it would be difficult to get in touch or keep in touch with colleagues.
  • Everyone knows what it’s like when you start a new job and you ask questions because you haven’t learnt something yet ‘I can’t find a document’ or ‘I’m looking for a way I can do this’. Sitting next to someone in an office means you can ask there and then. When you work from home, it feels as though you can’t do this as easily. You don’t know if someone is available to answer questions.
  • I was pleasantly surprised on day 1 of isolation when we had our first group video call and all of the tools available to us to stay connected were already there. Attollo has been working this way since they started so it wasn’t a problem for employees to stay connected. With video conferencing, Microsoft Team chats for conversations with different areas of the business and even VR to help beat social isolation.
  • With me, as an individual and my marketing role, being completely new to the organisation, I’m pleasantly surprised at how they have totally embraced my work and welcomed me in.

What have been the challenges of working from home?

With our homes now being turned into our offices, we must give ourselves time to adjust to this new working life. Every call we face we are worried about having a child or pet running in the background and risk running a repeat of this iconic BBC interview of a Professor Robert Kelly (the guy who’s children and wife run in halfway through his TV BBC interview). So overall, what challenges do working from home present?

  • Having family in the background is certainly different. My children have run into the room when I’m on video calls. This is largely accepted as the norm now and I have found that people are more understanding now as this can’t be helped whereas before, this would have been frowned upon.
  • The challenge of setting healthy boundaries. Saying to the family you’re in Isolation with, these are the times I’m working and do not disturb then. Also, being able to shut everything down at the end of the day and say now it’s family time.

Tips on working from home that have made it easier or more manageable:

Based on all the collective experience we have of remote working, what knowledge, tips or tricks can we pass on to individuals or businesses that may be struggling with remote working.

  • Don’t be afraid to own your calendar – people will put things in your calendar that don’t suit you. Don’t be afraid to say no or to propose a new time. Your calendar is your time. The best thing about working from home is that you get to split your time up in whatever way works for you
  • Find a working cadence that works for you – for example, I like to work from 7/8 am till lunch. Then I have 2 hours break, it’s my time to do what I want, run errands or work on my own project. After which I come back to it and work until the early evening.
  • Having a separate office space is crucial – Psychologically, it makes a huge difference walking into a new space. Don’t have your office space in you sleeping/relaxing space.
  • If a separate office space isn’t possible, I’ve seen people having pop up desk spaces. So, they are there in the day and fold away in the evening.
  • Also, don’t be afraid to work from other places – right now we can’t do this. Usually changing the scenery for a refresh. Go to a coffee shop or park bench.
  • Maintain a working routine to be committed to the day. Make sure you get up, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, and coffee. Then sit down to work. Likewise – shut the door at the end of the day, close everything down and stop working. This is part of having a stricter routine than usual and setting more boundaries that were there before.
  • Individuals tend to work more when they are at home. If they take 30 minutes out in the middle of the day, they are more likely to work 60 minutes in the evening to make up for it. So, trust your employees are getting the work done. Work to deliverables, not timescales.
  • People are more understanding now and much more sociable. They want to see what’s going on in your home life, be it with children or pets. It makes collaboration so much easier.
  • Invest in good equipment, if you can and you need it.
  • Do not disturb hours on your mobile phone, email and Microsoft Teams. This is a nice way to make sure you have time to focus on a project. Working with people from all around the world can be demanding on time.
  • It’s nice to see that more people have moved to video calls and are more open to being on video. People are now craving that face-to-face communication and are waiting to have that meeting as a video call.

Closing words from panel

  • Support your local businesses – do what you can to support your local businesses at this time. Order takeaway food from local places if you can.
  • We’re grateful for the technology that we have now. This would be a more difficult experience if we didn’t have technology such as video conferencing.
  • As always, keep washing your hands!

If you want to watch this episode click here & enjoy!


Goat, 2020

Twitch affiliate

Facebook horizon

BBC interview

What’s next?

We are thrilled to introduce our second episode, ‘The Isolation Conversation – ‘Managing employee wellness and wellbeing’ which will launch next week. Featuring Mark Stokes – Chief Technical Officer at Attollo Intranet, Pom Tutt – Founder of Human method, Rob Foster – Lead on Digital Collaboration Teams at Deloitte and Alexandra Losup– HR Generalist at AvePoint

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact us via email or call us on +44 (0)1952 288 365

The Isolation Conversation – Welcome to the series & how to remote work

By Sam Dolan

Sam Dolan is a consultant for Attollo specialising in Intranets, SharePont & Microsoft 365.

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