Outsider view on continuous remote work

A year into remote working – do you know how it looks like to someone who returned to work just recently?

I spent the covid year in a family leave and came back to work at the beginning of 2021. I noticed some funny and some sad things about the new normal.

Expecting the worst

Nordcloud being a tech community, it wasn’t an issue for us to start working remotely.

We had our processes in place for reporting the work to do and following the progress, and communicating via instant messaging app instead of face-to-face discussions. I bet this has been very difficult for some industries.

I was a bit afraid of not seeing people personally. It turned out, seeing via video feels personal as well.

Although, people seem to be a bit disconnected from the discussion, because they are not expressing much body language. I’m confused when someone in a group says something funny, and no one laughs but me – and I can assure you it has happened so many times it’s not just my bad humour!

People are not nodding nor smiling to encourage the speaker to continue. I find this a bit concerning. Sometimes people are so still I suspect the video froze, until they move their eyes a bit.

We can be surprisingly still when not expressing body language!

Becoming familiar with remote work

I have found it to be natural to communicate via video conferences. Even onboarding a new team member became familiar to me, although I was sceptical at first. You who have been working remotely for a year don’t feel uncomfortable about this at all.

Working remotely with every team member has brought my international team members closer to me. At the same time, the colleagues from other teams are vanishing from my reality, because I don’t see them accidentally in the coffee room.

One thing I really love about remote work is the lack of commuting. I bet I’m not the only one who has recently realised that it’s not required to go to the office every day to get the work done. I have also agreed on shorter days with my employer, so currently I can spend a long afternoon with my kids and family.

Getting back to work remotely has been an interesting challenge which I think I’m winning now.

Have patience there working remotely, and let’s roll our eyes when we meet virtually!

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    Challenges of virtual workshops

    In March 2020 I was supposed to give a full-day training about Google Cloud Platform fundamentals. Unfortunately two days before the date I had to prepare it in the remote form so it was a bit challenging to me as I have never hosted a webinar nor remote training before.

    Luckily I am working in a cloud company so we are using tools that help with remote communication on a daily basis, I have a good internet connection and remote work is nothing extraordinary.

    At first, I had to get access to an online training platform. Fortunately, our company has been using Zoom for some time so I had to contact a particular person to get access to it as a host, generate whole-day meeting information and reserve the slot to make sure nobody else will need it that day.

    Secondly, I had to prepare my training room. I reserved a separate call room for that day in our office in Poznań, made sure that I have good Wi-Fi range and a stable internet connection with good throughput. Then I had to move an external screen and my laptop there and connect everything. The second screen is important because my laptop’s screen was a “director console” and I was presenting the second screen to the audience.

    At that stage, I had to test my toolset. I was presenting a slide deck on the second screen to my colleagues while talking and reading the chat. It took a while until I got familiar with it. Everything needs some practice.

    As I mentioned before I am used to remote discussions and webinars on a daily basis while working on customer projects for customers from all over Europe. However, these meetings never lasted longer than one and a half hours so I was a bit worried about talking to the computer for the entire day.

    On training day everything was fine. Taking part in a remote training was a new experience not only for me but for all participants as well. I asked the audience to mute the microphones and enable them only while asking questions. I was organizing breaks between modules as during normal business training – everybody needs to get up and take a short walk, get a coffee, water or tea or refresh themselves. We also set up one one hour lunch break.

    The most challenging to me were three things:

    1. Observing the chat window while presenting the knowledge to the audience if anybody asks a question there. 
    2. Asking people about questions more often than I would do if I was giving conventional training in the same room. 
    3. Reminding myself that I am not talking to a red dot near the camera the whole day but there are real people who are listening to me and learning.

    The downside of the remote form of training was that it is hard to do training labs in that form. I wasn’t able to walk through the room and watch people doing a practice scenario and helping here and there if someone got stucked. One can demonstrate that but is not able to see if people are getting it and are able to do it themselves.

    I missed interacting with the audience. My perception of receiving information was very limited. There were almost no discussions between participants nor me. I felt more like a lecturer, not a trainer.

    In my opinion, the training was a small success to me. From a technical point of view, everything worked as expected. I presented all modules of the training. The participants were disciplined and muted themselves while not asking questions. Most participants were satisfied with the training in the end. I had no bad opinions among ca. thirty people, who took part in the remote training.

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      5 Workplace health tips from Nordcloud

      As COVID-19 continues to effect our working environment,  lots of businesses have expanded their work from home policies. Many of us are being encouraged to self quarantine, avoid gathering places and to improve hygiene, but even when the pandemic is over, how can we all strive to improve the health of our teams in the coming weeks?

      1: Improve work-life balance

      Making sure you have sufficient time to wind down after a stressful day or week is not only important to reduce stress for your mental wellbeing, it will also improve your immune system! When you get stressed your body releases a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Being stressed often or for long periods of time increases risk for heart complications, weight and sleep issues as well as a reduced efficiency of your immune system.

      Encouraging physical activities in and outside of your workplace can improve productivity, reduce sick days, and boost individual development. For example, in our Stockholm office we have a table tennis table which has greatly boosted physical activity amongst our coworkers (when we’re not working from home!).

       

      2: Clean your desk and equipment

      As COVID-19 has been spreading worldwide we have all gotten more information about how to improve our hygiene. In case you missed it the basic steps are:

      • Clean your hands with soap and water often
      • Cough into your arm or a tissue and throw away the tissue immediately
      • Avoid touching unclean surfaces (doorknobs, subway gates etc)
      • Avoid touching your face
      • Work from home if you can

      These are all important to remember, but what about our workplace? Do you have a colleague who only cleans his or her coffee cups every Friday? Keeping empty cans on their desk? Seldom cleans their keyboard?

      These are all places where germs propagate. With the latest studies suggesting that the Coronavirus can live on hard surfaces such as metal, glass and plastic for as long as nine days, when did you last clean your laptop?

       

      3: Keep some plants and keep them well!

      Studies have shown that indoor plants not only boost your mood and productivity. They also help clean the air indoors and reduce stress. By cleaning the air and reducing stress we go back to points one and two, less stress and cleaner air has large health benefits. We keep a couple of plants in the office and have roof windows to increase sunlight.

      Having employees responsible for their own small desk plant also gives a couple of minutes of therapeutic stress release for the individual every day, much cheaper than a therapist could be!

       

      4: Encourage healthy eating habits

      Here at Nordcloud we have our headquarters and many of our offices in the Nordics. During the colder half of the year, due to reduced sunshine we often get vitamin D deficiencies. Other vitamin deficiencies also make themselves known during this time as the common cold spreads faster and we have decreased immune responses when it does show up. We battle this by keeping fresh fruit and a jar or two of vitamins in our office which is an easy way to boost vitamin levels.

       

      5: Take care of your mental health

      We touched upon the subject of mental health in points one and three. The year is now 2020 and the subject of mental health has been destigmatized and brought to light. Mental health is today just as important as physical health yet is not widely understood everywhere. Promoting training and awareness in the subject has a lot of benefits not only for the employees productivity and creativity, improved mental health in the workplace has shown to improve physical health and work culture as well.

      Click here to learn more about how we are helping businesses during COVID-19

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      Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.