Better with Buildout

Remote work during quarantine: 8 tips for staying productive and sane at home

March 27, 2020

Last Friday, Illinois (and Buildout HQ) officially got ordered to “shelter-in-place”. With the disruptions caused by COVID-19, things are uncertain for a lot of people right now.

We might not know the right words for this particular moment, but what we do know about our industry is that we’re all about people.

Commercial brokers work tirelessly to take the best care of their clients possible, advising them on their businesses and futures. And brokerages are filled with brilliant marketers and admins who are constantly working through impossible workloads.

We at Buildout are constantly inspired by the way our customers move mountains for the people they represent. And we believe it’s that spirit of taking care of each other that will get us through these uncertain times.

With that in mind, we wanted to share some of the ways Buildout is tackling being a temporarily remote business.

Hopefully, our tips can offer some inspiration for taking care of your work and each other during these unique times.

Make your work transparent

1. Hold team scoping meetings

Working remotely can make it feel like the tasks in our court are siloed—but creating a space to look at everyone’s work holistically helps keep our sense of collaboration going.

In our Marketing team’s weekly scoping meetings, they estimate the effort and time involved in every task and get a sense of how and when it will pass between different members of the team.

These conversations are extremely useful in seeing the team’s availability across the week—and how people can pitch in if someone has an extra heavy week.

Our Dev team has been expanding their scoping meetings during shelter-in-place to increase the amount of discussion each task gets. Being able to explore potential complexities ahead of time helped them cut down on projects creeping beyond initial estimates.

Their first week of trying this fuller scoping meeting led to their most productive week of the year so far!

2. Check in daily as a group

Short “standups” help the group see in-the-moment progress on each other’s work and keep us on top of potential delays in our workflow.

It’s a great balance of accountability and assistance—whichever is needed on any given day.

When you have space carved out each day for group discussions like that, you also build increased adaptability into your team.

The idea for this very blog came to be in a discussion around our next customer newsletter. Without having to wait for our next scoping meeting, our Marketing team was able to postpone their scheduled blog and quickly put the project together to bring you this piece first.

Knowing you have time on everyone’s calendars to bring up challenges and questions helps everyone keep pushing forward on projects together.

3. Work from a centralized location

While everyone on our teams is given autonomy in how they tackle individual work, all of that work stems from one place for each team.

This makes it easy to see how work will flow between team members—and prevents any important tasks from falling through the cracks.

For you, that might mean a shared spreadsheet that logs everyone’s tasks for the week. Our Marketing team uses a project management tool called ClickUp. A lot of our other teams use Jira because it’s built for development work.

Whatever you use, it’s helpful to make it specific to your workflows. That’s why we added task management features to CRM and Premium Marketing in Buildout—because a lot of our customers told us their workflows needed to be centralized around specific deals in play.

Stay productive by staying human

4. Formalize time for casual conversation

Stopping by someone’s desk is a lot harder to do right now—but a lot of our best work moments happen in these interactions.

As often as possible, try to hold your scheduled team meetings using video chat instead of just a phone call. Forgive each other for busy backdrops and comfy clothes, and then be thankful for injecting some human interaction into your day.

Zoom and Google Hangouts are great free tools you can use for this!

Carving out some time in meetings before diving into work stuff makes it easy to be human together still.

Take some time to decompress together about what you’re seeing—and share some of the positives getting you through.

5. Look for virtual team activities to keep morale up

At Buildout, we think bonding as a team makes us better-equipped to deliver the best work to our customers. That’s why we normally eat lunch together daily and make time for team outings.

That’s a little harder right now.

But the PoB (people of Buildout) are a creative bunch. We wanted to share some of the ways we’re keeping our culture alive at a safe distance.

  • Sales turned a lunch hour into a “Chopped” competition
  • Our Platform Designers are collaborating on the “ultimate quarantine mix” in a shared Spotify playlist
  • The Product team is picking a “watercooler” TV show to binge and discuss together

Claim as much normalcy as possible

6. Create a commute for yourself

The act of traveling between work and home is a significant part of your routine.

Your commute is the main signifier of being at work—or getting home once everything is done for the day. That border between the different parts of your life is essential.

That’s why it’s important to carve out a space inside your home that is entirely dedicated to getting your work done. Whether it’s a home office or just a desk in the corner of the room, it’s helpful to create a space you can arrive at to start working and leave when you’re done.

Protect that makeshift office space as best you can.

Find a way to signal to your family or those you’re quarantined with when your work needs uninterrupted time—whether that’s a closed door or creative solutions like “on-air” signs.

Keep your office space reserved for work only. Once you’re done working, don’t reuse that space for anything else.

By creating a strong distinction between your work and home spaces, you can get that sense of a commute back. This makes it easier to step away from each side of your life when it’s time to engage in the other.

7. Maintain your usual working hours

It can be really easy to drift away from your typical start and stop times when you’re not leaving the house. But try to work your normal schedule as much as possible.

Keeping set hours helps you balance that divide between work and home life when it’s harder for your location to do that for you.

This element of predictability can also help your team members know when they should be trying to reach you—and when you’re no longer checking messages for the day.

Sometimes life while working at home does have to pull you away from your desk for longer periods of time.

When that stuff pops up—and it will—let your team know you’ll be away for a bit. Creating, enforcing, and communicating around those boundaries can go a long way.

8. Go outside!

This is the simplest tip to recommend but can be the absolute hardest to pull off. But it’s possible to practice social distancing and see the sun at the same time.

A quick walk gets your body moving, your blood flowing, and can remind you you’re not alone in the world. Make the extra effort to wave and say hi as you maintain six feet of distance from the people you walk past!

We’ll be sharing more of our experience working remotely on our Instagram account. Share your best remote work tips as comments on our posts there!

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