What To Do When Your Office Pantry is Away

Many businesses had to change from office work to home offices in a hurry. This is quite a challenge not only for the employees but for the IT department as well. Their tool outfit is not prepared to cater for all employees working remotely in full time and all of them at the same time to boot. A lack of personal contact can also adversely affect collaboration. How can IT tools reproduce real communication and collaboration structures? How do you organise work flow from a distance? 

Enabling efficient communication 

Communications need to be well organised if everyone is working from home all the time and only meet in a virtual ambiance. Without the shared office pantry and your neighbours at the table all that direct talk and those short, informal meetings will be missing completely. Virtual meetings can replace face-to-face conversations quite well. But even they cannot reproduce all aspects of an encounter in person. Smalltalk with your seat neighbour will be missing just like any short closing remarks to clarify last open topics unofficially. The alternative, which is to schedule a meeting for each and every little project update, is not really viable on the long run either. At the same time, remote work tempts those involved to plan regular meetings with to many participants where all come together to form one big assembly. Those meetings then tend to fill calendars with needless appointments. 

But how can businesses and their employees handle their personal communications apart from scheduled video meetings? Companies will certainly need a team organising software product such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to manage their remote employee teams. They can not only form groups and create channels for individual organisational entities and departments but also for subject areas and for informal teams. This will keep employees from using private and not privacy compliant means for their mutual communication. IT professionals or the staffers themselves should spend some thought on virtual team structures that reflect the actual day-to-day collaboration and decision making necessities. This might include an additional virtual pantry instead of a preclusive layout according to department membership. An “off topic” area if this kind can allow more unconstrained, private exchange of views. Project teams from different business areas jointly pursuing a theme can also stay in contact in their own channels and groups without having to rely solely on email messages. With your seat neighbor out of sight, it is also important for you to keep your status up-to-date so all your colleagues know whether you are available for calls or queries. 

An ideal home office 

Those in possession of a fully equipped workplace or even a regular office at home are few and far between. Concentrating on your professional duties can be especially tiresome if an improvised workplace isn’t separated from the private sphere. This is where you need to get yourself sorted as professionally as possible in order to be able to concentrate on your work in your familiar surroundings. Time stretches blocked for important activities can help, just like fixed procedures and temporal structures. Always take a break for lunch at the same time, for instance. Small tools can help with self-organization. A task manager using the Pomodoro Technique can help structure phases of concentration and short pauses. Many people need either absolute silence or some background noise to be able to concentrate. This is where good headphones can help. Noise-canceling models can suppress distracting noise and so provide for the desired silence and isolate wearers from their environment.  

Sufficiently bright illumination at the workplace can also help keep concentration alive and fatigue at bay. A desk lamp, a place right next to a window or below the dinner table light will help prevent the computer display from being the only bright spot at the workplace. Without a dedicated desk, a viable, productive workplace could be difficult to find. It might be advisable to define a permanent working place in your home for the time of your home office period. That is a place that can be your dedicated little office for this stretch of time. This would enable you to keep your professional and private lives separate. Such a place could be your dinner table or even a broad window sill. It would enable you to furnish the space properly with your computer outfit, lighting, and the like instead of sitting on the sofa with your laptop where you would also want to be after work hours. 

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