As of Wednesday, 18th March the Pixel Kicks team have been working from home in light of Government advice.
Before we upped and left our beloved Ancoats HQ (and our friends over at Huckletree Ancoats!) we had a sit down to discuss what this would mean for us, and how we could guarantee the same level of effectiveness despite the miles between us all.
We’ve got it covered.
As a digital company we are well versed to working remotely, and for the last 18 months all staff have been actively encouraged to take one day a month working out of the office, so we already have stable systems in place to ensure we can work effectively.
Below are some thoughts from us on working remotely. We’ll talk you through how we’ve prepared organisationally, but also individually to ensure we can crack on for our clients.
Chris Buckley, Founder
Managing Notifications & Maintaining Focus
Be wary of notifications distracting you from the task in hand.. With a multitude of different apps all vying for your attention, there are times when you might need to set your status to Away, or close down certain apps.
We use Slack as daily part of life at Pixel Kicks, and create individual channels for each client, for each department, and for certain topics. At times it can get fairly crazy, but I always tell our team to make sure that channels that don’t require their attention might be better muted.
If someone specifically needs your attention they can tag you by name.
Slack’s “All unreads” feature at the top is also something that we use frequently. This section presents a single view where you can quickly scan all unread messages in different groups, and is a great way to mark multiple items as read or reply via individual threads.
Starting with this view and navigating down to certain channels as a second stage soon becomes a great way of working.
Regular spring cleaning of channels, both which ones are muted and which ones you’re a member of, is a required habit, and one that will improve your daily Slack life.
We also use a process at Pixel Kicks whereby we have a number system to signify what each channel is about. For example all channels beginning with 1 are the highest priority, and these are our main internal channels, and ones that are frequently used.
Channels beginning with 2 are for specific client projects, ones starting with a 3 are for our freelancers, and then the remaining channels are classed as miscellaneous. One main benefit of doing it this way is that you can easily see a structured order to all of them.
Replacing Emails with Basecamp
As a 40-something veteran of the internet, I’ve grown up using emails as a daily communication, and grown to hate them more and more each year.
Why? Well firstly, it’s because most people tend to use their email client as the centre of their work. They react to emails, they let their daily routine be orchestrated by emails, and most importantly they aren’t working efficiently.
We have a company policy at Pixel Kicks of only using emails when we have to. Instead, we use Basecamp as our central client communication tool, continually pushing things back through Basecamp when clients send standard emails.
Basecamp has a much more friendly and intuitive way of alerting you to unread messages, and since moving over to this way of working, half of our team now come close to achieving “inbox zero”.
We stringently add all new clients as projects in Basecamp, create introductory welcome messages and importantly, discuss this with clients in our initial meetings as a benefit of working with us.
Turhan, Project Manager
Keeping up our Client Communication
Client communication is usually through Basecamp whereas we use Slack for internal team discussions. This will continue to work in the same way and the fact that we are working remotely won’t affect that.
We use the CircleLoop VOIP service at Pixel Kicks so if you call our main number it will ring wherever we are – whether that’s in our Ancoats office or our home office – so you will always be able to get through to us.
The biggest change will be with face-to-face meetings. We always find these useful and are always out meeting with clients or inviting them into the office.
We don’t want to stop having these kind of meetings altogether as we find them invaluable during the project, but we will start using video conferencing a lot more.
At Pixel Kicks we already use video conferencing. If a member of the team is on a work from home day, they usually Skype in to the daily standup, or if a client is unable to make it into the office we sometimes arrange a video call.
However, we will be implementing this for all meetings for the time being. We are now using Zoom which offers more advanced features for scheduling and joining meetings. All our internal and client meetings, including project handovers, design workshops and website reviews, will be done via Zoom.
With these services and our processes in place, everything will carry on as normal and will ensure projects run just as smooth as before.
Dan Parr, Head of Design
Pick the right soundtrack to your working day
Now that we’re all self isolating, what better time to crack out the music you’ve been meaning to listen to in peace, without the pressure of your work colleagues jibing you for it.
Certain genres of music have been known to increase productivity and help you focus on the task at hand.
Classical, ambient or music without lyrics that is played at a low noise level is best as it is less distracting than rock, or rap for example. It becomes a much more subtle part of the background and you’re able to focus better because of it.
Shannon Howarth, Web Developer
Put together a schedule for the day ahead
Setting a schedule and sticking with it is an important part of working at home as this gives you clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day which will help maintain your work-life balance. Planning in your breaks is also key, as this gives you adequate time during the day to have a screen break and refresh.
Before starting your day it is best to make sure everything is set up on your computer to ensure you have no issues when it comes to starting your day. Make sure all apps that are needed are downloaded, LastPass is set up so you’re not asking for passwords, make sure you’re logged into everything you’ll need.
Before the coronavirus situation I had already begun working from home every Tuesday, and for me, the most important part is choosing a dedicated work space. Working on your laptop whilst in front of the television is a very dangerous game. Make sure you dedicate a specific room in your home to work so you’re not easily distracted.
When it comes to starting your work it is very easy to multitask, especially with Basecamp, Slack and Outlook notifications constantly popping up on your screen. Try and fight the urge to multitask by sticking to the schedule you’ve set out in the morning.
Finally, treat yourself to the gadgets that will make you work faster. For me, some good headphones are a winner as music helps me to concentrate more and I get less distracted. Also, if you’re using a laptop get yourself a mouse, keyboard and a monitor these help you work at the same speed as you would in an office environment.
Of course there are some downs about working from home: not seeing colleagues, going out for lunch, gym before work, looking forward to holidays and so on. A positive from this situation is definitely the £240.00+ a month that will be saved on parking and petrol, which is needed in case the coronavirus situation gets worse!
Jamie Swain, Head of PPC
Find a dedicated space to work from
Sitting on the sofa in front of the telly with your laptop on your knees is an easy trap to fall into. Unless you have a desktop PC at home, it’s unlikely you’ll have an actual desk to use when you’re working out of the office, so finding somewhere sensible to work with a laptop can be tricky.
It’s best to start your home-working period by setting up a space that you’ll use as your own mini-office. Whether you choose to sit at your dining room table, or use your living room as a workspace with your coffee table as a desk, it’s key to ensure you have a clear and comfortable space to work from. It will help you to keep focus and steer clear from any tempting distractions you might find at home.
Emma Clure, Senior Digital Marketer
Keep up your usual eating habits
Working just a few feet away from your kitchen can make it pretty tempting to spend some time cooking up a nice hearty breakfast and lunch for yourself, as maybe you would do on a weekend. However, it’s important to get yourself in the frame of mind that this is a normal working day, and this just might be counterproductive to your day. After all, you likely don’t have the facilities or time to spend doing this at the office.
The energy and time spent chopping and cooking ingredients during your lunch hour could be better spent sitting down to actually eat your meal away from your desk and recharge your batteries ready for a productive afternoon of work. So if you regularly prepare your meals for a day at the office, stick to this when you’re working from home or at the very least, if you’re desperate for a freshly cooked meal, ensure all of your ingredients are prepared in advance so you can throw them together in a matter of minutes and still get time for a well needed break.
Fred Burrow, Digital Marketing Executive
How can you use the time you’re getting back?
Working from home for a long period of time will mean that you no longer have to worry about the morning commute, or even having a shower as soon as you get up! One way to put this extra time to good use would be to add a new exercise routine to your day. Whereas before you might spend an hour in the car or sat on a train, you could try waking up and heading straight out for a run, turning what would normally have been time wasted into inches out of your waistline. A good exercise routine will also help you to ward off the dreaded COVID-19, as it is widely accepted that giving your body a regular workout will boost your immune system, and extra fresh air never hurt anybody!
Create workspace boundaries where possible
Setting a clear divide between work and home will help you to concentrate and remain effective while working remotely. While spending more time with your family around you is always good, children especially can provide quite the distraction, whether human or furry. This is why it is important that when you start to work at home you make sure that your entire family knows not to come asking you to play, do jobs, or just have a scratch behind the ears. Segregating yourself into a room and closing the door, or having a workspace with your back to the room will help people to remember not to bother you while you work.
Matt Hartley, Senior Account Manager
Don’t sacrifice that second monitor if you can help it
Definitely plug in a second monitor using a HDMI cable, they’re cheap and widely available.
Working off of one small laptop screen can be tedious and counterproductive, especially if your task requires you to reference a second tab of notes or data. Borrow a second screen from your office and it makes general day-to-day working a lot easier, the majority of the staff here at Pixel Kicks have moved their entire set up home because they can’t do without that extra screen space.
Use Chrome extensions such as LastPass, Session Buddy to help aid workflow. Consider also logging into Google Chrome with your work account – if you turn on ‘Sync’ it will duplicate all your favourites, apps, and history, no matter where you are working from.
As mentioned by others, Zoom is a brilliant web/native app for video conferencing, team meetings, and general catch-ups. We’re using it every morning for our catch up calls and it’s working perfectly so far.
Consider seating and posture (don’t sit at the kitchen table or on your couch). Just as in your office, a proper chair and eye-level screen setup is essential for good health and comfortable working.
Andrew Flynn, Digital Marketing Manager
Fair play if you’ve made it this far down a list of us telling you what you should be doing, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the article and found some benefit from it!
There isn’t much else to say that hasn’t already been said.
It’s just worth mentioning the fact that for most, working from home isn’t something you’re fantastic at from day one. We’re lucky at Pixel Kicks in that we are encouraged to take a day a month away from the office, so we’re prepared for all eventualities.
Working from home effectively is somewhat of a fine art and if you’re trialling it for the first time, the chances are you may drift away from that usual concentration level that you have in an office environment. Don’t be disheartened if this is the case, you’ve got to give your brain time to adjust to working in a different setting.
Say you aren’t having the best of days, why not use the time to train yourself? Take that online exam you’ve always wanted to do, or watch a couple of tutorials on a practice you aren’t yet comfortable with. This is just as valuable a use of your time and it can help you to reset a bit before jumping back on the heavier stuff.
So my ‘tip’ as such is to keep positive, and try not to be frustrated if your productivity takes an initial dip. It will get easier as you become accustomed to your new surroundings, particularly if you heed the advice from my colleagues above.
Thank you for reading. You can keep up to date with a timeline of timestamped updates from Pixel Kicks Ltd, in relation to the developing situation surrounding the COVID-19 virus.