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How to Boost Productivity and Happiness While Working from Home

By Renee Carpenter | April 9, 2020
How to Boost Productivity and Happiness While Working from Home

If your company has moved remote in response to the COVID-19 physical distancing measures, you’re likely set up in your new home working environment by now, and figuring out what’s working well for you. But you're also probably discovering (with possible alarm) what isn't. This new reality so many of us are finding ourselves in comes with many perks, but also many challenges, and we’re here to help.

We’ve put together some tips and best practices — a working from home survival kit — to help you and your team stay connected, stay productive, and even learn something about yourself.  

Discover your unique talents, work style, and work preferences  

In the absence of in-person interaction, communication and collaboration are more important than everPlum Profiles help all team members better understand their strengths and work styles to help ensure everyone is on the same page. How do you uncover this important information about yourself? It’s housed in your own unique Plum Profile, which we’re offering free to everyone. Get started here. 

Your Plum Profile is full of personalized advice on how to do your best work, and is populated once you complete the Plum Discovery Survey. Here’s what you’ll find in your Plum Profile: 

  • Personalized insights into your top three talents. Are you an Adaptive Ace? Then your team will benefit from your ability to embrace uncertainty and respond and prepare for change. Or maybe one of your top talents is Peacemaker, and you can help fizzle out tensions that may arise during this time of rapid change. 
  • Your work style dives into who you are as a person, how this translates to who you are at work, and the types of work environments you thrive in. 
  • Ideal work preferences that provide insights into what makes you happiest at workand questions you can ask your manager in your current role to ensure you will be energized with the work you are doing. Don’t just love what you do, love how you do it! 

Plum profile preview

Not only does having a unique Plum Profile create an encouragement boost in a time of uncertainty (who doesn’t love to see where they shine?), it promotes communication between team members, and helps leaders identify ways they can support their employees remotely. Here’s how leaders can learn as much as possible about their teams: 

  1. Invite everyone on your team to take the quick, easy, and fun Plum Discovery Survey. The survey takes around 25 minutes to complete, and each person’s Plum Profile is delivered as soon as they complete it. Remind them there are no wrong answers!
  2. Ask everyone to review their results in their Plum Profile. They’ll find it incredibly insightful, so we recommend allowing them to set aside 30 minutes of the workday to really dive in and learn about themselves!
  3. Set up a virtual team meeting to talk about what you’ve learned.
  4. Ask each team member to share their top talents and work style, and discuss how to best work together and stay aligned.
  5. Start to realize the immediate benefits of your highly effective team! 

Our Plum employees put together a brief video showing how our team used the information from their Plum Profiles to talk about their communication styles and work preferences to identify ways to be more effective while being remote. You can check it out here:

Set WFH schedule for your company 

Not only is your company working from home, but every employee has had their life turned upside down in some manner. Many employees have gained school-aged co-workers, and everyone is missing some component of the in-office workday, whether it’s watercooler chats, departmental brainstorming, or a mid-afternoon walk.  

Losing the schedule you’re used to can be stressful. Acknowledge the gravity of the situation and provide a team-wide (or company-wide) schedule inspired by the periods in a school day. This type of schedule will create efficiency by allocating buckets of time for internal meetings, client meetings, and dedicated work time, thereby allowing everyone to balance work and personal schedules while working remotely. 

We’ve created and implemented this schedule at Plum and want to share with you how it works: 

  1. Divide the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. into nine “periods.” Each period is 50 minutes, allowing for a 10-minute transition time at the end of each hour for parents to trade-off, or to refuel energy levels.  
  2. Determine which periods will be set across the company for one-on-one meetings, town halls, and departmental meetings. This provides a structure to allow those meetings to happen at consistent times throughout the week. 
  3. Ask your staff to work a minimum number of core periods during the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. window (i.e., 5 core periods) and let them know they have the option to work a couple of periods in the early morning or evenings too when kids are asleep and the house is quiet.  

You may also consider creating tabs geared towards employees in different life stages. One suggestion is a schedule for the kids that complements the work schedule, as well as a resource list full of online learning courses, YouTube art tutorials (check out Mo Willems!), or online reading resources. Another idea is a list of fitness and mental health apps that are offering free extended trial periods during this time of physical distancing.

Remote Work Schedule Preview 

To help you implement this at your company, we’ve provided a downloadable template here that you can customize and share with your workforce.

Make meetings “in person” 

At Plum, we’re using Zoom for all our meetings, and turning on the video functionality is strongly recommended. Not only is it comforting to see everyone face-to-face, but video conferencing encourages people to get out of their pajamas, sit at a proper workspace, and be present for the meeting 

Zoom has other features you may find beneficial for your team too. You can split your employees into working teams and conduct brainstorming sessions, and with a large meeting capacity, you can conduct virtual town halls, check ours out below! 

And when you want to carve out time for informal watercooler chatter or virtual lunchtime yoga, you can schedule that over Zoom as well! 

Plum Team Remote Town Hall

Create space for all types of conversation using Slack

Just because everyone is physically distant from one another doesn’t mean you can’t have those casual, impromptu chats with co-workers around the watercooler! Slack not only contributes greatly to productivity, but their channels bring people together. They make it easy to share funny anecdotes, moments of gratitude, or news related to the pandemic (in case you’re not getting enough already). Here’s a sample of just some of the channels our team is using at Plum: 

#morning – This is a great space to greet your teammates every morning, and catch up before diving into work.  

#watercooler – We recommend setting up a daily time for a group watercooler conversation. Use cards from the Table Topics game to keep the conversation flowing! 

#kudos  We use this channel when we want to thank someone for a job well done but want the entire team to know what they did! 

#parentswfh – With no official back to school date on the tableparents need a support channel to share resources, memes, tips, or fun facts about their experience as parents working from home.  

Slack is also a fantastic productivity tool. During a time where we can’t walk over to a co-worker and ask a question, having team channels around certain projects or deliverables can help everyone stay on task in a faster way than drafting a full email. 

Don’t forget the fundamentals 

It’s important to say this because it may be obvious for many, but it’s something we can easily forget in times of stress and disruption. Our physical and mental health is being challenged by our new “normal” so keep it front of mind.  

Ensure you are getting adequate rest, eating well, and staying hydrated. A little exercise will go a long way, too. By ensuring your basic needs are met, you’re putting yourself first which will make you better at your job. And sticking as close to the same personal schedule you had before working remotely will contribute to your mental health. Right now we don’t know when “normal life” will resume, so focus on keeping those same habits you had when you were heading out the door every day instead of walking 10 feet to your home workspace.  

If you want to learn more about the schedule we’ve implemented for our company, or need help crafting communication to share it with your team, we’re here to help. Please reach out to us with any questions you have, and take the Plum Discovery Survey if you haven’t already to receive your free Plum Profile! 

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