The word coronavirus and covid-19 is on everyone’s lips and minds these days all over Belgium and around the world alike. But so are social distancing, telecommuting or working from home.
The recently declared pandemic has disturbed the way we work and organize our daily life in just a few short weeks.
And that disruption means changing the way we collaborate with coworkers and customers, how we structure our workday, adapting our homes to host an office space and in many instances, rethinking our business model.
Here at Co.Station what we value the most is our community and the power of sharing ideas. We truly believe that our biggest strength lies in continuing to support each other, particularly in challenging times like this. As such, we are launching a series of blog posts to help us stay in touch with our dear residents & readers and bring you ideas and insights to ease this period.
Because practicing social distancing should be about physical distancing while strengthening social connection and support.
How our resident and innovation community are handling #WorkFromHome
Perhaps the biggest concern on everyone’s mind over the past week, besides staying healthy, is how to make the transition from our well established routines to working from home more smooth.
If some of us already have some experience with working from home and can quickly get into a productive mindset, while still wearing their pyjamas, many of us are still trying to find a proper structure and rhythm.
So we checked in with our residents and our innovation community and asked them how they adapted, what tools make their lives easier and best practices they can recommend. They had quite a few ideas to share, here is what they told us.
Louis Melchior, DevOps and Software engineer Full-stack at jaris,
jaris is an integrated credit service that provides small businesses with quick working capital loans that are repaid with a percentage of daily card sales processed through partner payment systems.
“At Jaris we are using Slack, Zoom, Atlassian, Github. We are calling [each other] often when a task requires more attention. A Slack call of 5 min might save 15 mins of chatting on slack so we call each other as soon as we need it.”
Ron Leplae, Managing Director Europe at Jaris, added:
“We are a bit in a specific situation due to our USA & EU office [..] we already are ‘digital’ heavy collaborating. [..] We use for example QUIP for brainstorming and ideation, we also use G-Suite (pro version of google docs), which has a great way of editing documents, sheets & presentations with multiple persons at the same time. [..] Confluence for docs, [..] We use Zendesk for ticketing (support & customer inquiries),[..]. We also use Trello. From a business continuity point it’s not a great jump at all for Jaris. As I think that a lockdown is imminent and as this will be for longer than 3rd April, I think that digital collaboration will need special attention”. “Another tool we use for log management is Datadog and for customer/marketing intelligence is Mixpanel.”
Tiago Mendes-Costa, Web developer at Spreds,
Spreds is an investment platform offering everyone, regardless of the size of their assets, an easy way to invest in businesses that improve their surrounding world.
“We’re using Google Meet to replace live meetings. Other than that, the tools that we were already using daily continue to serve us: Slack, GitHub, a Trello-like kanban board, emails, Dropbox, shared calendars.”
Maxime Denuit, Co-founder & CTO at Nightborn,
Nightborn is a Brussels based agency, specialized in UX/UI design and development of mobile, desktop and web applications.
“At Nightborn we’re using Microsoft Teams for internal calls/chats in order to do our work. Teams also enable us to edit documents directly in our communications tool, we’re able to open any Office file and collaborate on it. [..] Google Hangout is used to collaborate with our bigger clients since those invites are directly generated through our Google Calendar and everyone already knows how to use this tool. [..] Our other business related tools, like Github, Azure DevOps, Figma are more our core tools that we already used extensively without the outbreak.”
Emilija Tamosiune, Marketing Expert at Sailsense Analytics,
Sailsense Analytics provides a smart boating assistant with the purpose of making navigation and the usage of boats easier and safer.
“At Sailsense we are using Slack for daily conversations and Whereby for our online meetings. We are also sharing any information we have with at least one other team member to keep the information circulating.”
Damian Keane, Marketing Manager at Ambassify,
Ambassify is the platform of choice to develop and apply your employee engagement strategy. All the tools you need, in a single platform.
Damian made a great point of adjusting our expectations to the current situation: “None of them [these tools] are worth anything though without a clear communication plan, and setting goals for each remote team/individual. This will help people stay organised and motivated. From an employers perspective: You need patience and some empathy at this time. Understand that meetings can be disturbed by a poor connection, a dog barking or a child needing attention. It’s not a time to be frustrated with people just because you’re used to a different way of working.”
Bradley Massey, DevOps Engineer at Yields,
At Yields.io they have built Chiron, the first platform that uses AI for continuous model testing and validation on an enterprise-wide scale.
“We’re already a team working from a little bit everywhere (BE, US, FR, PL, RS, …). We use G-Suite for all the things Google (Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Docs, etc). Cloud infrastructure [Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform].”
Jeroen Coussement, Founder at Factry,
Factry develops software solutions to help our customers get insights in their industrial processes. We do this by combining our experience on industrial system with our expertise on open technologies from the web- and IoT-space.
“Within our team, we mostly use Slack and Google Meet for communication, and Notion for project management and follow-up. Our development team has daily remote ‘stand-up’ meetings like they would have when they’re working from the office, and the whole Factry gets on a call together at least 2 times a week. For communicating with customers, we use whatever meeting tool is their preference (Skype / Teams / Zoom / …).”
Koen Betsens, Senior Director at Cloudoki,
At Cloudoki they build with, advise on, and train in API’s, back-end and front-end for web, mobile and native applications, and IoT/VR/AR applications, helping startups, scale-ups, SME’s and the big boys.
“Within Cloudoki we rely on Slack, Google Suite, Monday, BambooHR, Spark. And we do daily standups on all projects. Monday is becoming a serious time-saver.”
Jordan Vermeir, Founder at Yambla,
Yambla helps you discover and execute the best ideas in your company.
Jordan let us in some insider tips that work well for them:
“We’ve been working remote since day 1. I hope these tips are helpful for those trying to figure out how to work remotely. [..]
- Have clear processes backed up by the tools you use. Based on the status of a task in your tool it should always be clear what the next step of a task is, and who’s action is required. This should prevent lots of chatting around to get day to day work moving
- Aim for well structured, more e-mail style conversations on Slack. This has proven to be way more efficient than using multiple chat-like messages to get a point across
- Aim for clarity. If you feel that a conversation is getting confusing or people are not on the same page, jump into a quick 5 minute conference call. It would cost a lot of time to get the conversation back on track using chat
- Post a small summary on Slack after completing a conference call
- Try to only notify those people who need to be involved in the conversation: use separate channels, use threads in Slack, have a separate (muted) channel for chit-chat “
Toya Dilles, Innovation Lead at Co.Station,
As we already work from several locations regularly (Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, …) we are already used to using Google solutions (Hangouts, Drive…), Slack and Trello as our go-to tools within the team.
Since the ‘WFH’ situation we’ve mostly adapted our schedule of checking in with each other. Every day having a ‘coffeecall’ in the morning makes sure we stay up to date with each other’s innovation projects and clients, as well as our (mental) well-being :-)
But sometimes you need to adapt to the client you are working with. Specifically for one of my projects, where I coach 3 different corporate clients in an acceleration sprint, we decided to move to Webex for our online meetings (due to corporate constraints of using Google that some of the participants have) and are using draft.io as a ‘quick and dirty’ solution for a whiteboard. We have also set up a whatsapp group for short practical messages, to avoid an unnecessary flow of emails.
My role as program responsible and coach has now mostly shifted to being an online moderator. But with clear guidelines from the start, tools that are simple enough and straightforward to use for everyone and regular dial-ins the team manages to keep their focus.
Adeline Michaux, Sustainable Innovation Manager at Co-station,
In a period of crisis, we go in survival mode.
What does it mean for a Non-profit organizations? What does it mean for innovative initiatives lead by corporations? What becomes a “must-do”? What becomes a “nice-to-do”?
As a coach for sustainable innovation, I used collective intelligence and design thinking methods to support my customers and non-profit associations to cope with their urgent challenges:
- Keep the momentum within their team and communities, onboard the non-digital fan
- Review priorities, take the risks into account without freezing
- Adapt quickly, be open to change plans, be patient and get used to seeing kids around ;-)
- Get internal buy-in, put your project on the priority map
- Keep the societal goal in mind, identify low effort, high impact actions in your power
In a time of sanitary crisis, potential recession and environmental urgency, all organizations have a role to play. More than ever, organizations need to act as an ecosystem to survive and keep generating value for their stakeholders. Whether it is online or off-line, we are passing a test for which innovation methods and alternative governance models are strong weapons.
Somehow, confinement is a moment to Pause & Act. Ok, the first week was a bit hectic but we are now finding our rhythm and working efficiently on projects with impact!
- The IO.E Innovation Team is having 2 workshops a week with sub-groups working sessions in between
- Big bloom is hosting 1 online Hackathon per week to bring our international social innovation at the service of 1 non-profit organisation per week
To participate to a Big Bloom Hackathon, reach out to me!
Making the most out of self-quarantine
We feel that being confined at home doesn’t need to be a burden, so we came up with some ideas you can implement to make your day more enjoyable:
- Start your day by checking in with your team
The majority of our residents begin their mornings with a meeting where team members share what they plan to work on that day, keeping everyone informed and accountable.
This is a great practice you can use to kick start your day too, enabling your team to stay focused on their goals. And there is no need to be in the same room, as there are some great meeting tools out there such as our residents suggested
- Take care of yourself
Taking care of your body is one of the best ways to keep your mind concentrated. “Mens sana in corpore sano” still holds true.
Try and eat as healthy as you can, add vegetables to every meal and try to have fruit instead of a sweet snack.
Staying active while remaining inside can be quite tricky, but the kick of endorphins your body gets out of moving will be 100% worth. You can try and follow a normal workout you used to do at your gym or find classes online – there are tons of resources out there, just get moving:).
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, anxious or just need to make some space in your mind, take a break and try to meditate. Try closing your eyes, take deep breaths and focus on just observing your body and how it feels. It’s a great way to calm your mind and the more you practice meditation, the more you will be able to stay present.
- Add greenery to your workspace
Since you spend a big chunk of your day working, why not make your space a bit more pleasant? Plants are nice “coworkers” to have around, they are not noisy, they don’t interrupt you when you are busy.
And did we mention they keep your air fresh? So try bringing some plants to cosy up your environment.
We hope these ideas can make your day more enjoyable and productive. What other tips would you add to our list? Let us know!
We would like to thank everyone for their input – we discovered a lot of useful tools and some interesting ideas on remote working. We will dive deeper on the topic of tools and how they enable us to work from virtually anywhere in our next post. So make sure you don’t miss it!
In the meantime, stay safe and virtually connected.