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How London’s Wizards of Ops are Responding to COVID-19

Lucy O'Connor
Lucy O'Connor|

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As so many businesses face a new set of challenges, it’s crucial that we share knowledge wherever possible. Whilst we continue to feel rocked and unsettled by COVID-19, coming together to swap notes, best practices and useful resources is what will help get us through this.

On Wednesday morning, HubbleHQ hosted a webinar that discussed managing the impact of COVID-19 and remote working on businesses. The talk was led by our wonderful Wizards of Ops community members, Marie Krebs, Head of Ops at Learnerbly and Georgina Langton, Customer Experience at fully remote company FYXER. They gave invaluable insights into how to maintain communication and productivity levels remotely, wellbeing best practices, and so much more.

So, we were keen to share their gems of knowledge with you. Summarising the key takeaways from the note sharing session, we hope these tips and tricks can help make working from home as efficient as possible. To start, these are the following distinct themes that came out of the conversation: 

  1. Communication/collaboration
  2. Maintaining productivity levels
  3. Ensuring team wellbeing 
  4. Staying sociable
  5. Establishing the right work environment
  6. Onboarding new team members remotely

Communication/collaboration

When it comes down to it, it’s all about open, honest communication. Especially when working remotely. It’s essential to have tools in place for video communication, project management and instant communication, i.e. Slack for instant comms, Zoom for video calls and Notion or Monday.com for project management. 

On that note, Slack can be really noisy. But our speakers gave some great advice on how to reduce the noise:

    • Keep your calendar up-to-date and update your slack status to “busy”, to minimise the chances of being distracted.
    • A lot of messages will go unseen, so make sure that you tag people on Slack and try to communicate as clearly and concisely as possible, so it’s easy for people to absorb.
    • But, be mindful of bombarding your team with messages – urge people to keep the banter and lighthearted chat to a designated channel, so people know it’s not urgent.

You can also kickstart open Zoom calls. Pair people up, start a Zoom call and foster a sense of virtual collaboration. This can encourage your team to take accountability for their work, but most importantly it keeps them sociable.  

Perhaps most importantly, make sure you’re scheduling daily check-ins with the team. Marie and her ops team have daily morning stand-ups, which involves setting out three things they want to achieve that day and three things they accomplished the day before. Have a training session with your managers and empower them to be doing this with their teams and upping the communication – they may be the closest point of contact for many employees so it can’t all be tactical updates. 

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Maintaining productivity levels

To help boost productivity, drawing up a clear plan for your day is crucial. By setting yourself a schedule, you have a visual incentive of what needs to be done by when and as a result, you’ll be able to stay focused. To go a little further, consider sending your plan to a colleague or to the team. This can be done through a project management platform that allows you to tick off your completed tasks, and see your goals being reached. Georgina’s team recommends 7Geese

To ensure your team remains focused on achieving the company goals, breakdown your company KPIs and OKRs to a daily bitesize goal and regularly check-in on the progress. But, ensure that you avoid micromanaging – there’s a lot of change for your team and it’s paramount that they feel empowered and trusted. 

Learn from other teams in the company – product teams are often really good at daily retros. 

Ensuring team wellbeing

These are extremely challenging times and it’s so important to reassure your team, emphasise kind words and facilitate social initiatives. Go the extra mile and give advice on how to contact a GP and avail counselling remotely.

Perhaps encourage your team to mimic their commutes in the morning and again at the end of the working day (if you’re not self-isolating), to physically and mentally help create that work-life balance.

If any of your team happen to be yoga instructors, see if they’d be keen to host remote yoga/meditation sessions (plenty of studios are also offering remote classes at the moment). Our very own Joe Batten runs a free fitness community and will be running remote sessions every day; everyone in the WOO community is very welcome to join, you can sign up here: WithThePack.  

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Staying sociable

Working remotely can bring on feelings of loneliness, isolation and anxiety. To counter this, Georgina recommends using Slack integrations, like Donut or Lunch Train. Donut randomly pairs up two people from your team to go for coffee.  Of course, you can do this remotely, over a video call, and similarly, Lunch Train allows you to share lunch over video. Donuts are a great way of creating ‘watercooler moments’ to keep team members from different teams talking and sharing ideas, especially if you work in squads (like us). 

At HubbleHQ, we have the Sweedish tradition of having FIKA every Friday, it gets the entire company together for cakes, coffee and conversation. Designating time to chat can improve employee morale, soothe stress levels and allow bonds to strengthen amongst colleagues—and there’s no reason why this can’t continue when working remotely. So, for now, we’ve taken Fika to Zoom. 

By dividing the company into groups of 5, we can bring our snacks, beverage of choice and chat for half an hour in separate group calls. We’ve found this has actually been even more effective when done remotely, as people who wouldn’t necessarily chat in real life, have been given the opportunity to communicate in a more intimate space.  Check out more ideas in our blog.

Establishing the right work environment

Make sure your workspace is as comfy and ergonomic as possible. It’s also worth checking whether your company can provide facilities to help improve your environment, so do ask whether that’s feasible. If you’re not comfortable with sharing your home environment on video calls, you can turn your video off, or use different backgrounds on Zoom. 

In addition, many parents will be working at home with their children around, so it would be extremely beneficial to give parents more flexible working hours. If they’re expected to work an 8-hour day, give them a chance to work in evenings, if the job allows. These are unprecedented times, so flexibility and kindness will go a long way in keeping your team loyal, motivated and productive. 

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Onboarding new team members remotely

You can replicate a lot of the same onboarding tactics, just remotely. Replacing shadowing with 1:1 meetings across the team could be the best way forward. 

During a new starter’s onboarding process, it’s integral that they’re being heard and that all their questions are answered. Make sure you encourage open communication and reassure them that any questions, no matter how small, are welcomed! At FYXER, they have a Slack channel where anyone can ask questions about anything and the founders do standups twice a week to give answers.

It’s also really important to permeate the company culture through the onboarding process. At FYXER, they send out packages to new starters, that include a pair of socks and other things that embody their company culture. 

We continue to be amazed by the amazing support from the community members, as they share their lessons learnt, valuable company resources and moral support. If you want to be a part of the conversation, join the Wizards of Ops community:

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