Many people are working from home for the first time, in recent times with the Coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, with multi-billion dollar companies like Twitter and Square announcing permanent telecommuting policies, many are wondering how to stay productive while working from home. At Grata Software, we were built to handle working from home, since we already had it implemented as part of our business structure. For example, we would take remote work days for certain occasions such as doctor appointments, or commuting to client meetings that may be closer from our home verses the office. Or, we would simply choose to telecommute on days where we need to catch up on work in a quiet environment. As a result, this allows us to maximize our time and save the extra time spent to commute to the office. Therefore, we want to share some tips and software that we use to make managing the work from home life easier.
Daily Geekbot Scrum
One of the most important tools that Grata Software utilizes to stay productive while working from home is our Daily Geekbot Scrum. Geekbot is an automated bot that is integrated with our Instant Messaging application Slack. Everyday, the bot will ask every employee and contractor of Grata about what tasks they worked on yesterday, what tasks they are working on today, and if they are running into any blocks with their assigned duties. The bot then posts the answers from each employee into a community channel, for all of the coworkers to view. This allows a seamless transfer of knowledge from each employee to another without explicitly having the conversation each day. Furthermore, allowing managers and bosses to see how their employees are doing in regards to their assigned tasks. As well as, any roadblocks they might need to solve, at their own convenience, saves time.
For instant communication, at Grata Software we use Slack to communicate internally. Slack is a free, business messaging application, depending on your usage. Slack is set up in sections for channels, direct messages, and apps. Channels are open to view for employees, who are invited, and they serve as group conversations for those involved. How we have it setup at Grata, is that we have an internal channel dedicated to camaraderie and general topics. Then, each project has its own channel that shows the movements of the tasks. As well as, allows for additional project specific discussion. Next, Slack has a direct message section that allows users to interact directly with one or more users instantly. Lastly, Slack has a section with various other integrated platforms that come in handy. These include the Geekbot Daily Scrum mentioned before, Dropbox for file sharing and Jira for task sharing and updates.
An important part of adjusting to working at home is the fact that clocking in and out isn’t as easy as showing up and physically punching in or working specific hours. Time tracking software is especially useful when working from home. At Grata Software, we utilize Harvest to track all time for billing and hourly employees as well as contractors. As a consulting company, Grata has multiple client projects. So, it is extremely important that accurate times are kept separately between the various projects. Harvest allows users to pick a project category, task type, and add a description of each time log they create. For time tracking, a user can set timers or add time manually. The reports section allows for easy tracking of hours per pay period, making payroll a breeze. Also, the invoice section allows users to take the hours logged and turn them into invoices for clients.
To keep track of tasks, Grata Software utilizes two different software platforms. We began with utilizing Jira by Atlassian to track tasks assigned throughout the various projects. Especially those tied into sprints and kanban workflows. We also use Asana to accomplish internal non-project tasks. These include on-boarding for clients, personal reminders on meetings and other miscellaneous tasks. Both software platforms work in very similar ways, allowing users to set up projects, create and assign tasks, and update progress of completion. Jira is especially useful in terms of its scrum and kanban boards, that allow developers and QA testers to drag tasks from To-Do, to In-Progress, to In QA, to Done when the task is finally tested and completed. Task Tracking is an important feature when you work from home. That is because, there is no punch in and punch out machine for hourly employees.
In order to maintain a constant flow of communication between the entire team, daily check-in meetings were established. These meets are with all employees and contractors of Grata Software, and they began as soon as we began all working from home indefinitely. Google Meet allows users with gmail accounts to directly schedule meetings through email. These meeting invites get link directly to your gmail calendar. Many of our clients join us on these calls. The whole process is simple and integrates well with gmail and cell phones, with an easy to maneuver mobile application. The ability to share your screen while discussing topics in real time is key to staying productive while working from home. We also use Uberconference as an alternative option. A great feature that Uberconference allows is to record the call. That way, you can come back later and listen to for action items or requirements.
With all that is going on in the world today and dealing with the winding down of restrictions, working from home when possible solves many worries people may have about keeping work productive while protecting their health. Now, we do know not all industries can implement this solution, especially those that perform manual labor. However, for those industries that can implement this structure, it can brings about new issues that most people don’t think about when transitioning to working from home. Thus, we hope we have tackled the majority of the most common issues with the switch from at the office to staying home that will help you. Finally, almost all of the platforms mentioned above have free tiers that are manageable, depending on usage. With the exception of Harvest, that would only be free in the case of a single user.