When you have created a fantastic team of people it’s important to prevent them, or their families, getting ill. This is certainly how we felt at ChargedUp at the start of the current coronavirus crisis. As a small start-up we have very little redundancy and often have one person per key task – losing any one of our team would be disruptive.
It is over a month since we moved from actual office to virtual office – and we’ve learnt a lot along the way. So here are my tips to help you and your team continue to work remotely in the best way you can:
1. Have a plan. As the saying goes, fail to plan and plan to fail. Our critical objectives were to ensure that we could continue to provide a seamless service to our valued customers and secure business continuity while ensuring that staff could work effectively from home, stay connected, stay motivated and feel part of the team.
2. Don’t reinvent the wheel: There’s a wealth of online resources. I’d recommend https://www.notion.so and particularly Notion’s remote working guide as a source of excellent information for start-ups.
Start-ups simply do not have the resources to produce extensive guidelines and policy documents so Notion has been a life saver. I would particularly recommend the video Zapier’s Guide to Working Remotely. We also used https://seedlegals.com Free Coronavirus Workplace Policy to guide us through the swift planning and preparation stage.
3. Coach the team on how to work remotely. It’s not too late to do this. It is vital that each team member is well equipped to work remotely. Team leaders should discuss the logistics of remote working with their team members; providing guidance on creating a quiet space, setting a schedule, limiting interruptions from social media and other members of the household, etc. We coached the team on good working practice, including maintaining regular working hours, scheduling breaks, etc. We have a very committed team and we don’t want them burning out by working 24/7. It’s never too late to do this, so if you haven’t already, then do it now – even if your team has been working remotely for a few weeks already.
One of the key lessons we learned is that it is often difficult for people to find room at home for a desk to work on. I recently took the plunge and purchased a small second hand desk from eBay, after trying to work at a coffee table for a week! The extra investment was well worth it.
4. Establish the working day routine from day one: To facilitate a structured approach, I suggest starting each day with a 15 minute team stand-up at 08:45. I would also encourage you to introduce a progress tracking tool such as https://clubhouse.io. It allows you to create templates so that people can report what they did yesterday and what they intend to do today. We use the https://slack.com automation tool to prompt everyone at 8:30 each morning to complete this form. This is then visible to all team members. This is so important to keep our team focussed and to keep projects moving in the right direction.
5. Make the most of budget tools to help with remote working: Like most companies we already use collaboration software for audio conferencing, file sharing and communication. We chose Slack, from Slack Technologies Inc., although there are many offerings out there. Slack is a great option for small companies. When we want full video conferencing, we turn to Google Hangout. This enables us to share screens, presentations, etc.
ChargedUp uses https://Loom.com from Loom Inc, to record processes, new code, etc., to then share with the team. For example, the operations team have recorded all of their policies and processes via Loom. This is so useful for on-boarding new employees.
6. Ensure discipline for online meetings: I strongly recommend implementing a robust meeting policy to ensure that meetings are effective and time limited, have a clear agenda and that outcomes, actions and owners are agreed. I found a great article on ‘How to run a more effective meeting’ from the New York Times Business section. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/business/how-to-run-an-effective-meeting
7. Keep your team happy and motivated: Of huge importance to ChargedUp is the wellbeing and mental health of our team. We want them to stay well so we can hit the ground running when we get through these difficult times. Feeling isolated is a key issue raised by habitual remote workers and so we have made a particular effort to create opportunities for colleagues to socialise together online.
The team meets online for lunch at 13:00 each day, encouraging down time and an opportunity to chat and share ideas.
8. Reward and praise your colleagues: Although cash may be tight, go out of your way to praise and celebrate successes. For example, I arranged for a case of Jubel beer (https://jubelbeer.com/sales/) to be sent to each staff member. We meet online at 17:00 and celebrate our successes and have a laugh. Not only does this boost morale but also supports a local brewery.
9. Time to prepare: We fully anticipate a huge bounce in our business when the crisis is over, and we are using this time to plan for the next stage in ChargedUp’s expansion. This quieter time allows us to develop our capabilities, hone our processes and improve our application. We are looking forward to the next chapter in our company’s story!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hugo Tilmouth is CEO of ChargedUp, Europe’s largest phone charging network. Building on the British philosophy to promote sustainable innovations, ChargedUp gives customers power on-demand through its network of portable power banks. It also provides venues with a unique marketing tool that drives footfall and increases dwell time. 50 people work for the young company, which has expanded its charging network to over 3000 stations across the UK, Netherlands and Germany since 2017. The ChargedUp app now has around 210,000 users.