In response to COVID-19, working from home has become the new norm for most of us worldwide, including many of our GTA Workforce and island. Almost overnight it felt as if we were suddenly expected to know how to juggle our professional workloads on top of managing emergency preparedness, caring for loved ones from a distance while also becoming teachers and entertainers for children out of school while working from our kitchen tables or makeshift home office spaces.

If factors like time and priority management, communication, work life balance and even self-care have become harder to balance and succeed at while working from home, good news - you are not alone.

Even better news? We were able to gather great tips and tricks from our Director of Product Management, April Flores on how she’s successfully made the switch from the standard office productivity to working from home and Leading With Care for her team. ​​​​​​​

To Begin: Some General Advice

Maintain A Routine:

Even when working from home, a daily routine is important for maintaining your productivity. I try to maintain a similar routine I had before we had to work remotely.  I usually get up around 5:30 am, make my bed and get dressed, drink coffee while looking for the latest updates on COVID19, feed my doggies, and start working around 7:30am.  I have lunch around 11:30 am and then work until 4:30pm.  Then I work out.” 

If there’s anything critical I need to do for work, I usually start on that post dinner. 

Fun tip: What I try to do on the daily to add variety to my day is to pick a different spot in my house to work.  This way, when I work, my view is always different.  

Expect Distractions:

Working from home, you contend with a ton of distractions. My distractions come in the form of pets – 2 dogs, 3 cockatiels, and 1 lovebird.  My house is a half zoo!  There’s no hope in trying to reason with them so I just roll with the punches. Sorry if you hear my dogs barking or birds chirping on a conference call!  

April brings up a great tip here: For some of us, our distractions are children or significant others, but we can all relate that our world doesn’t stop or mute itself just because we’re on a conference call. Embrace the humor in these moments – including the sounds of roosters crowing on your conference calls. ​​​​​​​

Keep Active:

I’m a CrossFit addict, so I make sure I get a workout in because it gives me a much-needed mental break from work and gets me away from staring at screens.  I also try to squeeze in some games on PUBG Mobile.    

Side note: Exercise and self-care is as important as ever! Turn your living room, garage, or yard into a makeshift workout area to follow along to local gym ‘WODs: Workout of the Day’ (check out Unified Fit or Custom for more information) or apps like Nike Training to get your heart rate up and blood flowing to stay healthy and strong.

Maintain Your Workflow: Use tools to help in time and project management

Using calendars and task management applications are a great way to stay focused and on timeline with projects even when remote. Thanks to Amazon’s Alexa, I synced the app MyList with it so when I remember I need to get something done, I can say “Alexa, add ______ to my Work List” and it’ll appear immediately.

Other apps? I also use Planner app in Teams, Evernote, along with the native Calendar on Outlook.      

Prioritize time and projects

I must admit it’s hard to keep projects on track at a time like this, but we’re all trying our best. 

As a leader, I remind myself that I need to stay positive and productive for my team if I am to expect the same from them. 

Maintaining Team Morale & Engagement:

Establish Structured Daily Check-ins:

Prior to having to work remotely, I implemented Daily Check-ins with my folks via a Teams Channel.  Everyday no later than 9am, we, including myself, write the top 3 things we want to accomplish that day. I think this helps to keep us in check, and it also helps the team be on the same page.  I chose to do it via a Teams Channel instead of a call because I think a call takes too long and having it stored in a Channel makes it easy to look back and use as reference.    

Flexibility is Key: Establish “rules of engagement”:

With the convenience of Teams, you need to establish guidelines around how your team communicates. Sometimes there are situations outside of the normal working hours where we do have to respond to urgent questions or adapt quickly to a different direction, so I have to consider other people’s schedules and weigh out the necessity of responding right away.

For example: if it’s 6am in the morning or 9pm at night and the answer can wait, I'll wait for a more appropriate time to call. It’s important to encourage people to disconnect.

Provide opportunities for remote social interaction:

When it has come to working from home, one of the challenges I’ve faced so far has been missing the in-person interaction with my team and other folks I normally meet with in person!  I really believe teamwork is strengthened when people talk to each other versus just communicating via email or chat.  I’m tackling this challenge by asking folks to do video conference calls when they can.    

I also feel that it’s important to remember that even now, as we would’ve at the office, difficult conversations should be had via video call because body language and tone is important, and if necessary, send an email shortly after to recap what we discussed. This is the best way to build respect. Sometimes an email or IM to talk about the topic can be miscommunicated or misinterpreted. ​​​​​​​

April, thank you again for taking the time to share your best practices and tips you’ve learned from working from home.

Each day over the past few weeks has brought new challenges, direction, priorities, and obstacles both personally and professionally that we have had to quickly overcome. Learning new ways to communicate with one another, managing and trusting each other from afar, problem solving and making judgement calls to meet the needs of GTA employees, team members, and customers, is what will make our work force stronger once we are able to safely transition back to the office in the future.

Leading With Care is an important Val-You in which GTA will continue to Win Together throughout COVID19. We are extremely grateful for all employees who continue to adapt and serve our island and customers. Even from home, we are Winning Together and GTA’s continued success isn’t possible without each of us contributing our part. Thank you and stay safe, everyone!