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Working from home in the age of a pandemic

  • Geplaatst op donderdag 18 maart 2021

Working from home in the age of a pandemic. We are living in a strange time, working from home has never been done by so many people at the same time as today! In this blog I will give you 9 tips that I am using to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, you might have heard that working from home was not possible and that you needed to be in the office all the time. However, for most people and also without a pandemic, working from home is possible (with a few exceptions).

New planning during lockdown

Working from home is different for me, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, than before.

The first few days were hectic and a little strange, especially for my daughter. She was not used to see mom and dad both being at home on working days, and not able to both play with her at the same time.

During the first lockdown (beginning of April 2020) all schools and daycares were closed. Because of this, my two-year-old daughter (turning 3 in April) needed to stay at home. We wanted to make sure she would still get the attention she needed and to provide the structure a toddler needs. We also wanted to make sure my wife and I both stayed productive at work, so we needed to align the planning.

We decided that my wife would work in the morning while I took care of our daughter, and during lunch, we did the “handover” 😉. That meant that I was working in the afternoon, but sometimes in the evening as well to catch up with work (not by default though).

"I am lucky to work for Avanade as they care about the work-life balance of employees."

As we are now in the second lockdown, things have changed. In August 2020, our second daughter was born, so we had to re-adjust the planning. Until the end of February I worked two full days, two half days and on the fifth day I was off making use of partner leave.

I am lucky to work for Avanade as they care about the work-life balance of employees. Especially during times like these (COVID-19 pandemic), this adds a lot of value and prevents a lot of stress. So, thanks Avanade!

Tips for working from home

I will share some tips and tricks that I am using while working at home.

*Most of the examples are from Microsoft Teams, as it is now the biggest tool for video conferencing and online meetings

1. Status in Teams – Manage expectations

I am using the Status feature from Microsoft Teams to manage expectations of my colleagues. In this way I am informing them when I will be available, or I will ask them to check my calendar for my latest availability. Thankfully, most of my colleagues are honoring my status update!

Microsft Teams Status Message

2. Using Microsoft Presence – The Etiquette

Back in the days, where it was normal to work from the office, colleagues could easily see when you were not available because you are on the phone or maybe in a meeting room. This can be challenging when working from home. Below a Microsoft Teams Presence Etiquette, from my point of view, on how to read the presence:

Microsoft Teams Presence Status

3. Notifications on Teams Mobile

During the two half days I am not working I am not using my laptop, so I am trying to stay connected via the Teams app on my iPhone. To make sure I only get the important notifications, I changed the notifications settings in the app. In the settings menu you will also find the option to turn on “Quiet hours” to disable the notifications during a specific period. Another option that I can recommend to everyone, is to change the option: Send notifications. Change this from “Always” to “When I’m not active on the desktop”. This will save you a lot of extra notifications on your phone when you are working on a laptop.

Microsoft Teams Mobile App notification settings

4. When to mute yourself

When you are not talking in a meeting, please mute yourself. This will make it easier for participants to hear the presenter well, without any distractions from a coffee machine, vacuum cleaner, drinking, coughing, sneezing etc. or other noises.

Microsoft Teams how to mute yourself

5. Use a certified headset

Are you still using the headset that you have gotten with your work phone, or your favorite headset from the MSN era?

I think that we need to inform a colleague when their headset is causing sound quality issues. Your headset’s microphone might not filter out background noises, like someone preparing a coffee or someone else being on another call at the same time.

Make sure you have a Microsoft-certified headset. Even if you do not do it for yourself, do it for your colleagues, and most importantly, your customers. 😊  

6. Additional remark about build-in speakers and microphone

It is very convenient to use your laptop’s built-in speaker and microphone. Especially now we are all working from home. But your speaker and microphone will together create an echo… echo… when… when… when… your… colleague… colleague… is trying to… trying to… talk… talk... talk… *click* and then I will mute you. 😉

When using your laptop’s built-in speaker and microphone, please make sure you do not put your laptop directly on your desk. All sounds will be amplified, such as wearing a bracelet, playing with a pen, and tapping your fingers (on the table or a keyboard). My advice is to use a Teams certified audio device, like a headset of speaker. If this is not an option, please use tip #4. 

7. Turn on your camera in meetings

Please use your video during meetings. This is important because this is the only way you will be able to see each other. You are used to seeing your colleagues every day at the office, but now the only possibility is to use your camera during a video call. Make sure that you are visible (no bright lights behind you if possible). Make time for some social talk during the meeting, especially if you have not spoken to each other in a while!

8. Sharing a PowerPoint presentation in a Teams Meeting – The correct way 😊

There are multiple ways to share a PowerPoint presentation in a Teams Meeting. You can share your entire screen using the “Share Desktop (#1/#2 if you have multiple monitors connected)”, or you can share the PowerPoint Application using the “Share Window”. But there is another way, sharing by using “Share PowerPoint”. The advantage that comes with this option is that it is easy for another presenter to take over, so no more “next slide please” and it can reduce the bandwidth up to 90% . 

9. Schedule meetings using Cortana and/or Bookings

I guess most people would recognize the difficulties when trying to schedule a meeting with more than five people. There is a way to find a time frame that suits everyone, and it is something that I have already been using for some years now. It is like a digital Personal Assistant and it is called Cortana (click here to activate Cortana).

Finally, I am also using Microsoft Booking for everybody I work with, so they can see my availability and directly schedule a Teams meeting with me without the hassle of finding some time together. You can easily do the set up using this link to Bookings. (Please be aware that Booking/Cortana needs to be part of your license and should be activated in your tenant.)

Schedule Teams Meeting using Microsoft Bookings

 

These tips are just some examples that can be used while working from remote home but can also be used when we all go back to the office. Let me know in the comments if you find the tips useful or when you have any other tips that you want to share. For now, thanks for reading!

Saumya Shah

These are some useful tips! Dankuwell Mitchell :)

dinsdag 30 maart 2021

Mitchell Bakker

Hi Saumya, 

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!
आपका स्वागत है Saumya! :) 

woensdag 31 maart 2021

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