Staying productive when working remotely

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 30th March 2020

So here we are in the midst of what looks like one of the most disruptive events many of us will ever face. I hope you and the people around you are holding up and I wish you all the best for the difficult weeks and months that lie ahead.

Even though it’s early days, already COVID-19 is impacting every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally. For instance, on the work front, many of our clients have asked their staff to work from home, or for teams to split up, or for people to avoid getting together in groups.

For many, this is a huge and unexpected change, on top of everything else that’s going on in their lives. Overnight, we are faced with figuring out how to get really good at working remotely really quickly.

Fortunately, most knowledge workers already have a range of tools at their disposal which can support them, wherever they are working. Unfortunately, many workers don’t know they exist, or are aware of them, but have chosen to avoid them. It’s much easier to stay in our comfort zones and, for instance, rely solely on emails to get things done. The problem is that when all you have is a hammer, you try to make everything look like a nail.

My feeling is that COVID-19 will force us to leave our comfort zones and explore ways of working that are more suitable to this new environment we find ourselves in. Once the ‘new normal’ has been established it will be vital that you and your team embrace the technology that until now may have sat patiently on the sidelines.

In particular, I’m talking about the collaboration tools Microsoft include as part of their Office 365 suite – MS OneNote, MS Teams, and MS Planner. If you can harness these tools it will enable you and your team to communicate, congregate and collaborate efficiently and effectively, regardless of location.


Personal Productivity with MS Outlook and MS OneNote

MS Outlook and MS OneNote are the gold standard when it comes to personal productivity.

MS Outlook keeps you across where you need to be, and what you need to do. It helps you manage your Time.

MS OneNote helps you store, retrieve and use all the knowledge, ideas, thoughts and data that comes at you via research, meetings, conversations, and emails. It helps you manage your Information.

At the personal productivity level, you will find working remotely much easier if you harness the outstanding capabilities of this powerhouse duo.

Team Productivity with MS Teams and MS Planner

At the team level, MS Outlook and MS OneNote are not enough. More emails and even fuller inboxes are not the answer. We need to work smarter than that, and this is where tools like MS Teams and MS Planner shine.

MS Teams is a collaboration tool that allows a team to create channels for their projects, processes and problems. It enables people to have more effective discussions and interactions by pulling everyone into a central hub. Used well, MS Teams becomes a focal point for the team – a virtual workspace where everyone can easily contribute in a meaningful way. Harnessing MS Teams will also result in a significant drop in email traffic, less reinventing of the wheel, and more value gained from the intellectual capital that often lies dormant across an organisation.

MS Planner is a project planning tool that allows your team to plan and manage everyday projects simply and effectively. It makes team project work highly visible and easier to track and is especially useful when teams work across multiple locations.

One of the best features of MS Teams and MS Planner is they can be linked which means everyone has access to not just the conversations and documents associated with their work, but also the plans and the actions that are needed.

So, we don’t just have a hammer. We have a whole toolkit that can get us through this challenging time, and then beyond. Over the coming weeks I will be deep diving into each of these four tools and providing practical strategies for working and collaborating wherever you are.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay positive and stay productive.

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