Top tips and tricks for working from home during COVID [video]

Ellie Roddy 3 weeks ago

Hear how the Zazzle and Stickyeyes teams have adapted to working from home during the pandemic in this zoom chat with Ellie and Emma from our content team. We discuss what our teams are doing to keep inspired and active and gather tips from experts including Bruce Daisley, VP, Europe at Twitter.

As we enter our second month working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellie Roddy and Emma Baxter from our content team hopped on a Zoom call to chat about picking up a new way of working in such a short space of time!

So - how are we tackling it?

We'll start with the fun things - because that's a nice thing to focus on in such an uncertain time! If, like Zazzle, your company regularly embraces the fun side of things then it's good practice to keep things as close to normal as possible. The social team has been doing an amazing job of keeping the spirit of Zazzle moving with different activities…

We've had a 'guess the baby' game once a day where we've submitted baby photos and now we're doing 'guess the sibling' where we've done the same thing - this is all on Slack. There have been music quizzes on Microsoft Teams and a company wide quiz on a Friday to start the weekend perfectly.

Within our own team we've also been trying to keep the vibe positive! Jade, one of our team managers, organised and presented an awesome lunchtime quiz over Teams and this week I'm putting on a scavenger hunt over a lunch break.

While we know things can't be all fun, all of the time, we're trying to lift the teams spirits and make sure we all still feel connected to each other outside of just discussing work-related matters.

But, of course, we are still working. And we need to ensure that as well as boosting morale, everyone feels supported. On the content team, our managers, Jade and Andrew have been having a call with us in the morning and at the end of the day on Teams. This enables us to check-in, see each other's faces and discuss any work-related issues.

When you're in the office we can see if someone is struggling, but it’s easy for this to happen in silence from home. I’ve seen the quote shared around quite a bit: ‘You are not working from home; you are at home during a crisis, trying to work.’ and it’s so true. Looking after each other and our mental health is more important than ever, which is why we also have a regular 1-2-1 over Teams with our managers and communicate throughout the day over Slack. We also have a catch up from the Exec team every Friday with the entire business to keep us updated alongside some more lighthearted elements.

How to win at WFH with Bruce Daisley, VP, Europe, Twitter

As part of the wider, Interpublic Group (IPG) we've been taking part in their Open Chats series, an opportunity to listen to some inspirational industry figures and recently, Bruce Daisley, the European Vice President for Twitter presented us with WFH tips to adapt to a crisis situation. Bruce offered lots of actionable and helpful information and here is some of the stuff that stood out for us:

  • Communication is down 80% across the board and stress levels are much higher so, personal and human check-ins are becoming so much more important.
  • Social interaction at work plays a much more important role than we realise and we start to lose elements of personal feedback when working from home.
  • It's often the case that you don't really know when you're doing a good job when you're in isolation so, it's important to recognise and reward good work.
  • Successful teams have allocated time for rapid responses - a time when you'll know people are available for questions and answers which i especially helpful if people are working all over the world.
  • The lines between work and personal time start to become blurred so, make rules for yourself to be more productive. Emma for example was working in the living room which meant blurring the lines between work and time at home. Now she's put together a little office in her spare room she can close the door on the working day when she's finished which means she can properly shut off to enjoy her free time in the evening.

Of course, all the above is easier said than done when you're fighting fires and trying to maintain business and personal lives in lockdown. But, what are we doing at Zazzle to make working from home easier?

Top tips and tricks from the Zazzle team to make working from home easier

It’s important to make sure you take your lunch break. It’s easy to work through as we can do in the office but you’ll be more productive if you have time away from your desk. So, we were interested to know what everyone has been doing on their lunch breaks.

There have been cook-alongs over Teams and we have seen social media updates from our colleagues of baking and exercise classes, so we asked around the office and these are a few of the responses. They have definitely given me some inspiration.

Jade Lamb: I’ve been taking the dog out for a 20 minute walk, coming back and eating lunch either in the garden or on the sofa and play a quick 20 mins or so of Animal Crossing

Fraser Gilby: Daily Lunchtime walk

Alex Jones: Running / Yoga on good days / lazy days it’s playstation

Michaela Peacock: I've been doing a 20min YouTube HIIT video... and then baking cookies. Which now that I'm writing it doesn't make sense. I'm finding baking really relaxing and have noticed that making things which require kneading has been good in reducing wrist ache when typing.

Emma Dixon: Mainly workouts for me; yoga, 5k runs, YouTube follow-along HIIT classes

Steph Mantle: I tend to take my lunches to challenge my Fiancé to a game. Our top picks are Dobble and Disney’s Villainous.

Francesca Brookes: CrossFit classes (we have a Quarantine CrossFit Club), go for a walk (mostly exercise I guess), prep for tea, make a nicer lunch than I would normally have in the office, catch up with a friend or work friend. Its more about putting something into a routine so it all becomes a bit easier and “normal” so when you do finish work it kind of feels like a full work day.

Our colleagues from Zazzle and Stickyeyes tell us what they have learnt about their partners, family and themselves…

Richard Marriott: I think my wife has been surprised about how strict my tea and coffee habits are at work as its nothing like what they are at home (I love a 3pm tea). I also don't think she quite realised just how many calls/meets I have during a working day and how varied my role is.

Jade Lamb: Jamie said he didn't realise how sassy I could be. I've seen some of the work Jamie has done and it's so good, I didn't realise how good he was at graphic design. Also, he is SO QUIET. He doesn't have any calls. It's weirded me out how little his team speak to one another.

Emma Keeshan: It’s only me and my 3 year old daughter at home and the only thing I have really learnt is that I would pay my nursery more money to have her!

Farah Hussain: My dad thinking it’s acceptable to have his meetings out loud 90% of the time, despite having his headphones next to him… My sister telling her manager on the phone ‘my sister works in marketing… or something... I don’t actually know what she does to be honest’

Hannah Scorfield: I’ve discovered that my other half really can do nothing for days on end, and somehow I still love him.

Sophie Grace: My situation is a bit different because my partner and I both work at Stickyeyes but in different teams, so working closely with him has brought to life our different processes and ways of thinking. For example, my days a bit more flexible from working in content, I’ll have lots of different tasks so I can pick and choose what to start on, whereas he may have one task spanning over several days. I’m also more organised, with my to do lists and logging Jira as I go, whereas he just tends to get on with a task without much planning!

Lee Allen: I never knew how much she actually “snacks”, which is just a poor excuse for being greedy in my opinion. As the people she is talking to are on the other side of the internet, she shouts down conference calls to make sure they can actually hear her!  Thought I’d make this really personal and copy her in. That’ll make the next 3 weeks of lockdown fun!...

Becky Chambers: Not sure I appreciate how quickly Lee responded with those comments! To counter - I am amazed at how Lee never needs to snack, I'm sure that's far more out of the ordinary than regular snacking - he also has lunch really late, so I guess he has a lot better willpower than me when it comes to food! As for the conference calls... I just like to be heard!

Lee: If you are short, I have 47 more 🙂

Pete Adams: I’m quite a keen drinker. Loads of squirrels visit my garden! But the squirrels do not want to chat. I SPEAK REALLY LOUDLY WHEN I HAVE EARPHONES IN. A packet of chocolate Hobnobs struggles to stretch to two days.

Managing working from home with children

Obviously the schools have closed too and a lot of our colleagues are parents that now have to juggle work with homeschooling and keeping their children entertained. So we spoke to a couple of parents to see how they are coping with it.

Louise: My son can arrive next to my desk at any given moment - in the midst of a complex conversation with a client, wrapped in a towel fresh from the shower as a video call gets underway or with a desire to share his latest drawing with my colleagues in an online team meeting!
He has learned to try to check before he bowls in but there’s nothing like the surge of parental guilt at waving your child away as you continue to work.

I’m fortunate in so many ways - having a supportive employer who allows flexibility, a husband who is around and engaged and only one child to think about, who is of an age where he can be left alone for periods. That said, I’ve constantly got one ear open to listen if everything sounds like it is going ok.

Most working parents don’t have a lot of spare time and this situation has squeezed that to a minimum. We’re trying to be playmates to ease the loss of time with friends, researching and planning ‘lessons’ that at least attempt to be fun, engaging and educational as well as all the normal stuff.  Still I enjoy playtime. We try to ring a virtual bell at least once a day and go into the garden to run around, play chase and have fun. I might just keep that up going forward!

Lisa Wisniowski: The concept of a work life balance has definitely taken on a new meaning when you’re working and living, alongside your family, in the exact same place! It’s taken quite a few weeks of trial and error but we’re slowly but surely getting to a place where we’ve figured out our new normal. I’ve found I can work more efficiently before the rest of the house wake up in a morning and after they’ve gone to sleep at night. Alongside doing key calls during the day it also means I can try to turn school teacher as well as pre-school educator with my two children. I’m not going to deny there haven’t been any tears (from me and the children) as well as lots of deep breathing to help restore calm (from me and the children!) but, we’re keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues digitally, have a restored appreciation of the traditional communications methods of letter writing and parcel sharing and are forever grateful to work in an industry that enables and supports remote working alongside parenting in a global pandemic or otherwise!

Although we are all in this together, everyone's situation is slightly different. We hope that we have given you some useful tips that you can implement whatever your day to day working life currently looks like. Good luck and, stay safe!

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