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A guide to remote working during the coronavirus outbreak

4-minute read

Sam Bromley

9 April 2020

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What does working remotely mean for the self-employed? Whether you run your business on your own or manage a small team, you might now be working from home and holding more remote meetings during the coronavirus outbreak.

With that in mind, we’re sharing some tips our Head of Wellbeing, Kelly O’Neill, put together to help our employees adjust to working from home.

Self-employed working from home? Step-by-step tips

Use the right tool

There are lots of communication tools out there, from the humble email to workplace instant messengers, like Slack.

But with so many tools available, it becomes important to choose the right one for getting your message across.

Different people prefer using different tools, so you can try using a mixture of video calls, phone calls, Google Docs (to collaborate in real time), and so on. It's important to consider which tool will make the best use of everyone’s time and get the best results.

If you’re not sure about the range of tools you can try, or you'd like to know which ones you can use for free, read our article on the best free tools and software for your business.

Understand the tool’s features

Zoom is a popular video conferencing tool that’s become very well known since the coronavirus outbreak.

We’ve used Zoom for video meetings at Simply Business for a few years now, which means we're used to its features. For example, if you’re on a video call with a number of participants, you can use the relevant feature to help make the meeting more efficient:

  • use the ‘raise hand’ icon for a question, or use chat
  • use the away icon if you need to leave the meeting for a moment
  • if the speaker is trying to understand if something makes sense, or it’s OK to move on, use the ‘thumbs up’ icon
  • use the ‘go faster’ and ‘go slower’ buttons if the speaker is running through something you already know about, or you need more time to process what they’re saying

Always mute yourself when entering a Zoom meeting (if you’re the host you can also mute other people – useful for large meetings). You can do this by going to Zoom settings > audio > mute microphone when joining a meeting.

And if you think your surroundings are distracting, you might want to use a Zoom virtual background. You can do this by going to Zoom settings > virtual background.

It’s also worth understanding the difference between meet now and scheduled meetings. Scheduled meetings are organised ahead of time, using Zoom itself or a plug-in (for example, you can schedule Zoom meetings from Google Calendar). You can use meet now for an instant meeting by clicking new meeting from the Zoom app, or using the Zoom website you can log in to your account and click host a meeting.

If you’re running a remote workshop and want to break participants into individual discussions, use the breakout rooms button.

There have been a number of Zoom security concerns since the software became widely known. Keep in mind you can set passwords at the individual meeting level for extra security, and also be sure not to share pictures of meetings that may contain a Zoom ID. If you're looking into Zoom for your business, it's a good idea to research all of the available security features.

If Zoom's not for you, there are plenty other tools out there, including Google Hangouts. Whichever tools you use, it’s worth exploring all the settings to make sure you’re getting the best out of the software.

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Minimise misunderstandings

When you’re working remotely, it’s very easy for there to be miscommunication, misunderstandings, and for some people to not even be heard at all.

Sometimes written communication can come across very differently to how someone intends. It’s easy to be misunderstood. Always double check if you’re not sure, but try not to expect immediate answers – working from home comes with competing priorities.

If you’re not sure about a message, you could organise a quick call with the sender to clarify what they mean.

And while it's easier to be distracted at home, you might be tempted to multitask (for example, write that email you've been meaning to write during a lull in a video meeting). But research suggests that multitasking makes you less productive, so be sure to give people your full attention.

What’s good meeting etiquette?

These tips are useful for meetings in general, but they’re especially important for remote meetings, which come with heightened challenges.

Firstly, make sure your meeting has a clear objective and agenda and share them in advance. This helps keep meetings on track and is especially important for larger ones.

During the meeting, come up with clear actions by taking notes, so you and others know what you’re accountable for. Share these around at the end of the meeting.

Finally, when no-one is in a room together it's more difficult to stay engaged. If the meeting is moving away from the agenda, try to bring it back. And if everything's been ticked off, wrap the meeting up rather than letting it continue.

Remote meetings are great for collaborative working sessions. If you’re going to be discussing or working on a particular project, you could share a Google document (in Docs, Sheets or Slides) and ask participants to add comments and questions.

How to settle into a routine

Finally, while plenty of self-employed people may be used to working from home, it’ll be unusual for many more. The importance of routine shouldn't be overstated – it means carrying out your day just as you would if you were going to your business premises.

It sounds simple, but getting up at your usual time, getting dressed and eating breakfast is a good place to start. If you usually travel to work, what can you replace your commuting time with? And while you devote lots of time to your business as a self-employed person, it can be useful to have a clear boundary between the end of your working day and home life.

Self-employed working from home checklist

You can use this checklist to make sure you settle into a working from home routine – check these off daily.

  • set up a productive workspace
  • get ready for any remote meetings and calls
  • check in with any team members, colleagues or clients
  • review your to-do list
  • plan for lunch
  • take regular breaks
  • make time for exercise and going outside (sticking to any social distancing measures)

How are you adjusting to more remote working? Let us know in the comments below.

Looking for self-employed insurance?

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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