Making a safe and productive remote work environment – experience working outside the office
commercetools was born from big thinkers, willing to push the envelope not just in the product we make but also in how we work. With offices spanning from the U.S., all the way across Europe and Asia, to Sydney, Australia, our core communication and digital collaboration is very conducive to working remotely. As a result, our liberal work from home policy has provided every commercetools employee with experience working outside the office.
Keeping it up
While our employees enjoy the ability to work-from-home or remote locations on a regular basis, those days are usually sprinkled in throughout an entire year. Now with recent rules and regulations put in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become an exceptional situation which calls for an extended period of remote work.
It is important to note the differences in working remote during physical isolation. Going into the office is not an option, which in turn reduces social contact and creates a high potential for cabin fever. On top of that, people are encountering loneliness or distractions, depending on how many people they live with. The whole experience can be very emotionally draining.
Since many people do not regularly work from home, or have the proper setup for an at-home office, we’ve proactively taken several steps to help ease this transition:
We published an internal set of guidelines and tips for working remotely, guided by our full-time remote employees. Special thanks to our remote software engineer Tobias Deekens for leading the charge!
We started a ‘support group’ on Slack for everyone to share knowledge and advice on work-from-home setups and ways of working.
We’ve allowed employees to take company equipment home, such as monitors and laptop stands, to ensure both their safety and productivity.
We’ve provided every commercetooler with a ‘home office support package’ budget to purchase necessary items like office supplies and furniture that will make their environment more ergonomic.
Tips for working remotely
We’d like to share some specific tips and pointers from commercetoolers on staying comfortable and productive while working away from the office:
Set boundaries. Work when it’s time to work but remember to take breaks and sign off at an appropriate time. It’s easy to get distracted and slack off or lose track of time and work too late.
Communicate. Make sure you’re in contact frequently with people whom you work with. That includes checking in with project collaborators and switching from emails and instant messaging to voice and video – some things are just easier said and illustrated than explained in text.
Use your breaks effectively.
– Physically move around – go take a walk or do bodyweight exercises, even if it’s not outside due to current restrictions.
– Socialize – Spend time with the family or socialize with coworkers virtually via chat rooms. We’ve started a virtual coffee break chatroom!
– Make a point to actually take breaks by scheduling it in your calendar!
Make sure to move around frequently.
It’s unhealthy to be stuck in a single position (whether it’s sitting or standing) for an extended period of time, no matter how ergonomic your office chair is. Get up and stretch your legs.
Make use of that height adjustable desk – it isn’t just for standing!
Practice good ergonomics – Be creative with your workspace
This is crucial for health and well-being. An office chair is better made for sitting at a computer than a chair you borrowed from the dining table. When looking at standing desks, don’t forget an ergonomic mat to keep your feet happy.
Prevent or reduce distractions.
Set up your remote office in a dedicated room – or at least outside of your bedroom if space allows for it.
Use earplugs (noise cancelling headphones work in a pinch) for noise that’s beyond your control, like construction work.
Know when it’s time to get away from a distracting environment, like a cafe that’s getting too crowded and noisy (on a normal, non-pandemic day of course).
Use software tools to improve quality of life while working.
Keep notifications out of view during presentations and while sharing your screen like Muzzle for Mac.
Reduce distractions by limiting the number of apps you can open or websites you can browse, using the built-in screen time tool of your operating system or via browser extension.
Write things down with a good-old pen and paper.
Lots of research proves that it can help with memory retention compared to typing out words on a keyboard.
What lies ahead?
A pandemic like COVID-19 presents many challenges for our society, from both a business and human perspective. We will continue evaluating the situation and making recommendations so the health and safety of our employees and the community is preserved. This includes following the protocols, standards and alerts set by local governments and their health authorities across the globe. Got a creative tip for working at home? Share it with us on Twitter or LinkedIn!
About the author
Brad Soo is Product Marketing Manager at commercetools, where he strives to spread the word on the endless possibilities that modern commerce (headless, API-first, cloud-native, etc.) can offer businesses. Brad has been in product-centric roles in the tech and software industry, from large corporations like HP, all the way to SaaS startups in Berlin.