Distributed Work in Extraordinary Times

Distributed Work in Extraordinary Times

March 24, 2020 | Posted by Jason Smith

These are extraordinary times. Velentium counts itself fortunate in that both we and many of our clients are able to continue working, developing and manufacturing medical devices that directly and indirectly assist the work to combat COVID-19 and many other health indications around the world.

Although Velentium has always supported distributed work, we’ve never before recommended it as a first resort. It’s been an available option for when it makes more sense to work from home than it does to come into one of our offices--due to family events, place of residence, or other extenuating circumstances.

However, weeks before any official recommendation had been issued, our senior leadership determined that Velentium would follow the direction of local authorities. Specifically, if the school district where a given office is located closed, or where a team member's dependent child attends school closed, Velentium team members affected would be able to work from home for the duration of the closure, to be available to their families during a time of additional unanticipated need.

When we say that we exist to “Change Lives for a Better World,” the first and most important lives we exist to improve are our team members’. We want them and their family members to be safe and remain healthy. Our HR leadership and our senior leadership are available to help address concerns or extra hardships brought on by this crisis.

So Velentium continues to function, mostly distributed, during regular business hours. All of us are prepared to accept phone calls and answer messages and attend Zoom meetings. Also, we’ve added remote daily standups for any project that didn’t already have them, to maintain our work cadence, team communication, and output momentum, despite the disruption.

Because we recognize that some work is dependent on office, lab, or manufacturing facility access, we added several physical “zones” as calendar resources to our shared office calendars. Now, in addition to reserving conference rooms, team members who need to complete a task in-person can book a “zone” in their lab or around their desk for a period of time. Calendar reservations signal anyone else interested in using that space to coordinate schedules so that work can proceed, and social-distancing guidelines are respected. We’re also providing staff with supplies so they can disinfect their reserved “zone” before and after their reserved time.

Finally, it just so happens that we’ve got several “work-from-home” veterans on staff. Working from home is hard! Especially at first. Some people overwork, while others are distracted continuously and find it challenging to stay productive. Mark Kraft, our Direct of Culture, collated some best practices to share internally. We’re posting them here, too, in hopes that they might be helpful to you and your colleagues during these extraordinary times. As much as we can, let’s make it a highly productive quarantine.


8 Tips for WFH

#1. As much as is possible, separate your workspace from your living space. Set up a makeshift office if you do not have one. This can be a separate room or a corner of an existing room. Do work stuff in your workspace and leave it there when you are not working.

#2 Get ready each morning like you are going into a normal workplace environment. Shower and dress accordingly. This will help you mentally prepare for work. Going from the bed to your computer still in your sleep clothes is a motivational killer!

#3. Maintain the sleep and wake times that you have when not working from home. Your body and mind expect a certain rhythm and schedule, and this will help you with motivation, efficiency, and overall health.

#4. Reduce the noise! Your home environment provides endless noise and distractions. Turn off the news. Try to separate from family members and pets while working—self-quarantine from web sites that will become a time sink. Reading the news is no better than watching it, and the distractions can be worse. Make sure your gamer friends know when you are unavailable and refuse to engage with them during your work times.

#5. Fear the Binge. Watching one episode of your favorite show while eating lunch can quickly turn into a 5 episode binge. Know yourself, your limits, and your temptations.

#6. Take regular breaks. Just because you are at home does not mean that you don’t need breaks. Get up from your computer. Take a walk. Take a few minutes to talk to your family members or play with your pets. Give your mind and body time to refresh before diving back in.

#7. Practice Deep Work! As we learned from our Velentium book club book, Deep Work, it takes effort to accomplish hard things that require deep thought. Specifically, schedule work blocks in your prime work times where you will shut out the noise and work on the things that need deeper concentration. Likewise, schedule shallow work times to respond to email or tie up loose ends that don’t require deep focus.

#8. Embrace the Web Cam. Enable your web cam for Zoom meetings, even when you don’t want to. In this time of social separation, it reconnects us to see live faces when we are in a web conference. It also motivates everyone to pay more active attention during meetings. Whenever you’re about to say something, turn on your mic and your cam together. (When you’re not speaking, you might need to turn off the cam to preserve bandwidth).


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