How to make remote working work for you
Business story — by Filip Justic
BB Agency shares the lessons they’ve learned about successful remote working.
At BB Agency we call ourselves remote natives. In our previous blog, we talked about how starting a business from the small Croatian island of Krk led to us recruiting globally to ensure we could produce the best work possible for our clients. This also benefits our team, too.
With the company now eight years old, our founders and team members have learned ways of working which allow them to feel as connected and productive as possible while working in different time zones and environments. When many countries entered lockdown and home working became the new normal last year we were lucky enough to already have these processes in place.
When we surveyed our followers on Linkedin 47% of you said working remotely in 2020 had improved your work-life balance. However, 27% said it had not. So, as more of us adapt to this new way of working during such a difficult time for our wellbeing, we thought we’d share the tried and tested approaches used by our team.
Team BB’s remote working crib sheet
We have found that allowing our staff to work in a fully flexible way is key to successful remote working. We trust our team to maximize their time and use techniques that are idiosyncratic to them. Here are the programmes, rituals, and routines they recommend.
Which programmes and techniques do Team BB use to help productivity?
If you struggle to map your work all in one place Wesley Van’t Hart, BB’s Product Designer recommends workspace app, Notion. “I find it particularly useful to lay down the tasks that need to be done during the day or week”, says Wesley.
“This is my app of choice for task management” says founder Matej Justic.
Wesley also recommends this simple text editor as a “digital notebook” with no distracting design elements. “The minimal looking interface and handy shortcuts make it super intuitive to write down some notes or thoughts”, he suggests.
Designated groups in Slack make communication clear and easily trackable thanks to the search function. Don Gepulango, BB’s Creative Developer also finds it a great tool for forging connections. “Even though we haven’t even met in person using Slack helps me to feel a strong connection and friendship with the team at BB. I’m very thankful for that every day”, he says.
The Pomodoro method
Working for long stretches of time can mean it’s easy to get distracted by doing things around the house. Vicente Reyes Montealegre, BB’s Senior Brand Designer, and Illustrator uses the Pomodoro Method to ensure he works intensely in short bursts. “If I’m still feeling distracted or lazy, this method of timing 25 minutes of work, then taking a five-minute break helps me to manage my time and stay productive.”
Whether it’s rock or Ibiza chill, members of team BB say they can’t work without music. Especially our designers.
Tracking your time on specific tasks can help you stay accountable. “The app tracks time and takes screenshots (every 10min), and thus keeps me focused”, says Filip Justic, co-founder of BB.
How do Team BB separate their work and personal lives successfully?
Getting a change of scene
It’s easy to stay inside the same four walls during the lockdown. Fresh air and a change of scene can help shift our perspective and make us feel recharged. Anna Meleshina, who is BB’s Product Designer finds that even a short walk to pick up lunch rather than making it at home helps her to focus better upon returning to work.
Working “office hours”
While the BB Team work to different schedules, many of the team say they stick to a strong routine to feel a sense of normalcy, including sticking to a regular working pattern from home. “This was the biggest hurdle when lockdown started”, says Adrian Moric, BB’s UX Researcher. “Now I stick to a routine, it’s easier to focus, work effectively and maintain a work/life balance.”
… Without being slavish to them
Filip rightly points out that “To reinvigorate your mind, body, and soul it’s important to break the routine sometimes”. This is especially true during the pandemic when the things we can’t control can get overwhelming and affect our mood. While having a routine is a helpful way to take control, breaking it and switching it up in ways that make us happy is important, too. “Follow your gut, finish early, start late, watch another movie, eat chocolate on Wednesdays, sleep in on Fridays…”, Filip says.
Getting active outside of work hours
Most of Team BB start work around 9:30 am and make time for yoga, meditation, walking the dog, or going for a run to help the endorphins flow and bring up energy levels before work. “I get up around 6–7 am to do vinyasa yoga, have a shower, and then a slow and calm breakfast before a quick walk”, says Anna. For Wesley, an after-work run or weight training is “a great and calming way to end the day”.
Planning tomorrow, today
BB founder Matej dedicates the last hour of his day to creating an “overview of the day”, checking whether “anything was missed during the day to plan my next working day schedule”. This helps to set a clear cut off point and compartmentalize work tasks so they don’t hang over you after hours. It’s important to be kind to ourselves during this difficult time and remember it’s ok if we couldn’t achieve everything in the time-frame we’d expected.
It’s easy to lose a sense of shared experiences without interacting personally with your team, so virtual meetings are a great way to get face time that makes work expectations clearer and allows for some fun along the way. “We have an internal stand-up meeting at noon, every workday. We discuss all the projects, ongoing stuff, new gossips, planning new projects, general work, and personal stuff”, says Filip.
So what does an average day for Team BB members look like?
Our co-founder Filip Justic shares his diary:
7am — Wake up, grab a cup of coffee, check what’s happening in the world.
8am — Do some exercise such as a short run or stretching. I’m not always in the mood for it, however! I might grab breakfast, but I rarely eat in the morning.
9am — It’s time to jump on my work laptop. I start my day by reviewing emails, checking in with my team, seeing what everyone is planning to do today.
10am — Join my first meeting, usually with someone from our design team, or I start working on a project.
12am — Next I join the company check-in meeting to see where everyone is at with work and to catch up.
1pm — This is when I get into my focus zone on a specific project. I try not to respond to any emails, chats, or questions during this time to avoid distraction. I grab a quick lunch before starting the design phase of a project. I’m currently working with our client Sendlane. We’re building a comprehensive design system for their product team.
4pm — It’s time to review what the team is doing. I check in on project progress, make calls if needed. This is usually when client calls start.
5:30pm — I try to spend more time in my “focus zone” and design as much as possible.
6:30 – 7 pm — Time to sign off.
7 pm — In the evening I usually just relax at home, work on some personal projects, chat about my day with my fiancé and watch movies together, or have a few drinks and listen to music together.
10:30pm – 11:30pm — Bedtime.
That’s all folks! Do you have advice on work/life balance while working from home?
Thanks to Hayley for her copywriting skills.