Blog Archives

How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

I am always giving my clients tips on how to work online. Here are the key complaints I hear from clients and friends:

  • It’s hard to connect with people
  • It’s hard to keep productive
  • It’s lonely, and
  • There’s a tendency to work too much

 I feel this happens for several reasons:

  • We’re just not that used to it – yet
  • We are trying to work using old routines and models that are better suited for face to face
  • We still have a few issues feeling comfortable in front of a camera, or with technology in general, and
  • For those working from home, this means working from what is/was our personal space. Considering how much of our personal space we want to share on-screen is still something many are struggling with.

But, working online is now the main aspect of white-collar working life. Many office workers who, pre-pandemic, had to commute to work now can work remotely. Even if they go back to the office, you may find it empty, and most of the work you do is still in front of the computer anyway. So for transitional office-based companies, virtual companies, working for yourself, or job hunting, I hope you will find these tips helpful.

I work from home all day, every day. Here are my top tips:

1. Be ruthless with emails

I check them every day, early in the morning and last thing at night. I don’t advise everyone to do this; quite the contrary. I do it because it suits my line of work. It works for me because I have clients globally. I just invite you to consider the following: what email management routine will help you cope with your work? Then apply it daily, and stick to it.

Another email rule is that I don’t answer emails after hours or on the weekend. Many of my clients email me during the weekend because if they are working, this is the time they have to work on their career plans and job search. But I need my break; otherwise, I will burn out. I will still read the emails every morning, even on weekends, because I need to keep an eye on emergencies. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait.

2. GIFs and Emojis are fine

We need to find ways to show emotions when working online. I’ve learned to love to by observing how the millennials and Gen Z use them. I used to think they were childish. But now, I hardly see anyone face to face, and if an emoji will translate my facial expression or emotion and make people smile, then I am a fan. It’s important to be playful and have some fun during work. But keep in mind that you need to know when and who to send them to. Of course, GIFs and emojis are not for every communication. In my case, if you get an emoji from me, it’s because we’re already pals.

3. Videos and voice messages are your friend

I am addicted to Loom, a video messaging platform that has replaced at least half of my written emails. Here is an example: in this video, I am teaching how to disable the “People also viewed” box on LinkedIn. I always recommend that all my clients do this when they’re looking for work.

I copy-paste the link to the Loom video into an email, send it to a client, and this is how I coach between sessions. I also communicate with my family in Australia and overseas with voice messages on WhatsApp. This way, it’s more personal, and I don’t have to look at the screen and type all day. I can record when I’m walking. It’s much more fun for me to receive a voice message from a friend on the other side of the world than read her text.

4. Look good on video

  • Show up on camera as much as possible. There’s nothing worse for a meeting organizer or event speaker when everyone’s camera is off. I also believe it’s better for your career
  • Invest in a camera with clear image and audio. I will link here the camera I use. It sits either on my monitor or on a tripod
  • Have it at your eye-level
  • Ensure you have a background that denotes professionalism
  • Avoid fake and blurry backgrounds: they are suitable for emergencies, for example, if you’re traveling. Another exception is for corporate branding only, such as when you’re holding a public event or conference.

5. Create fun traditions and opportunities working online

I am a fan of a Zoom open-door policy. It’s like the old-fashion open door, but on Zoom, Google meet, or wherever you hold your online video meetings. I also know that some workplaces are trying new traditions such as trivia nights and drinks. And finally, make the most out of your online work environment by posting, sharing ideas, and contributing to others who take the lead and share. Please, everyone, try to give these a go.

6. Have at least two monitors

Having at least two monitors is an essential aspect of working online. It helps with so many different tasks. Drag and drop, presentation view, and working while checking the Slack activity. It ’s the best investment you will ever make.

7. Find time during the week to have real coffee with a colleague or a walking meeting. 

I know that for some people, the comfort of working from home is hard to give up. But it’s really important to maintain connections with colleagues and your professional network. In a few days, I will have a walking meeting with someone I have not seen for over two years. I am happy she reached out and glad that the pandemic has made it ok for us to have a professional conversation while walking on the beach, wearing leggings.

New times, new traditions!

The Job Hunting Podcast

The Job Hunting Podcast
138. How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

» Click here to listen


This article was first published on the The Job Hunting Podcast Blog.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Job Hunting Made Simple, The world @work

A checklist for successful onboarding, road-tested by our new GM

Thinking about how best to make your new team member feel valued from the very beginning takes little time or effort, but the impact can certainly be lasting.

I was lucky enough to take six months off in 2021 (which unfortunately coincided with yet another lockdown in Melbourne) with a view to taking part in some of the Ironman 70.3 triathlon races around Australia. Border closures soon put an end to that plan, but I got pretty fit in the process and loved being able to support my kids as they went through a couple more terms of virtual school. My wife continued to work full-time on her retail business through this time, so being able to keep things under control on the home front was a real bonus.

By September, I was starting to think about a new role, when the opportunity to join Slade Group appeared on my horizon – an exciting opportunity to work with a great team in a business with over 50 years of successful history. Having talked to clients and candidates for two years about how to prepare to onboard or be onboarded from home, I was now about to experience it for myself… I was feeling that nervous excitement, like kid about to start a new school!

First impressions with your new employer count a lot. Receiving all my paperwork and company information promptly was a good start, followed up by a friendly call to check I had received it all ok. I liked that.

The week before my start date, my technology arrived, complete with all my login details. It seems like fair expectation that this would happen. Yet, I have heard so many tales over the last 20 years from candidates who have turned up on day one to find the IT set-up had not been done, or worse still, some who had to clean their new desk! Not the best way to make someone feel welcome.

On my first day, I received a jam-packed onboarding plan covering the first few weeks. Zoom meetings had been prepopulated in my diary, and almost every minute of every day had been accounted for. I immediately felt comfortable that there was a good structure in place to introduce me to every part of the organisation and my team.

I received phone calls from others in the team (including my new boss) welcoming me on board and reassuring me that we would all get to meet in person soon. I felt included straight away; I didn’t feel like I was isolated WFH in my home office. I was given thorough training on our systems, reviewed key client information and was immediately able to put a plan together to meet (again virtually) many of our key customers. On the Thursday of week one I was able to enjoy a virtual wine tasting event with the team, led by one of the Yarra Valley’s leading winemakers. The fact that three bottles of their produce were delivered to my door in advance of the event (on my first day) was a nice touch.

My first impressions of Slade Group were good. I knew I had made the right decision to join the business.

Many organisations have given extra thought over the last few years on how to best onboard new employees given the unusual circumstances. There is no doubt that complacency has existed across parts of corporate Australia before demand for talent outstripped supply and job hunters were catapulted into the driving seat. My hope is that the greater level of care and attention we are now seeing when welcoming new starters lasts – particularly as offices reopen and start to fill up again.

Here is a minimum checklist for your own onboarding plan:

  1. Start date – Make sure you know the actual start date of your new team member and put a reminder in your diary
  2. Equipment – Ensure they have all the equipment they will need to do their job, not just a computer, and arrange delivery ahead of their start date if they will be working remotely
  3. Support – Liaise with colleagues in support roles to provide essential services well in advance
  4. Welcome pack – A welcome gift or care pack that will be appreciated
  5. Stakeholders – Engage the key stakeholders who will be working with your new team member and include them in the onboarding plan
  6. Onboarding plan – Develop a written plan covering all aspects of training, knowledge sharing and introductions that can be shared with the new employee
  7. Contact – Call or send your new employee a message before they start to let them know you’re looking forward to seeing them, even if it’s on Zoom
  8. Check-in – Regular check-ins during the first few weeks go a long way (put a note in the diary)

It is very reassuring for a new employee (at any level) to know that their first week or two have been carefully thought out. Considering there may not be any water cooler chats for a little while, it’s important to ask new starters for continual feedback. Any opportunities for improvement should always be welcomed for the next hire. And if you have done all of the above well, it shouldn’t be replacing the person you have just onboarded!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work