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Peer advice: Tools and techniques to stay productive while working at home

Finding the right remote work tools and developing the skills to use them is not only changing where we work, but also how we work.

Longtime remote professionals (like me) have had years to establish routines and techniques to successfully work remotely. I thought my workday wouldn't change much as working at home became the new norm for everyone else, but I was wrong. For newcomers, new remote work tools are required, but more interestingly, how we work is changing.

I'm not the only one who has noticed. We polled colleagues, friends, and technology leaders on what they've learned about how they work at home and the tools and routines that help.

"I haven't added anything specifically that is helping me, but I think I'm getting better at using what I do have," says Kirk Bresniker, Hewlett Packard Labs chief architect, HPE fellow, and vice president at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. "I was so used to operating mobile and ad hoc that I never used features of my productivity set that are geared to a more predictable schedule. I'm getting rigorous about time boxing, using reminders to move on instead of letting the latest post or pop-up rule my attention."


Leverage existing tools differently

Using existing resources, like social and conference tools, in nontraditional ways is a common theme. "Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter have offered a sense of community," says Jo Peterson, vice president of cloud and security services at Clarify360.

Fortunately, most companies have some form of remote conferencing tools in place. HPE, for example, offers formal support for Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Zoom, and MyRoom. With the exception of Zoom, which was added as a response to the current working conditions, most staff already had a familiarity with these applications.

"The main thing that I've seen our team really start to use effectively is the chat functionality in MS Teams Channels," says Dian Hansen, worldwide platform and automation lead at HPE Pointnext Services. "They've created smaller, very focused channels and have had some great conversations that effectively bridge the gap with remote work."

Community calls, podcasts, and industry webinars can also be used to reach customers and partners. "Significant effort goes into these [communications], and they certainly help me stay topical, relevant, and current," says Matthew Naunton, worldwide HPE GreenLake sales at HPE.

Not surprising, tools such as social media can also be a distraction. "Twitter remains a huge distraction to my productivity, but not a distraction I'm ready to give up!" says technology analyst Steve McDowell.

Think outside the box

Productivity and other tools are getting a workout too.

Gary Mintchell, manufacturing analyst and co-founder of Automation World, uses the productivity app Nozbe, which helps users be more efficient with to-do lists, time management tools, and project management.

Joanne O'Conner, a cybersecurity specialist at HPE, uses mind-mapping tool XMind. "I find [it] assists greatly in making me more productive, as I can map out all my to-do jobs and tasks in different areas. It also allows you to convert mind maps into Gantt charts for more official project management. A great tool for anyone who needs some structure to managing their work."

McDowell says he has started using Trello to better manage the tasks that define his workweek.

Robert Christiansen, HPE vice president of strategy, hybrid IT, Office of the CTO, makes use of Audible: "I listen to a lot of books, and they change my energy to the positive."

And keeping positive is a big part of a successful work-at-home strategy!

Related reading:

Living in small spaces: Using tech to survive sheltering in place

Listen, watch, read: 22 ways to enjoy, escape, and educate

It's a good time to take an online security course


This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.