Working from home - Tiller style

Like many of you, the Tiller Rides team has made the transition to working from home for the length of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With us being in the midst of preparations for manufacturing, it was important that we implemented a number of processes to ensure we could all continue to work at peak productivity, including creating real prototypes of parts in the workshop, and maintain the team vibe and same keen enthusiasm for the project.

Because the results so far are really positive, we thought we’d share the ingredients that have enabled us to maintain a productive and successful remote workplace.

One of the Tiller Rides team's daily meetings on Google Hangouts

INGREDIENT 1: Stay connected and on-task

As with most companies, we were initially a little concerned about everyone working from home and whether there would be too many distractions given partners, kids, the washing, little house tasks etc. were also at home all day. To ensure distractions didn’t get too much attention, we decided that we needed to put something in place that ensured people still felt like they were part of the team and knew what to focus on every day and week.

We had already been using teleconferencing quite a lot and knew the face to face element of this was essential, so we set up a series of meetings throughout the week. To ensure these meetings were effective and didn’t take too long, each meeting has a set agenda and maximum allowable amount of time for one person to speak.

For example, every morning at 8.15 am sharp, we have a ½ hour team check-in via Google Hangouts. Along with maintaining the team vibe, these meetings ensure everyone is focussed on what is required of them to stay on schedule and hence determines their priorities for the day.

Each team member has a maximum of three minutes to update the group on:

  1. Schedule update (for designers): This includes what phase you're at with your projects (e.g. concept prototype) and how many days in front or behind you are.

  2. The plan of attack: What your plan is to get ahead or back on track - for example, I need to get A to our manufacturer now so I can get design for manufacture feedback by the time I need to do the final prototype."

  3. Actions: What I did yesterday and will do today and why these things are priority - for example, "I need to do X today because it has a two week lead time so I can get Y done on time."

  4. Help: What I need from others today.

This meeting is meant to be quick, so all team members need to prepare beforehand. While there is some interaction between the team, if an issue needs resolving in more detail, team members are prompted to arrange a quick meeting that just involves the relevant people afterwards.

By the end of this meeting, each team member is expected to have updated their to-do lists in our project management and team collaboration system (, so that their tasks for that day are ordered in priority. Everyone is clear then on what they need to achieve for the day and can then get on with it.

INGREDIENT 2: Implement a booking system for staff needing to access office or workshop facilities

For our design team, 3D printing, fabrication and access to the Tiller Rides workshop is still required at times. To ensure proper social distancing, we only allow one team member working in the workshop at once (Julian our MD is always on site in the attached office). We use our online calendars to book the workshop. This way everyone can see what other bookings have been approved before placing theirs.

INGREDIENT 3: Carve out time for focused work and for collaboration

To ensure we have at least half the day free of meetings and interruptions from other team members, so that we can focus on a task for a reasonable period each day, we practice Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Work (USSW) times from 9.30 am to 11.30 am and 1.30 pm to 4 pm each day.

We encourage team members to schedule meetings outside of these times and to only call someone if it is urgent.

INGREDIENT 4: Schedule design collaboration meetings

While the USSW times are important for our productivity and focus, we also realise the need for collaboration and problem solving sessions, especially for the design process. While one person leads each design project, we believe that if you are working on a problem alone you are doing something wrong. Collaboration with an emotionally intelligent team of smart designers will always result in a better outcome.

To ensure this collaboration happens, we schedule design solutions teleconferences with everyone from our design team on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These meetings focus on laying design issues on the table for open discussion. To make this easier, we utilise the screen sharing feature on Google Hangouts to show 3D models or documents to help explain our issues to the rest of the team.

INGREDIENT 5: Provide flexibility with working hours

We very much believe in a family first workplace and the idea that if work can sometimes mean changing family time, then sometimes family time needs to change work time. For our team members with kids who are home from daycare and school, we offer flexibility with working hours. Some of our team members are working 7am - 1pm, 6 days a week, while others are working mornings and evenings and everyone makes time for doing nice things with their family every week. To ensure your family time isn’t always interrupted, we maintain a working hours calendar, which is easily accessible on Google Drive, so that everyone in the team is aware of when each person is working.

INGREDIENT 6: Utilise good remote work productivity tools

We are utilising a range of remote working tools to ensure we are able to collaborate and manage our work effectively and efficiently. We have compiled a list of these below.

G Suite

G Suite is a cloud based system that is made up of the following apps, which all work well together. Being cloud based, you just need an internet connection to access. They also enable multiple people to work on one document at the same time (you can actually see them type).

We use the project management and team collaboration system, for managing tasks.

Fusion 360

We use Fusion 360, a cloud based 3D modelling software from Autodesk.

So there you go! There’s some of the ways we’re maximising productivity and ensuring we keep a great team vibe while working remotely.

What are your working from home tips? What tools do you use? Please share them with us in the comments below!

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