Through the recent COVID-19 outbreak, and in what Time Magazine is calling The World’s Largest Work-From-Home Experiment, many organizations are asking their employees to take their laptops home and work remotely for an unforeseeable amount of time. For those who have never had to work from home before, this can be a challenge. As in a typical office setting, everyone working remotely needs to figure out what works best for them (and their organization), including when to work, where to work, and how to create boundaries between work and personal life. Whether you are new to remote working or not, here are some pro-tips to help set yourself up for success:
Take some time for self-care
Before jumping head-first into your work, remember to cut yourself some slack. Working from home can be a big transition if you’re used to always coming into an office. You might feel isolated, frustrated, anxious, or unmotivated. On the other hand, you might feel relieved, energized or extremely productive. All of this is normal. Take some time to check-in with yourself to do what you can to bring out your best work.
• Keep a standard schedule with your usual working hours that includes a morning routine and scheduled breaks throughout the day.
• Be mindful of your time. Many managers are concerned about remote working with the fear employees will spend working hours for personal time; in fact, the opposite is typically true. Set “in office” hours and communicate them with your colleagues and family.
• Set up a work space and stick to that area during your “working hours.” Talk to roommates or family members about minimizing interruption and respecting your space.
• Try a white noise machine or app. This can help reduce noise distractions around your area.
• Pay attention to comfort. Does your job require you to be on the phone a lot? Consider a hands-free headset. What kind of chair are you using? Set yourself up for long-term comfort.
Communication is Key
In a standard office setting, you might get frustrated by meeting overload, but especially in the early phases of remote work, overcommunication is generally the rule of thumb. If you are questioning whether a colleague would want to know something, share it with everyone.
• Understand your employer’s remote work policies. Every organization will have their own specific procedures and expectations. Be sure you have a full understanding from your manager on their schedule, as well as their expectations.
• Tell your team when and how they can reach you. Do you want people to check in first thing in the morning? Or prefer an end-of-day check-in? The more guidance you provide on boundaries the fewer misunderstandings will occur.
• Resolve issues quickly with a phone call. If you run into a problem, email, texting or instant message can lead to misunderstandings. The most effective thing to do is pick up the phone.
Keeping up Morale
There are few companies that are 100% remote all the time. Moving to this model, even for a temporary amount of time, can make it hard to keep your morale up and remember the bigger picture.
• Stay aligned with company culture. Even when working remote, do what you can to keep interactions and your actions the same, and aligned with company culture.
• Keep up casual conversation. If you typically catch up with colleagues in person before a big meeting, do the same before dialing in to a group conference. Text with them, share stories, and ask how everyone is doing every day.
• Get ready and dress professional. It’s tempting, but don’t make it a habit of joining conference calls from bed in your pajamas. While dressing in a suit probably isn’t necessary, how you present yourself will help with your motivation.
• Embrace video. Use video technology to avoid feeling isolated and connect with your team in a more intentional way. Video calls are not comfortable for everyone, but the benefit of seeing people’s faces can be worth it.
Finally, and especially if you are new to working remote, ask your managers and colleagues for regular feedback on how the situation is working out. Circling back to self-care, adjust your routine as needed to be kind to yourself as you’re moving into a new reality.