It feels like work has been turned completely upside down these days. Almost as if up is now down and a square is round. Most workers are experiencing a massive shift in their work environments. Many employees are now being asked to work remotely from home when they have likely always worked in an office environment. You may feel that it’s not possible to work from home successfully, but I can tell you that it is. I spent over four years successfully working remotely for a Tech company as a Manager. Here are some of the tips and tricks that I learned for working remotely.
One of the best tips for working remotely is sticking to a schedule.
The most important tip for working remotely is to find a schedule and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be a normal 9 to 5 schedule, but it needs to be consistent. It is very important to have a schedule, otherwise, the day gets away from you. If you know that you are supposed to be working on a specific project, you will be more likely to get back to work instead of changing out a load of laundry.
The upside is that you can add some of those activities in that you always had trouble fitting into your normal day to day. Have you always wanted to work out before you headed into the office? Use the time that you would have spent commuting! This the perfect time to install those practices now so that you will be able to stick to them once you return to the office.
Set up an office for working remotely
When you are working remotely it is important to set up an office that is cohesive with your work style. Setting up an office in the living room on the couch, while comfortable, probably isn’t going to help you stay on task. You also are probably going to be distracted by others in the house. Try to find a secluded place in your house where you can work. Try to take advantage of the fact that you have more freedom then you would at the office. Consider setting your office up as a standing desk, as always sitting at a desk can be bad for your health.
Also, try to set it up as you would at the office. Make sure that you have pens, paper, sticky notes, whatever you need to keep organized. This will make the transition back to the office a lot easier. If you don’t set your office at home correctly, you may find yourself having to break bad habits when you return to the office.
Get rid of distractions
This is probably one of the more obvious tips for working remotely, but it is worth discussing. Make sure that you don’t have any extra electronics in the room. If you don’t need your cell phone, then leave it in another room.
Another great way to tune out distractions is to put headphones on. If you tend to get distracted by songs you love, then play movie soundtracks or white noise. I particularly like working to the sound of thunderstorms, while my wife loves working to epic movie scores and soundtracks. If you really hate noise, then consider purchasing active noise-canceling headphones. I have a pair and it is amazing how much noise they cut out! If you want to go this route, make sure that they have ACTIVE noise canceling as that is where you really hear a difference. These tend to be more expensive, but they are worth it if you need a quiet workspace.
Set up morning meetings or a call to start your day
If you are a manager or work on a small team, consider setting up a quick morning meeting every day. You can keep it casual or focus the discussion on what everyone will be working on during the day. Either way, having this time to engage will help create a rhythm for everyone and essentially replaces the morning conversation around the coffee pot at the office. You may find that you want to keep this practice once you get back to the office. A lot of agile teams have daily stand-ups to encourage collaboration and ensure everyone’s focus is aligned.
Keep in touch with your coworkers
It can be lonely working all by yourself. Even if you have others in the house with you they don’t necessarily fully appreciate the struggles of your work. Be sure to keep in touch with some of your coworkers. If there is a specific coworker that you always talk to during the day, take the time to set up a daily call to check-in. This can be a great way to discuss the challenges you are facing and commiserate. It is important to keep collaborating even though you are working in separate homes as that will keep engagement up during the workday.
Understand the mental challenges
This was something that I did not expect when I first went remote, and everyone I’ve talked to agrees that they have the same issue. It can be so easy to get in your head when working remotely. All of a sudden, most communication is happening over email where inflection is difficult to transfer, or video calls which, while better, are still difficult to communicate through since you can only see the other person’s head. That’s not great when you consider that 90% of human communication consists of body language. You are trying to understand your boss or coworker’s mood, but you are only getting approximately 10% of their communication. That’s a recipe for a lot of stress, confusion, and uncertainty. Try to make sure that all-important communication is occurring over the phone or on video calls if at all possible so that at least some of your inflection comes through
Know when to turn it off
You may find that it is difficult to shut work off completely when you are working remotely. You look over and see your computer, which makes you think of something you should have done during the day. Resist the urge to log back in to finish that project you were working on. If you never step away, you won’t have the time to de-stress and you will find yourself getting worn out from constantly thinking about work. Make sure to leave your computer somewhere you won’t accidentally see it. If you have an office with a door, shut it once your day is done. One of the hardest adjustments to working at home is that you suddenly have triggers in your house that make you think of work instead of the sanctuary it should be.
Final tips for working remotely: Embrace the change
We have covered several tips for working remotely in this post. Our final tip is to embrace the change. This a unique opportunity to experience something new and unique to you. I know that it comes with a lot of uncertainty and stress, but the best thing you can do is lean into it. Use it as an opportunity to learn new technologies, communication methods, or collaboration systems. You may find that you will want to utilize some of them once you return to the office.
Take advantage of this time to work outside on a warm day. Take a slightly longer lunch break to enjoy time with your family, or work a flexible schedule if your company will allow it. This is a stressful time so you want to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. The extra freedom can be a wonderful change and is a nice break from the normal office routine.
Do you have some other useful tips to provide for working remotely? We would love to hear them! Be sure to leave a message in the comments so that we can discuss them.
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