I consider myself very fortunate to have the ability to regularly work from home when needed. In times like these, during what is being called a “global pandemic,” it’s also a great option for companies looking to serve clients without interruption regardless of situations that can develop.
Not everyone is used to working remotely. It often takes a different set of skills and those may not come naturally to everyone. Here are my tips on working from home while keeping your sanity, getting work done, and still feeling like you’re part of the team.
Set Yourself Up for Productivity
Making sure you have what you need is key – ideally before you leave the office. Working from your company office feels different, because we often have more permanent desks set up with everything we could possibly need, regardless of if we use it every day. For instance, at work I have a desk phone, a massive separate monitor, and a whole array of gadgets I may use only once in a while. My home office, although sparse – does have a few key components.
- A dedicated space to work – especially if you’re going to be home for a few days. It doesn’t have to be a full office, but a quiet corner where you’re able to work without disruption goes a long way. Try to avoid the “blank office” – surround yourself with things that make you feel happy and productive. If you have to work from your couch or your kitchen table, that’s fine! Just clear off a space and make sure you give yourself room to spread out.
- Make it comfortable! Whether it’s a wall calendar or an extra pillow to make your office chair more comfortable, these things can go a long way toward making your space feel more comfortable.
- Keep these items handy – At minimum you’ll need your laptop, headset or bluetooth device and your cell phone. You can add optional accessories, like a wireless mouse or a second monitor if you happen to have one at home. The comforts of the office go a long way to making your work from home experience feel more normal.
- Reliable technology – Personally, I like to regularly test my tech. I log in a few minutes earlier than normal to make sure that my headset is charged and working, the background doesn’t look crazy if I have to join any video calls, I can log in to everything and my internet connection is up. There’s nothing more stressful than realizing something is wrong as a meeting is already starting!
It’s easy to get distracted at home – but that’s not always a bad thing. When you’re working from home you may have family members, pets, and delivery drivers pop in. Don’t stress about it – your coworkers are feeling the same pressures!
- Don’t panic about those random “guests”. Granted, there are times when you may be discussing sensitive matters that shouldn’t go beyond the ears of certain people at the company, but chances are Fido isn’t going to tell anyone (Side note – no one at our company has ever been upset about a pet joining a video call. It usually results in cheering and joyful introductions!). For other unexpected intrusions, just be prepared to excuse yourself momentarily, put yourself on mute and turn off video or step away from the screen if needed.
- Take breaks. It’s easy to just sit down and feel compelled to stare at your screen for eight hours – but treat it like a day at the office. Get up and go refresh your coffee, stand up, do a lap around the house. These little breaks will help you stay focused and keep you from getting burnt out.
I don’t just mean to the internet – human connection is a HUGE part of day to day office life. Those conversations at the coffee machines, running into people in the restrooms, and parking lot chats when it’s a nice day and everyone migrates outside are an integral part of many office cultures.
In our office it’s extremely common for people to pop in, catch up and then wander back to their desks. We have a pretty much “open door” culture, and people love that. That kind of access to everyone you work with can feel compromised when everyone is working from home.
For extroverts and the super-social, working remotely may feel more like punishment than privilege. But there are so many ways to stay connected and keep the relationships strong with clients, partners and coworkers. Now, more than ever we have the technology to keep us connected in all the ways that matter!
- Turn calls to video chats when appropriate. Need some extra face time with your colleagues or clients? Suggest video calls in place of meetings. Yes, it can be awkward at first, but it can also be really funny and foster connection. Just remember, everyone takes a minute to “warm up” when they’re on a video call. For the first few minutes it’s usually people being self-conscious about their facial expressions, checking the screen to see what’s visible behind them and adjusting their cameras, and trying to figure out the right balance for their audio controls. But once everyone gets on the same page, it can be a great way to reconnect.
- When emails seem too long, make them calls instead. I’ll be the first one to send an email rather than scheduling a call. But realistically, calls can be an important part of connecting when no one is in the office.
- Make it fun! Use collaborative tools (like Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc.) to keep the “water-cooler banter” going. Make sure your company has a place where people can go to chat casually, talk sports, or trade jokes. It’s important to make sure everyone has access to socializing when they need it, and that there’s a place to do those things appropriately. When we’re remote, we post pictures of our “WFH Buddies” which include puppies, cats, babies and the occasional spouse. This helps remind everyone that we’re all in this together – and most importantly we’re still a team.
Whether you’re working from home temporarily or your role is completely remote, at the end of the day you’re still a valued member of a team. Yes, it can take some getting used to – but with all of the tools at our disposal, there’s always a way to stay productive, focused and connected.
Need help figuring out how your organization can work remotely? Reach out – we’re happy to help you find what works best for your team.