With easier access to technology, updated equipment, the right procedures, and enough time to incorporate them all into a plan, working remotely can be easy to accommodate. At SBI, we even have several team members who work remotely full time.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic found many organizations, associations, and companies abruptly forced into uncharted territory. Now thrust into a unique and unplanned situation to balance work and life demands, many people are struggling to acclimate to the sudden change of environment. So, what can we do to make the best of things?
We talked to our veteran remote staff to share their top 5 tips for working from home.
- 1. Set Up a Defined Work Space
When you first start working from home, the lines between being on the clock and relaxing at home can quickly become blurred. It’s important to set up a defined workspace so you can separate when you are “at work” from when you are “at home”. You don’t necessarily need a door or a separate office, but defining a corner, desk, room, countertop, etc. will help you keep a mental and visual separation between when you are plugged in at work and when you are done with your day.
- 2. Maintain Regular Working Hours
One of the most important pieces of transitioning to working from home is to set a schedule and stick to it! Having clear guidelines about when to start work and when to call it a day helps maintain work/life balance. This is especially applicable if your remote work situation is temporary, as it is for many people who are now working from home due to COVID-19. Maintaining your normal schedule will also help you easily move back into your normal routine of commuting to the office when the time comes.
Encourage your team members to communicate about their schedules, and make sure your team members know what hours you are working, too. Block off your calendar as you normally would so meetings aren’t scheduled outside of your normal working hours.
Bonus Tip: Set Guidelines in Shared Spaces
Sharing your at-home workspace with co-habitants? Make sure they know what your working hours are, too. You may need to establish some “Do Not Disturb” hours to avoid interruption and/or unwanted guest appearances during virtual meetings.
- 3. Keep a Routine
Maintaining a routine helps keep your days from blurring together, especially those impacted by COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. It may be very tempting to roll out of bed 5 minutes before your workday, put on a shirt, leave on your PJ pants (optional), and hop online. While it feels good to give in to this temptation every now and then, we recommend you keep to your normal routine as much as possible. Getting dressed is part of this – even if you’re just switching from nighttime to daytime PJs.
Try setting up other things to do while you are at home, such as laundry on Wednesdays, exercise on Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc. Not only will this help keep your days straight, but you’ll also get stuff done that you usually have to do after a long commute, and you’ll get a boost of productivity.
- 4. Remember to Take Breaks
Get up and move your body often. When you work at home, you’re not given the same opportunities to get up from your desk to join a conference room meeting, fill up your coffee cup, or walk across the office to pop in and chat with a colleague. Don’t feel bad for stepping away from your computer while you work remotely. Self-care is important. It’s ok to take a break just like you would in the office. Every 30 minutes, get up and move around your house, do a quick chore, go outside for a breath of fresh air, or simply stand up and stretch. Remember, you can still maintain social-distancing on a solo-stroll around the block!
- 5. Communicate Often, and Wisely
When you’re not face-to-face with your team, it can feel a little quiet. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Take this opportunity to flex your communication skills.…share early, and share often. Think about WHAT you are saying, WHO needs to know it, and WHEN they need to know about it. Make sure your manager and your team know what you’re working on, and check in on your team members frequently. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, and don’t skip meetings. Keep in mind how others prefer to communicate, too. Remain considerate that your needs may be different than others.
Slack, Zoom, and other online communications tools are great for collaborating virtually. Be sure to utilize not only the chat feature, but also the Away/Active indicator, custom status messages, and any Do Not Disturb/Pause Notifications features. For example, instead of sending out a message that you are stepping away from your computer, you can update your status and set yourself to “away”. This way it’s quick and easy for others to tell if you are available or not.
However great, we also share a word of caution about e-communications: In our current situation, we are all under more stress and strain. It is not always easy to convey tone or meaning within a short Slack message. E-communications like email and direct messaging can’t replace face-to-face interactions. Certain conversations are always better to be had on the phone or over video chat. Handling conflict and working through complex ideas or sensitive topics should be done in real-time. If it’s not possible to do now, wait until it is.
At the end of the day, when adjusting to working outside of your normal workspace, give yourself and others some grace. We are all in this weird, uncharted territory together. While the tips we provided can certainly make your transition easier, it doesn’t mean it will be perfect or without bad days. Pets, children, and significant others may still pop into virtual meetings unanticipated and without warning. Control what you can, stay positive, and, most importantly, always be aware of when you are not dressed from the waist down during a video meeting. You can recover from a lot of things, and we can’t say that’s one.