Working from home? Perhaps you’ve always imagined what it would be like, and now you have the opportunity. Maybe it’s everything you’ve always hoped it would be! More than likely, though, you’re finding that it comes with challenges.
While my office is now outside the home, I’ve had a home office for 20 years and of course, I’m back there now while we’re sheltering in place. Working remotely has its pros and cons and if it’s a new experience for you, perhaps these tips will help.
- Keep Your Morning Routine: Oh, the urge to sleep in is compelling. Or to catch that morning show you never get to watch. Or to stay in your pajamas all day. Before you know it, you’ve frittered your morning away and now your energy is low and can’t even concentrate on your work. I have been there, my friends. The best way to work at home is to establish a workday morning routine. Get up at the same time every morning. Do the same things you would do if you were going into work. For instance, when I’m at my most productive, my morning routine looks like this. The first thing I do is take the dogs for a walk. Then I feed them and do some stretching. I eat breakfast, get in the shower and, if it’s nice out, I have an extra cup of coffee on the porch. Then, I get to work. My least productive days, incidentally, are when I put the news on in the morning or – even worse – try to sneak in an episode of This is Us before work. One show leads to the next, which leads to the next, and I’m typically so emotionally drained (whether it’s the news or This is Us) that I can’t focus. When I keep to my routine, it helps me work better.
- Embrace Zoom: It’s time to get comfortable with being on camera. If you’re working from home, consistent communication is key, and it’s important that you can still read each other’s facial expressions. Zoom is one of my favorite tools for virtual meetings. Dust off y0ur webcam and start using Zoom for “face-to-face” meetings. I’ve used this tool with my virtual team for a couple of years now and it’s been such a help in having people who are spread all over the country feel like a team. Plus, it’s an incentive to shower, dress and be camera-ready! You can clean up a nice corner of your home for a background and, if possible, face a window or invest in some lighting so you’re well lit.
- Use SLACK: This is a tool I love! Slack helps you to cut down on long email chains and communicate with each other in real-time as if you were in the office together. You can set up teams and topics to keep your chats organized, and it’s a great way to make sure everyone checks in during the day. Which reminds me….
- Communicate: When working from home it’s even more important that you stay in touch with your colleagues! Check-in regularly. At the very minimum check-in (on Slack, if you have it) first thing in the morning, so everyone knows you’re on the job. Touch base with your boss and let her/him know what you’re working on for the day. Sign off at quitting time with a quick email or Slack post. Be sure to stay in touch with colleagues with who you are working on projects. Now is not the time to dial down the conversation, it’s time to ramp it up!
- Know Your Top 3: Each afternoon, before you sign off for the day, create your list for the next day. More specifically, write the list of three projects you plan to complete or work on tomorrow. Then, circle the one that will make you feel the most productive if you get it done. The next day, work on that one first and follow it up with the other two.
- Work with Your Energy: I’m a morning person. I’d rather get up early in the morning to work on a project than stay up into the wee hours to get it done. I have friends who are just the opposite. They get their best work done in the evening. Know thyself and work accordingly. It’s helpful if you are available to your colleagues during operational hours. However, if you have a project to complete, schedule it for a time when you know you will be at your peak. For instance, I try to schedule phone calls for the afternoon because that’s my energy slump time. Talking with other people keeps my energy up and scheduling calls later gives me the morning to get projects done when I’m at my most creative.
- Use Music, Timers and Breaks: Go to YouTube and search for Music to Work By. You can usually find Baroque or some other classical music that won’t distract you but will, instead, motivate you to keep going. It’s helpful to set a time limit. For instance, I will put my headphones on and set a timer for 90 minutes. I stay focused with Baroque music in my ears for about 90 minutes and then I get up a take a break. I might take a walk, play with puppies, or have lunch with my husband. Then I go back into work.
- Set Boundaries: Have a meeting with your family so they understand what the boundaries are now that you’re working from home. My husband and I downsized our living space, so we are in close quarters during this quarantine. Even if we’re in the same room he knows that if my headphones are on, I’m working and he should only interrupt me if the house is on fire. The truth is that I’m not a parent, so I feel ill-equipped to give advice on that front. However, I am crowdsourcing some of my parent friends who have been working from home for years and they are stepping up with great ideas! I will write that article next. In the meantime, here’s a great resource for parents working from home, sent to me by Mark Strong. It’s called A Parent’s Guide to Working Remotely.
I hope these tips are helpful. Share your tips in the comments below and feel free to ask questions as well. How can I best be of service while we go through this particularly challenging time in our history? Stay safe, stay well and be kind – and keep creating Service Stories Worth Celebrating!
Donna Cutting is the author of 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers and the Founder and CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Systems, Inc. She wrote this while sheltering-in-place in April of 2020, with her husband their two rescue dogs, Moxie and Tonks.