The COVID-19 pandemic has made it a requirement for many workers to leave the office indefinitely and work remotely. If you’ve never worked from home before or you’ve only spent the rare sick day or blizzard working from home, switching to full-time remote work is a considerable change. By following best practices, you can continue to perform your job, contribute to your company, and connect with your team.
Commit to the Initiatives Required for Remote Work
When the entire team works remotely, new and different protocols are put in place. Everyone has to understand the protocols, how to enact them and what’s expected of them. Initiatives may include
- A communication tool that shows each person’s availability and status, like Slack
- Quick morning check-ins with the boss to let him or her know you’re present
- Regularly scheduled team calls through a video service like Zoom
- Shared calendars or project workflows using a tool like Asana
- Time tracking via a tool like Toggl that lets employers see how long you’ve spent on different tasks
When employees have to use a new tool, training may be required. Also, there should be guidance on expectations for each tool. For example, how available should the team be on Slack? Should the status be “away” when doing deep work on a project?
Focus As Though You’re at the Office
Being at home means you’re surrounded by distractions and household responsibilities all day long. You still have to stick to a work schedule, though, which requires a lot of discipline. Keep your routine the same as when you worked in an office and make sure you have a dedicated workspace free of distractions. Get up, shower, and get ready round the time you normally do. Get coffee before starting your day — stick to the rituals you have before work.
Also, if you have to “go to work” before making the bed and washing the dishes, then do it — you wouldn’t show up late to the office, so you can’t show up late to your at-home worspace, either. The best option is to set up a spare room as an office where you can concentrate during work mode and leave behind during off hours.
Make Your Office Conducive to Productivity
Squeezing your workspace into a corner of the basement isn’t a good idea, just like working in a tiny office with poor lighting wouldn’t be healthy in the workplace. Your home office has to support your focus, mood, and productivity. Here are a few tips to get the basics right:
- Your desk and chair should be at the right height to prevent eye and back strain.
- Create a space that’s well lit with natural lighting if possible. You can also purchase a lamp that mimics natural light.
- If you have a window with a beautiful view, that’s great, but if not, put a couple of motivational or joyful images within your line of sight.
- You should be able to charge your electronics as you’re using them. Otherwise, you’ll have to take a break from work every time your laptop battery runs out.
- Replicate the setup you have at work, such as dual monitors, cold water always within reach, a fan to drown out noise. Whatever makes you feel comfortable at work will also help you work from home.
Even if you’re limited when it comes to where you can set up office space, it has to be supportive of work — if the area is depressing or uncomfortable, you won’t get enough done.
Practice Professional Video Meeting Etiquette
Holding a meeting via video is different from having in-person meetings. You look right into the camera the entire time, and everyone else can see and hear you and your surroundings for the duration of the meeting. Since you’re home, a lot is going on that doesn’t happen at the office: Dogs are barking, children are laughing, an Amazon delivery is being dropped off. Here’s how to cut down the noise:
- Make sure the setting is quiet. Shut the door, close the windows, and tell whomever you live with to please keep it down for the next hour.
- Your backdrop should be neutral and professional instead of busy and distracting. Don’t set up in your child’s room with stuffed animals in the background. Don’t set up in front of the hallway either, where people may be coming in and out.
- Silence your phone to prevent phone calls and notifications from interrupting your meeting.
- Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking to prevent background noise from disrupting your call.
- Wear headphones: You will hear everyone better, and your colleagues will hear you more clearly, too.
- Don’t look in a million places, shift in your seat or fidget too often during the meeting.
Also, managers should reconsider holding video meetings first thing in the morning, especially on Mondays. Even if that’s the norm at work, assume that some people are going to adopt a more flexible routine when working from home. While they may be focused and ready to work, they may not be 100% presentable at 8:30 a.m.
Even if you’ve never worked from home, remote work is not a new concept. There are a lot of people who have been working remotely for years, and they can offer all sorts of insight, tips, and tricks. If you struggle with a particular aspect of working from home, chances are people faced with the same struggle have found a solution you can apply. Having to unexpectedly work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic means everyone will experience a learning curve. Assess what isn’t working well, discuss it with your employer or team, and then try a new tactic.
By Lindsay Pietroluongo