I have been working and managing teams remotely for 3 years, here is my advice to those finding themselves working remotely for the first time now.
(Note that this advice is not particularly for managers – I will aim to do another post about that! – this one is intended for anyone working 100% remotely.)
Create a work space. This is key! Designate a space in your house as your “office”, even if it’s just half of your dining table. Ideally it’s a place you can easily leave/close a door on, but even if you don’t have an extra bedroom for this, just decide on a spot to set your office and work from there most of the day.
Set boundaries. There is the misconception that working from home means working less, and this might be true for people that work from home irregularly (once a week, twice a month, etc). But, if you find yourself working remotely 100% of the time then you are very likely working a lot more. For starters, there is no commute to waste time on, you wake up and the work laptop is right there, you are making dinner and your office is 2 steps away, etc. There is no longer a clear division between home life and work life, and this is quite difficult to manage initially. This is why it is so important to set boundaries, and why having an “official work space” you can step away from is helpful in doing this. A few tips on this point:
- Decide on a schedule and stick to it, you can forget about the 9to5 if your work allows and you work better at certain hours of the day, but decide on something and stick to it (even if it changes daily). For instance, you could work from 7am to 11am, then go for a run and have lunch, work from 12:30pm to 3pm, take a break, and finish 3:30pm to 5pm. At 5pm step away from your office and don’t work until the next day. Remember to mark your calendar appropriately so others know what to expect
- Take some time after waking up, even if it’s just 10min, before you jump into work to get ready for the day. Practice yoga, meditate, make coffee/breakfast, listen to a podcast, read a chapter of a book, whatever makes you happy, and doesn’t count as work! Do the same before you go to sleep
- Snooze notifications on Slack/email/etc when you are not supposed to be working given the schedule you set for yourself. Admittedly I don’t do this and end up being “on” every waking hour of the day. This is not healthy, don’t do it.
- Respect other people’s patterns. Everyone has their own. Always check calendars, Slack statuses, and when scheduling meetings be sure to provide modify rights so others can move around as needed.
Invest in equipment. A good bluetooth headphones is a must. You can survive with a regular headphone (with a microphone), but bluetooth allows you to move around if you are just listening in on a call. A monitor, mouse, and keyboard can make a huge difference. A standing desk is an amazing addition, but if this is not possible you can create a home-made standup desk with books :). If you travel and work, which we do a lot, a portable second screen is key, there are lots of options on Amazon.
Dress comfortably. Many articles I have read recently recommend you dress as if you were going to the office, but I say screw that. Dress comfortably – if that is sweat pants and a t-shirt, then so be it. I do think getting off your pijamas is a good idea :), but you should do this regardless at some point in the day to exercise and shower (which is also key! and my next point). Most days I dress in workout clothes, which are comfy, look decent, and then I am ready to workout.
Find time to exercise / get outside. Make time for this, everyday if possible. A walk around the neighborhood, a youtube exercise class, a run in a nearby park, yoga at home, etc. I have been working out at home/wherever I am for years, and always use a combination of applications/online workout routines. There is so much out there if you look for it. The only truly essential equipment is a mat. Lately I am really into yogaglo, aaptive, insanity max30, and running outside, but there are infinite options, specially now!
Get work done through messaging platforms. I am in meetings a lot of the day, but if I am honest I get most work done through Slack. Messaging platforms promote a less formal environment in which you don’t waste precious time crafting a perfect message and you focus on getting stuff done, communicating real time, and making decisions faster. What about email? Use sparingly and for very specific stakeholders, usually external to your company. Before sending an email ask yourself, can I communicate this through Slack? and if so, do it!
Use video. Although you might be able to get most of your work done without getting on a call, do meet with coworkers, and use video when you do. Yes, I know it is hard, specially if you are not used to it and want to lounge in bed all day, but you shouldn’t lounge in bed all day ;), and once you start using video consistently it becomes easy and something you will start valuing a lot. I guarantee that putting your video on, and encouraging others to do the same, will allow you to create way more meaningful connections with coworkers and get work done faster and more efficiently. Right now people are going nuts using Snapchat filters on Zoom, and it is without a doubt hilarious!
Be kind if sharing space. If you have a partner and you are both working remotely, things can get difficult, I know… specially if you are sharing an office space like we do. Be kind :). Other specific things we do: we have a shared calendar in which we add important meetings that we would like to take from our “official office” and we respect that (one of us leaves), we sometimes take calls at the same time from the same place but we keep our voices down and don’t interfere with our videos, we don’t lurk/listen in into each other’s calls, and very importantly: we take time to say “hello! you are there, I love you” from time to time 😉
OK, that is all I got for now. Good luck working remotely and getting through these difficult times! Would love to hear what you do to stay productive while working remotely.