COVID-19’s remote-work requirement may have been an abrupt transition, but it doesn’t have to hinder your sanity and productivity. For most employees, working from home full-time simply requires new technology and routines.
Fortunately, many of the necessary technologies to work from home effectively already exist, so the biggest challenge for employees new to remote work is behavioral. From commuting into the office to conversing with your coworkers, everyone’s regular habits and daily routines have been shifted.
As you adjust to a new way of working, use these 7 tips on how to work from home to help you stay happy and productive.
7 Tips to Make Working from Home, Work for You
1. Set clearly defined work hours
When working from home, it’s easy to be “on” all the time, as many remote workers will quickly confess. Keeping regular daytime work hours is sustainable; compulsively checking and replying to work emails all night is not. You need to spend time mentally away from work, so speak with your manager about work expectations and boundaries. What hours should you work every day, and when is it okay to disconnect? Not having a defined start and end time to your day can blur the lines between your home life and work life. Over time this can lead to work fatigue and burnout.
2. Create new routines
Since you no longer need to be at the office by a certain time, it’s easy to start sleeping in late and letting your work schedule become too relaxed. This can greatly hinder your productivity. Create a new and consistent routine that mimics the one you had before. Set an alarm to wake up at a certain time every morning, make coffee, eat breakfast and get dressed for work just like you were going into the office. This will help you get in the right mindset to start working every morning.
“In order for our minds to function at maximum efficiency, we must have order and stability, and right now it’s harder than ever to have either. Simple habits that we may have previously done — making the bed, blow-drying our hair — are simple activities we can do to remind our brain that life is still going on despite the interruptions we are facing.” — Erin Wiley, Psychotherapist and Executive Director of the Willow Center
3. Socialize with your team every week
Work is a social space, not just a productive one. But with the recent lack of in-person interactions, some remote employees have experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation. That’s why virtual happy hours have become so popular. They’re easy to organize through video conferencing, and they help employees connect and interact with their coworkers face to face. You can also choose a funny virtual background from Hawaii to somewhere on the moon
Teamwork is about more than work, so use this time to share a laugh and keep casual conversations flowing. This is also a great opportunity to check in on your coworkers and see how they are dealing with this challenging situation. Discussing difficulties and delights helps everyone stay sane and reminds your coworkers they are not going through this alone.
4. Create a productive environment in your home space
The office provides a context for working, whereas your home is usually a place for leisure and relaxation. To productively work from home, you will need to create a private workspace that is free from distractions (especially if you share your home with family, pets or roommates). Experts suggest you work outside your bedroom whenever possible, as your productivity tends to suffer if you use this space for work. Ideally you would want to set up your home office in a separate room in your house.
Ensure there is a strong WIFI connection, headphones for video conference calls and plenty of distance from family members who may be a distraction.
Close your door while you’re working and stick a note on it, requesting that you remain undisturbed. You can also post your schedule on the door to let others in your household know when they can expect you to resurface and interact with them.
5. Limit distractions
Even with a private home office, there are many distracters that can hinder your productivity. To help you focus solely on work and efficiently complete your daily tasks, try:
- Batching your email
- Putting your phone on do-not-disturb or airplane mode during work hours
- Setting timers for chunks of time during which you focus on specific tasks
- Using an app like Freedom to restrict distracting internet functions (like social media or Netflix) when you should be working
6. Make impromptu video calls
Video calls are a modern-day superpower. Working from home prevents you from stopping by your colleague’s desk to ask a quick question, so if something is urgent or too complicated to explain over text, use your smartphone or laptop to make a quick and impromptu video call. It can feel awkward to call someone, especially if you’re concerned about interrupting them, but in this new, socially isolated context, most of us would welcome water-cooler type conversations during work hours. Impromptu conference calls are real-time, back-and-forth discussions with your colleagues that allow for the nuances in tone, timing, facial expressions, hand gestures and other nonverbal cues to be conveyed during the call. They’re more personal, more human and more emotionally satisfying than text-based conversations like email and chat apps.
7. Give and request feedback from your team
Are certain tools and procedures not working for you? Do you keep facing the same obstacles on a daily or weekly basis? This is a new and unusual time for everyone, so communicate your problems and learn from others so you can employ new strategies and tools to keep your team going strong.
4 Tools You’ll Need for Remote Work
While your home office won’t be identical to your work office, there are tools that can help you be just as productive. By combining communication solutions and productivity tools that mimic your in-office workflow, you can transition to working from home with minimal friction. These are the tools you’ll need to effectively work from home.
1. Reliable video conferencing
Reliable video conferencing is most teams’ biggest need. It keeps distributed teams connected, engaged and productive regardless of their physical location. In response to the pandemic, Lifesize is offering free, unlimited video conferencing service to all global businesses for six months. Our goal is to support businesses as best we can during this difficult time and keep the world working.
2. Team messaging apps
When it comes to messaging, Microsoft Teams and Slack are the two leading work-from-home options. Both tools integrate with Lifesize to make communication seamless. The integration adds Lifesize’s best-in-class audio and video quality and advanced communication and collaboration technologies to your existing Microsoft Teams and Slack workflows.
3. Project management tools
Monday.com and Asana are customizable project management tools for remote teams. They make it easy to track and monitor projects and individuals’ tasks so everyone knows exactly what they should be working on and when their tasks are due. These tools also serve as a platform for facilitating collaboration among project stakeholders. This is especially helpful for intricate projects that have multiple employees working toward the same shared goal.
4. Collaborative documents
For text documents, spreadsheets and slide decks, Google Drive is the gold standard. You can restrict permissions on each document so it’s accessible only by:
- Members of your organization
- Specific email addresses
- Anyone with the link
Google Drive lets you work and collaborate on the same documents together in real-time even if you aren’t physically together.
Working from home doesn’t have to be terrible. By creating a distraction-free home office setup with the right tools and creating a consistent work routine, you’ll see positive results. You may even find that working remotely is more beneficial and productive than commuting into the office.
Now more than ever, it’s important to appreciate the people we love, the ability to work and the free time to explore new passions and skills before we return to work. Make the most out of it! Stay happy and productive while safely working from home.