The current pangamic crisis has businesses globally urging, and in many cases mandating, that employees work from home. If you’re new to working remotely 100% of the time, this could be a significant challenge. You may not have been prepared to turn your living space into your workspace for the foreseeable future. Suddenly that spare bedroom, dining room, kitchen, or closet has turned into a home office, and you find yourself leading conference calls in your new uniform—a robe and pajamas. Your spouse, kids, and your pets are also home, which can make things more interesting. If you enjoyed having daily social interaction with co-workers, feelings of isolation and loneliness could set in. Given that this is the new normal, here are ten tips for working remotely that will make your experience less stressful and more productive.
1. Designate a workspace
It is easier to stay mentally focused if you designate a specific area in your home to get work done. That could be a home office, spare bedroom, or some other dedicated area that offers privacy. If you can find a spot that provides a lot of natural light, even better. Also, if you will be making video calls while working remotely, make sure you have a background that you won’t mind having others see.
2. Cut yourself some slack.
Working from home can be a big transition. You might feel any combination of lonely, isolated, stressed, frustrated, anxious, unmotivated, or — on the other hand — relieved, relaxed, energized, or productive. It’s all OK and normal. Transition and adaption is not easy, so try to be easy on yourself.
3. Take scheduled breaks
Try setting an alarm to get up and stretch every hour or so. (Standing desks, which at home may mean perching your laptop on top of a bookshelf, also pay large dividends for overall health.) Walk around your home while chatting on the phone with a friend. Move to a separate area — away from your email — to eat lunch for 30 minutes. Breaking up the day and moving your body enables you to refresh and can increase your productivity when you return to your work. When the weather is nice, I like to do conference calls while taking a walk outside.
4. Remote work needs overcommunication
Because you are not in an office where people can see you, communication is more critical when working remotely. Communicate frequently with your boss and know work from responsibility and requirement. “Out of sight, out of mind can be a real problem for remote workers,” says Sara Sutton, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, a remote job listing site. “The very best remote workers will reach out to co-workers and managers regularly” through a variety of tools.
5. Practice good meeting etiquette
In person, it’s easy to see if someone left the meeting a meeting. They fiddle with their pen, start reading emails, maybe even begin to doze off. But when calls happen remotely, it’s much more difficult to see the telltale signs of disinterest. Without video, people could be doing anything on the other end of a call – from making lunch to petting their dog to working on something else. That’s one reason why having cameras on for all remote calls will help keep you and everyone else on the call alert and engaged.
6. Experiment with what makes you most productive
It’s easy to fall into the trap while working from home thinking you should be able to sit down at your home office desk in the morning and seamlessly crank out work until nightfall. But without the built-in discipline and natural breaks of an office, things can easily fall apart.
It’s up to you to build the best way for yourself to work remotely.
When we work in an office, we take walks to get snacks, chat with coworkers, take coffee and tea breaks, and make time to have lunch away from our desks. But at home, somehow these natural things start to feel as if we’re cheating or slacking off.
Suddenly, people are working more hours with fewer breaks, all from the same exact place every day. This is almost certainly a recipe for disaster and burnout.
7. Meditate during working from home
I personally find solace in meditating daily. It helps me corral my thoughts and center myself in a peaceful, calming way. But it wasn’t always like this, and for many, it is difficult to tune life out or quiet the mind for more than a few minutes at a time. If this is you, there are many tools available to help. Apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditation for all experience levels. There are also a number of YouTube channels that offer meditation instruction.
8. Maintain Regular Hours
Set a schedule, and stick to it…most of the time. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many remote workers maintain work-life balance. That said, one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, and sometimes you need to extend your day or start early to accommodate someone else’s time zone. When you do, be sure to wrap up earlier than usual or sleep in a bit the next morning to make up for it. Automatic time-tracking apps, such as RescueTime, let you check in on whether you’re sticking to your schedule. They can also help you figure out what times of day you’re most productive versus when you slack off. You can use that information to your advantage by reserving your hours of high focus for your most important tasks.
9. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for What You Need
keyboard, mouse, chair, printer, software, and so forth. Organizations that are accustomed to remote employees often have a budget for home office equipment. Ask what it is and how often it’s renewed. It also doesn’t hurt to ask whether there’s a loan agreement or who will pay for return shipping or disposal of outdated equipment.
If you’re working from home unexpectedly due to coronavirus, ask for what you need within reason. You could be working from home for weeks on end and you should be comfortable, but ordering a new office chair and desk might be asking too much. Consider a mouse and keyboard, plus a back-supporting cushion instead. For more tips on getting your new space in shape, you can read our story on everything you need to set up an ergonomic office.
10. Leave Home. Work from anywhere
To the extent that it’s allowed and safe where you are during the COVID-19 outbreak, get out of the house, provided you can maintain social distancing of course. The same advice applies to people who work in traditional office settings, too. Leave the building at least once a day. Your body needs to move. Plus, the fresh air and natural light will do you good.
You don’t have to go to crowded public spaces to get away from your solo workspace (and you probably shouldn’t right now, either). Take a walk. Weed the garden. You get the picture.
11. Use a VPN during work from home
Use a VPN whenever you start a connection to a network that you don’t control. That includes Wi-Fi at co-working spaces, cafes, libraries, and airports. Some organizations have their own VPNs that off-site employees need to access certain servers or websites that store information meant only for internal use. In those cases, you’ll also need to use a VPN at home. In any case, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of leaving your VPN connected as often as possible because it’s always safer to have it on than not.
One more point about VPNs. Remember, when. you’re connected to them, your company could conceivably see what you’re doing. So don’t view porn via your corporate VPN.
Above all else, working from home is an easy task. Figure out what works best for you. Sometimes the answer is apparent, but other times you might need some inspiration from other people who are in the same boat. A supportive community of remote employees does exist, whether you find them in your organization’s Slack channel or online through blogs or Twitter. Consider, too, that you might need to shake up your routine once in a while, lest it get too…routine.