As more businesses move operations to a remote environment, you and your colleagues are likely experiencing the benefits and challenges of working from home. While no combination of tips or tricks will result in a seamless remote experience, consider these to assist you:
Identify a Dedicated Workspace
It may be tempting to set up on your cozy sofa or bed to complete your day’s tasks but resist the urge and identify a dedicated space for your new “office.” If you cannot utilize a separate room with a desk, you could clear off one end of your kitchen table and add all the typical desk accessories. If space is limited, set up a small folding table in the corner of a room to serve as your desk. Perhaps your condo complex has a lounge or business office you can utilize. You need to be able to sit down somewhere that tells your brain, “Here is where I work.”
Maintain Your Daily Routine
While working in your pajamas sounds fun for a few days, it will not serve you long term. Stick to your typical work day routines: get up at a specific time, shower, get dressed (out of pajamas), make your morning beverage, and physically go sit down at your desk at the time you would normally start your day. Take breaks to move your body, eat and drink, and try your best to unplug at the end of the day. You need to maintain familiar patterns to keep you focused.
Use Technology to Stay Connected
Now that we are likely at our computers most of the day, utilize communication tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Slack to stay in contact with your colleagues. You may be used to popping into a colleague’s office for a quick chat or answer, but now you are reliant on technology to keep the lines of communication open. You do not have to set up a formal meeting invitation each time you have questions (that will overwhelm your colleagues), so instead use these tools to get the quick answer. Most of these tools allow you to show your status (i.e., available, in a meeting, away) so you can easily identify who is around to help you.
Working with Families/ Working Solo
Many of us are balancing how to work while our family members are now home, too. Interruptions are likely and will inevitably impact our attention span and efficiency. Have compassion for colleagues who are juggling these demands. Be willing to reschedule meetings or revisit topics later if possible. Also, stay attuned to colleagues who may live alone. Working remotely can be incredibly isolating. A quick FaceTime call to say hello and check-in may offer them much needed connection.
Master Time Management
Meetings are likely moving to Zoom or other conference call providers. You notice time between calls could be used for other projects. While some may be disciplined enough to change gears that quickly, it is recommended to block off bigger chunks of time in your calendar to tackle projects that require more focus and attention. Putting this time on your calendar allows you the permission to focus on that task at the designated time without other potential work items interfering. If you share calendars among colleagues, this also helps communicate to them when you are unavailable.
Institute a Work-From-Home Policy (from Leadership)
Managing expectations among colleagues is essential to reduce confusion and anxiety. Be clear about how you expect colleagues to work and behave. Identify the specific hours colleagues must be available during assigned business hours (e.g., 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST- be mindful of colleagues who may be in different time zones). Explain how you expect them to communicate (i.e., via cell phone, home phone, email, etc.) and reinforce the timeliness they should respond to messages as they would at an onsite location. For conference call meetings: request that colleagues join the call five minutes early so it may begin on time. Providing clarity around these types of behaviors maintains efficiency and fairness across your organization.
We may be due for long patterns of working-from-home, so if all else fails: Look at images of puppies or kittens. These are statistically proven to lower your heartrate and decrease anxiety. Or just give Fido a little extra love when he sits at your feet.
Maria DiLorenzo is Senior Manager, Learning and Organizational Development at Graham-Pelton and can be reached at 1-800-608-7955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.