If you’re among the countless people who are new to working at home or are currently working remotely on a more long-term basis than before, it’s ok to feel a little untethered. It’s a big change! Especially right now, as we were told to stay home without much warning or preparation.
The good news is, there are lots of people who have worked remotely for a number of years and have grown to love it. There are plenty of ways to make it work, so you’re just as productive and efficient from your home office (or dining room table or couch) as you would be at your desk in the office.
Here’s how to make your working from home days successful and productive ones:
1. Set up your work area with as few distractions as possible
Not everyone has a home office with great internet connectivity, a locked door, and no distractions. Do the best you can: Work in the same space every day, in a chair that provides support but is also comfortable, and try to make it free of visual distractions like laundry or dirty dishes or the kids’ toys. Inevitably things will come up to cause you to divert your attention from the tasks at hand, but that happens in offices too. If possible, use your designated workspace only for working, so that you can keep your home and work time separately.
2. Keep the channels of communication open and use them frequently
You might not have to hear any distracting noises or chatter from your colleagues while working from home, but that can also breed feelings of loneliness and isolation. Ask your manager to select a chat software the whole team can use — Skype for Business, or Webex, or Slack, to name just a few of the myriad options available — and replicate your team’s in-office conversations there. You can even add emojis when applicable, to laugh at a good joke or send a high-five when someone does a great job. Also, be sure to set up regular calls with your manager and teammates to keep everyone feeling connected and in the loop on projects.
3. Dress for the day
While the trend on social media these days is to wear nothing but sweats while at home, you might find that dressing up for work helps put you in the right mental space to get things done. It doesn’t have to be business casual or the same types of clothes that you’d wear to the office, but wear “real” clothes — not just yoga pants and baggy sweatshirts — while you’re on the clock. When it’s time for a video conference, make sure the parts of you that people will see are professional and office-friendly, even if that means wearing your favorite slippers of cozy socks off-camera.
4. Take breaks and observe office hours
The double-edged sword of working from home is that there’s no commute. Being “on the clock” and “off the clock” in the same place can make it easy to either overwork — because your workstation is always just in another room, so why not put in a little more time on that project — or to show up late because you’ve overslept or were distracted by the latest binge-worthy show or getting the kids ready for their day. Ask your manager whether office hours are changing and abide by them. A 9-5 workday is still a 9-5 workday, even if you’re not at work. But if you find yourself overwhelmed from the distractions or having a hard time concentrating, do what you’d do in the office when you need a moment: Get up, get some water or coffee, and take a minute to collect your thoughts. Then go back to your desk, count to five, and start again.
5. No, really, give yourself a break
If you’re brand new to working remotely, this is going to feel kind of awkward and overwhelming. It might sound fun at first, but it can be hard to adjust to this new normal, even if it’s just for a short time. Be realistic about what you can do on a given day. Talk to your manager or team leader, and find ways to get the most important tasks done on time. Prioritize and reprioritize as needed. There will be hard days, and there will be some missteps. Don’t beat yourself up! It’s a new normal, and everyone is learning how to do this at the same time.
There are some real perks to working from home, including not having to fight with traffic, never having to worry about someone else not refilling the coffee pot or the Keurig bin overflowing. No one will take your lunch! But it can be an adjustment period as well as you get yourself set up and figure out what works.
LeadingEdge is Ready to Help
At LeadingEdge, we’re ready to provide help and support for people transitioning into new situations. When things go back to normal, we’ll also be here to help provide new opportunities if it’s time to find a new work environment. Contact us today, and let’s find a new future together.