Because of the recent pandemic, more and more businesses are forced to take up working remotely. Some are more prepared than others, especially those that have been working fully remotely.
But for those like us, which support remote work but generally are more in-house focused, working remotely represents a significant challenge.
We’ll try and provide you here with 10 tips on how to manage through the current Covid-19 crisis while working at home, tips that we’re all trying to implement in our day-to-day working lives.
1. Have a morning routine
Our first piece of advice is to have a morning routine. You probably had some sort of morning routine for when you used to go to the office, even if it meant just waking up half an hour before work and then taking the bus to the office.
We assume that emulating the same habit, to the degree that you can, will help you get in the mindset of “going to work”, preparing you to settle down and start working as efficiently and quickly as you can.
So take that shower, brew that coffee, dress up if you want to (nobody’s judging, we’re all trying to make the most of it) and head on to work.
Of course, going to work actually means going into the next room where you set up your home office, which we’ll tackle next.
2. Have a home office
Our second advice is to have a dedicated home office for working remotely. A separate room that’s enough to fit a chair and a desk would suffice.
Sure, you might say that you don’t have enough space to have a dedicated room for an office. In this case, you can temporarily convert one of your rooms into an office, and then reset it after you’re done.
Even your kitchen table could be enough, but it’s important to have it set up so you can properly work from it, then reset it after you’re done.
Setting boundaries can help you emulate a productive environment, meaning that by designating a specific space for work, you create the mental paradigm that tells you that you’re currently at work.
After you’re done working, you close the door of your home office (or reset the kitchen table) and call it a day.
Which then begs the question: when do you call it a day?
3. Keep to a schedule
From personal experience, I can tell you it’s easy to let time fly and forget how long you’ve been working.
I believe that people tend to migrate between two camps (with the third one being the lucky one who finds an equilibrium), between either procrastinating too much or working too much.
That’s why we believe in setting a healthy schedule, as a way to prevent burnout. If you’re not sure what schedule you should allocate yourself for your new-found (remote work) freedom, we suggest emulating your previous working schedule.
Of course, you have to take into consideration the working schedules of your colleagues, but chances are most of you will work roughly during the same hours as to when you worked in-house.
Having the same work schedule with your colleagues also helps you socialize more, which is an important factor to take in when it comes to mental health, which is our next piece of advice.
4. Keep the water cooler chat alive
Credit: Rooster Worldwide
Being social creatures, the work environment provides a much needed healthy dose of real-life, face-to-face communication with other people.
An increasing challenge for remote workers is emulating this seemingly unimportant aspect of our work environment, taken for granted by many of us.
We recommend having a few hours per week scheduled for calls between colleagues, so that they get up to speed with their lives in a much-needed act of solidarity, especially during the current ongoing pandemic.
When done chatting with your colleagues, you can continue and exercise an important skill that is rarely brought up in matters of remote work, namely exercising your writing abilities.
5. Exercise your writing abilities
One of the least talked about aspects of working remotely is the ability to properly articulate the ideas you have in mind.
Working in-house sometimes erodes this ability, as speaking your mind is entirely different from putting your thoughts on paper.
Since remote work is to a certain degree asynchronous (with different time-zones for some), more information gets transmitted through the written word than in the office.
This is why a highly important skill that you should work on is being able to use proper wording to articulate your thoughts.
Also, you shouldn’t be ashamed of using emojis to convey those thoughts, as certain nuances are hard to understand without them.
We wouldn’t want inaccurate assumptions spread between stakeholders.
Continually exercising your writing abilities, in turn, makes you a better communicator with your colleagues, which is extremely valuable while working remotely.
Accurately articulating and making sure to cover your whole thought processes prevents any information leakage, which we believe to be one of the top challenges for teams working remotely.
6. Prevent information leakage by documenting everything
You should document every interaction as much as you can.
After a call or a meeting, make a summary of it and send it to every participating member so that you can backtrack it in case something arises.
By documenting as much as you can, you avoid information being lost.
Not only this, but you can also point a colleague to a specific document that answers her question.
Communication is extremely important for teams working remotely, and that is why said communication must be documented as much as possible to have it at hand when in need.
That’s why we recommend you write it up as soon as you end the meeting, as opposed to procrastinating and refreshing the news in a new tab for the 20th time this hour, which we’ll talk about next.
7. Avoid procrastination by removing the temptation
Some of you’ll be keener than others on avoiding procrastination.
It’s a matter of willpower, to which some of us are endowed with a larger supply than others.
So if you find yourself struggling with anxiety over the news or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook instead of doing your work, there are some tips and tricks which can help you get back on the productivity saddle.
You could try and exercise self-discipline and not open new tabs for entertaining yourself (yeah right, easier said than done).
Or you could try a few (succinctly described) website blockers such as StayFocusd, Motion (a personal favorite of mine) or Cold Turkey. This provides you with adequate help and features to nuke your procrastination tendencies.
Not being able to access distracting websites gets rid of the craving to scroll Facebook or Reddit.
Another tip is to schedule a short window (for example, 10 minutes after lunch), where you get up to date with the latest news so that you don’t feel any FOMO.
After you get up to date with the news, take the time to be in the best place of mind to restart your work, by doing a few stretching exercises.
8. Do some light exercises or stretch for a few minutes
Every hour or so you should get up and do some light stretching (especially for your neck), walk around a bit or even do a few pushups. Just don’t brag to your colleagues :).
While at home it’s easy to lose yourself while working, that’s why you should stretch for a few minutes for every hour you work.
As we all know, exercises stimulate the brain and detaching for a few moments gives you a fresh perspective on your work when getting back.
This all flows in the process of creating healthy and good habits while working.
Remember, it’s not a fixed rule, so if you’re in the flow zone be sure that it’s ok to pump out a few more lines of code before doing some exercise.
After exercising, you might be asked by a loved one to help around the house or play with the kids or something, since you don’t look like you’re working. Which goes to our next piece of advice.
9. Establish work boundaries
Even though your children or significant other sees you physically here with them, you must educate them that you’re practically at work.
Of course, if there’s an emergency or there’s something you need to take care of, work can wait.
But they need to know that even though you’re physically at home, mentally you’re still at work during the working hours.
Which couples with the previous advice that argued about the importance of keeping a schedule.
You might be met with sad faces, but it’s important to put a positive spin on the whole situation and accurately paint to your loved ones the value of working uninterrupted.
After work is done, you’re all theirs.
But while working, you need to let them know how important it is for you to not be disturbed unnecessarily, and how you need to make the most out of it in order to be with them when you’re done.
Speaking of making the most out of it, we want to end this article with some positive thoughts about the current situation we’re all in on.
10. Make the most out of it
As a last piece of advice, we suggest you make the most out of the current turn of events.
For businesses and professionals that are used to working remotely, it may be easier to handle everything that’s happening now than for the rest of us.
For us and seemingly thousands of other businesses in the same boat, it’s important to keep positive and know that eventually, this exercise in remote work can be the cornerstone for the future of work.
Update your procedures, educate your people and especially, educate yourself.
Be the example you want to see in the world, be responsible and take pleasure in the fact that you’re able to work from home, and from your pajamas (or is it just me?).
See you next time!