There’s a lot happening in the world right now, forcing companies to change the way they operate. For a lot of people, this means working from home, something they may have never done before, or have not done regularly.
Working remote or working from home may sound like a dream come true, but it involves more focus and self control than you might think. You want to be able to prove yourself capable, while not burning yourself out in the process.
I’ve been working remote for the past five years and have picked up a few tips and tricks that I thought I’d share to those that might be struggling with their new way of working.
The tips and tricks that I’m sharing have worked for me, being someone in technology. Whether you’re in technology or another industry, what it takes for you to keep your sanity and prove yourself as a remote worker, might be different than my experience. Just take this as advice and put your own spin on it.
Whether you’re remote or in an office, meetings are still going to happen. These meetings could very well be your only interaction with another human for the entire day. However, these meetings can feel far from human if you can’t see the other people you’re meeting with, and likewise for the people trying to meet with you.
The easiest fix for this problem is to have your camera enabled during all meetings and encourage your team to do the same.
Sure it might be early or you haven’t fixed yourself up yet, but it doesn’t matter because this is your team, your work family. Not having your camera on will distance you from the rest of the team or organization and will prevent people from being able to connect the face to the person.
So what if you’re the only one with your camera on?
When you’re in a meeting, you should politely ask that everyone enable their camera. Tell them that it makes you feel closer to them as a team and that you’re not judging them by what they currently look like or how messy their home might be.
Being on a remote team doesn’t mean that you should have less meetings. Sure maybe you have less meetings overall within the organization, but when it comes to your direct team, you should be having more meetings.
Think of it this way. If everyone went into the office, even if you didn’t have a formal meeting, you’d hopefully still speak with your coworkers and have an idea of what they’re working on daily.
Bring this in-person element into the remote environment. If daily team meetings are not on the calendar, use it as an opportunity to add them to the calendar. Depending on your team size, these meetings probably shouldn’t take more than 15 to 30 minutes. Find out what’s going on in their lives, what they’re working on, and what their goals are for the day. Heck, the daily meetings don’t even have to be work related, but more team building exercises.
If anyone on the remote team is concerned that productivity is declining due to people slacking at home, use it as an opportunity to set action items to be accomplished every day or for the week.
One of the biggest problems that I had, and still have, when it comes to working remote is defining when I should be working and when I shouldn’t be working. Since your working world and personal world have now converged where you sleep, the line for knowing when to stop work can be easily blurred.
While some days might be different, one of the best things you can do for yourself to avoid working too many hours or too few hours, is to keep the schedule you would have had in an office or create a new schedule. For example, if you had previously worked from 9:00AM to 5:00PM, if the new scenario permits, why not keep that same schedule? Then when 5:00PM comes around, close the computer and walk away. Don’t open it to check messages or emails, don’t take calls, don’t do anything work related until your scheduled shift starts again.
Don’t use working remote as an opportunity to work random hours throughout the day. You’re going to find yourself always working in this scenario which will take away from your personal life.
There will always be work. Don’t feel like you have to do more of it at home than you would have done in the office.
You’re working from home now so you might be tempted to work in front of the TV, around family, or somewhere else where your focus might be compromised.
It’s a mistake!
Your employer is trusting your ability to work remotely while remaining productive. Having half your focus in your work and half your focus on something else is likely going to make you half as productive regardless on how well you think you can multi-task. Would you be working from the couch or have the TV on if you were working onsite at your employer? Maybe, but probably not.
One of the best things you can do for yourself as a remote employee is to find a dedicated space within your home, somewhere quiet, somewhere with a desk, somewhere without distractions, and do your work from that location. Work from that location until you plan to take a break or until you’re done for the day.
I personally have converted a bedroom of my home into an office where I work with the door closed during business hours. However, when the weather is nice I’ll often work outside at a table.
This last tip can go in two directions. Some remote people walk around like they are always on break, but then there are others like me that forget to take a break.
Take breaks throughout your day!
So what does taking a break mean? It could be as simple as doing five minutes of stretches every hour, to taking a short walk around your neighborhood, to going outside to eat lunch or drink coffee and tea.
I don’t drink enough water throughout my day, so when my Apple Watch reminds me to stand every hour, I use it as an opportunity to walk to get a drink. It’s not much and it is something that should be done even when not working remote, but it is even more important when you’re remote.
Taking breaks and stepping away from your computer throughout the day will help you keep your sanity and remind you to stick to your previously set working schedule.
These are just a few tips and tricks that I’ve been using over the years when it comes to working remote. As someone who has been in an office, then remote, I know that the transition can be difficult. It is difficult to set working hours, convince family that you’re home to work, not entertain, and remain productive throughout the day.
Set goals for yourself, don’t get distracted, and continuously remind your team that you exist.
If you are a remote worker, drop some of the things that have worked for you in the comments. It’s easy to forget that it’s a transition when you’re someone who’s been at it for so long.