Did you start working remotely for the first time this past year? Working from home is different than working from the office, so how do you adjust your schedule and your style? You have the verbal support from your employer, but have they equipped you to be successful? Employees and employers must adjust the use of technology, process and culture to enable remote teams to be successful. You need to learn how to communicate with your manager and team virtually, set boundaries at home and ensure your company offers the right tools to be successful working remotely. I’ve worked remotely for the past 5 years and worked from home for the past 3 years. Here are my tips for working from home.
Working Remotely From Home Workplace Setup
One working from home tip is to have a good workplace setup. Since you’ll be working and living in the same place you need to set boundaries. If you work from wherever in your house it’s harder to set these boundaries. Having a dedicated place where you’ll work from home everyday will help set these boundaries.
Have a Designated Working From Home Area
By having a designated area to work from home, you’ll help establish boundaries between work and home. This will help in a few ways. A set place to work from home will keep all of your work materials in one place. Mentally, you’ll also feel like you’re at work as you’ve physically moved from the places you relax in your house to a place where you do work.
It’s also very easy to not stop working when you’re working remotely from home. Previously, when you had to commute back home you could see the office emptying out and knew when to drive home to avoid traffic. When you work from home though the same end to the day doesn’t exist. Especially if you work in a global company you’ll receive emails around the clock. Having a designated working from home area will help end the day. Once you leave that area, you can feel like you’ve left work.
Buy Materials and Equipment You Need to Be Successful
At your former office, what did you have available to be more successful? You’ll want to have the same things in your at home office when you’re working remotely. If you had a dual monitor, get a dual monitor setup at home. Same with a printer, any organizers and office supplies.
To be successful remotely, there may be additional equipment you need to invest in. For example, your meetings with coworkers will now be on the phone or video. Do you have internet speed that supports that? What about a video camera and headset?
If you work for a large company, ask if they will cover part of the cost of setting up your new workspace. Don’t forget, it’s saving them money too by not paying for your cubicle / office and the utilities associated with that office space.
Invest in a Comfortable Chair
It’s easy to stay in one spot all day so make sure you get a comfortable chair. An ergonomic chair will be optimized for both comfort and work. A good ergonomic chair may cost up to $1,500 new but remember you’ll be sitting in this chair every working day. If you want to save money once you find a chair you like look on Craigslist, Offer Up, LetGo and other second hand sites to find that same chair used.
How to Work Remotely From Home And Not Go Stir Crazy
Skipping the commute to work is great until you realize you can literally be stuck at home until you need to run an errand or see a friend. It is possible to not leave your house for days. Make sure you get yourself out of the house. Sometimes this is going to get a coffee even when you can make it at home. You can also decide to work from a coffee shop or other location for a few hours or few days a week.
If you prefer to work from home the entire time, look to get out of the house before or after you start work. This could include joining a gym nearby, or having hobbies that are outside the house. It’s important when you work from home to find a community where you can interact with other people outside of the house.
While you’re at home working, force yourself to get up and move around. It’s easy to start working at 8AM and before you know it it’s 5PM. Setting reminders in your calendar to get up and move around or blocking time in your calendar for a walk will help you get up and move.
How to Work From Home And Not Get Lonely
It’s nice not to have to commute but you also don’t get to run into coworkers and have passing conversations when you are working remotely. When you start working remote, it’s important to find other ways to interact with people face to face.
It’s easy to get lonely when you’re not running into co-workers in the office. Sometimes the uninterrupted time is nice as you’re able to get more work done. Other times it just feels lonely. In normal times, there are plenty of ways to overcome this. Don’t assume seeing no one for days on end is normal for when you’re working from home.
The first option is to find other people to socialize with face to face. Can you meet people for lunch? Do you have customers or other coworkers in the area? Plan a coffee break. Join a gym nearby and go to the gym every day before or after work or during a lunch break.
The second option is to establish strong connections with other remote coworkers virtually. Are you on a conference call and can hear there is a side conversation in the room you can hardly hear? You can have side conversations remotely as well through Slack, text or another instant messaging tool with other remote coworkers. Get to learn about your coworkers virtually and identify what you have in common. Easy connections include if they’ve ever lived where you do now or vice versa, same college, kids that are similar ages or interest in the same professional sports.
Plan What Your Day Looks Like
When you start working remotely your schedule will change. Understand how much time you’re saving with not commuting. If you used to commute 1.5 hours a day you don’t have to spend that entire time working extra hours.
Then, make a plan for how you will use that extra time. Do you now have time for those workouts you never had time for before? Can you finally get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep? Spend more time with family? Spend those hours working? Go to the gym? Be intentional as to how you spend this “extra” time you just got back.
Last, set a time for when your workday ends. It’s very easy to not stop working when you’re already all set up. Even if you have to log back into work later at night this will help you get a break to be with family, eat dinner or have some time to yourself.
Team Dynamics When You Work Remotely
The dynamics you have with your team will likely change when you are working remotely. How different the dynamics are depend on your team. Are you the only person on the team who is remote? Is everyone on your team working remotely? Where is the rest of the team located?
The dynamics are very different if everyone is spread out verse if everyone is in one location. If you’re the only person working remotely you’ll be on the phone while everyone else is in a conference room together for meetings. Your coworkers will run into each other in the hallway and walk over to where your manager sits when they have a question. In group meetings they can mute the phone while there are side bar conversations, there can be multiple conversations going on at once and it’s so hard to hear you can’t participate in any of them. Having a career sponsor in these situations is important as they’ll help recommend you get put on key projects and be an advocate about your skill set.
If the entire team is spread out either all working remotely or all working in different locations the dynamics are different. When everyone is in different places, everyone will join a meeting on the phone and participate virtually. There are no situations where there are side conversations in the room you can’t quite hear.
Understand The Support Your Company Gives Remote Employees
Beyond the verbal support that you can work remotely, how will your company support you? What technology do they have to support a remote workplace? How easily can you log into the company network through the VPN? If you have a challenge with your company equipment like your laptop, how do you get support for it?
Getting the verbal OK to work remotely is only one part of the support. Ensure that you have the capabilities remotely to be able to access the company intranet, equipment required to do your job and more.
Even more importantly is communication between your team and the communication tools offered by your company. Slack, Zoom, WebEx, Skype and Microsoft teams are several enterprise communication tools that make working in a remote team easier. Struggling with working from home? Reach out to your mentor at work for advice.
Communicate Often and Through Multiple Channels
Sometimes it may feel like when you work remotely you’re out of sight and out of mind. That’s why communication is extra important when you work remotely. Be clear with your manager on progress made on your projects, when you’ll have a draft or final project ready, when you have spare cycles and when you have too much work to be successful.
When you’re working remotely how you communicate and how often you communicate is very important. Make sure to let your manager know weekly or bi-weekly what you’re working on during your 1×1. Give a high level overview of your projects, and then 1-2 areas where you need help or where there is potential risk. If you have free time offer to get involved in another project.
Don’t forget there are many ways to communicate. You can text, call, ping through Slack or Skype, email. Know when to use each communication tool. If it’s not urgent, or something needs to be sent to multiple people use email. If you need to talk to someone quickly, text them or IM them.
Is Working Remotely From Home Right for You?
If you’re bored in the office, you will also be bored working from home. Working from home isn’t for everyone. But, keep in mind there is working remotely from home and during a pandemic working remotely from home. A typical working remotely from home situation doesn’t include daycares and schools closed, gyms closed, restaurants closed etc. Usually, you can go on a walk, or leave to grab a coffee to help break up the day.
There are distractions both at home and in the office. If you are easily distracted in the office (water cooler, etc) there will be different ways for you to get distracted while at home (TV, laundry, etc). Sometimes it does require more discipline. For example, if you don’t have a deadline given to you, you should set your own deadline and communicate that deadline to your manager.If you’re excited about your job and/ or have a lot of work to do these are easy to overcome.
If you love connecting with people face to face it may be an adjustment to communicate with coworkers virtually. Working remotely isn’t for everyone, but sometimes being successful working remotely requires tweaks to your workplace setup, setting boundaries, how you communicate and what you communicate.