If you aren’t used to working from home, it can seem like a vacation at first. The opportunity to skip the stressful commute and lay on the couch with a laptop on your chest is glorious indeed. Remote work can be isolating and full of distractions, too. To help make working from home more effective and enjoyable, here are some tips.
Stick to a schedule:
Procrastination is an enemy of the work from home professional. If you’re working relatively on your own without anyone monitoring your hours, the trick to avoid procrastination is to be your own boss. Set your own working hours, deadlines, and breaks and stick to them like glue. If you have trouble focusing and start to feel yourself drift off into distractions, take a quick 15-minute walk outside to get your energy flowing so you can get back to work, and then setting a timer for 10-15 minute intervals with breaks in between.
Dedicate a working space:
Defining separate spaces for work and play may seem silly, but it can make a big psychological difference. Ideally, it should be a place you do not use to relax, such as your bedroom or sofa, but which encourages you to work. It may involve trial and error to find out which areas of your home encourage you to get the most work done. Importantly, you must also have designated hours to work from and until. If you are working from home there is a risk you could work for much longer, but it is important to shut down at the end of the day and working additional hours may grind you down. One of the hardest parts of working from home can be establishing a routine, including non-work hours.
One undeniable loss is the social, casual “water cooler” conversation that connects us to people — if you’re not used to that loss, full-time remote work can feel isolating. To fill the gap, some co-workers are scheduling online social time to have conversations with no agenda. Use Slack chats and things like that if you miss real-time interaction. Again, embrace video calling and webcams so you can see your colleagues. Try an icebreaker over your team chat: What’s everyone’s favorite TV show right now? What’s one good thing that someone read that day?
Use tech to your advantage.
Technology is what enables remote work in the first place. So make sure to take your laptop home, and don’t forget your charger. Also, take home your mouse and keyboard – anything that might make working on your laptop from home a little easier. Telecommuting simply wouldn’t be possible without the internet, but it’s made more functional and enjoyable thanks to technologies like Asana, Trello, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Workplace by Facebook (for chatting with your team), Google Hangouts and Skype (for quick face-to-face conversations) as well as remote conferencing tools like Zoom or GotoMeeting.
You’ll also want to make sure all your technology actually works from home. Do you need a secure line? Are those applications accessible from your home Wi-Fi? Do you need a security key to log in? These are all questions to ask your supervisor or IT department. Another thing? Internet access — is yours robust enough at home to allow you to video conference? Many conferences and almost all nonessential work travel are being canceled right now, so people want to use online video conferencing, which requires a good Internet connection.
Shoot, now the kids are home too.
With school closures and concerns about putting kids in daycare, parents are faced with a challenge, especially parents who have to physically go to work because they have no remote work option. You’ll need to make a plan for education and entertainment. Stock up on books and puzzles and make use of Netflix and Disney+. Also, be flexible about how much work you might realistically be able to get done if you’re balancing child care. #WorkLifeBalance. Just not the kind you were hoping for.
It’s wise to have a discussion with your boss about what can actually be accomplished from home. Ask your manager what the priorities are, and discuss how tasks will get done. How are teams going to track projects they’re working on? How will they meet to discuss this? Will you all be connecting on Slack or email? Will there be standing meetings at a certain time to get everyone coordinated? This should be an ongoing conversation. Remember, going fully remote is a new experience for many companies and their workers. Be honest about what isn’t working or can’t get done in these circumstances. More overall communication is going to be necessary.
Keep in contact with your team
When working from home it can be a lonely business, workers can easily feel ignored. But by keeping the lines of communication open with your manager, colleagues and subordinates, you can ensure this is avoided. However, this will involve some forward-planning to ensure expectations for each day are laid out, and how often contact is expected. To help tackle the isolation, it can also be advisable to video call colleagues if you are working on any shared projects.
Avoid feeling isolated
Still, even with these tools, the enforced and abrupt nature of the transition from an office to a home environment could leave some struggling to get accustomed to the change. It may sounds bizarre but you need to try to sustain a semblance of normalcy and camaraderie in unconventional ways, like virtual pizza parties or remote happy hours where people dial in and share a cocktail on Slack or Skype.
Try to translate the typical in-office social activities to an online environment. Celebrate birthdays, give public praise for goals reached and projects completed. Make time for casual conversations and ‘water cooler’ chat.
HERE ARE SOME TOOLS WE RECOMMEND:
- Coggle. “Produce beautiful notes quickly and easily. Share them with friends and colleagues to work on your ideas together.” (https://coggle.it)
- Mural. “Think and collaborate visually. Anywhere, anytime.” (https://mural.co)
- Google Docs. “Create a new document and edit with others at the same time—from your computer, phone, or tablet. Get stuff done with or without an internet connection. Use Docs to edit Word files. Free from Google.” (https://www.google.com/docs/about)
- MindMeister. “Online mind-mapping tool that lets you capture, develop, and share ideas visually (https://www.mindmeister.com)
- Slack. Team conversations in open or private channels. (https://slack.com)
- Hangouts. Connect with your team from anywhere. With easy-to-join video calls, you can meet face to face without the added cost of travel. (https://gsuite.google.com/intl/en_ca/products/meet/)
- Loom. Google Chrome extension that allows you to record and share your screen and webcam. (https://www.useloom.com)
- Zoom. Enterprise video conferencing and web conferencing. (https://zoom.us)
- Screencastify. “The #1 screen recorder for Chrome.” (https://www.screencastify.com)
- Remo. “Online office space for remote teams.” (https://remo.co/)
- LastPass. “Remembers all your passwords, so you don’t have to.” (https://www.lastpass.com)
- 1Password. “Remembers all [your passwords] for you. Save your passwords and log into sites with a single click.” (https://1password.com)
Task and Project Management:
- Asana. “The easiest way to manage team projects and tasks.” (https://asana.com)
- Trello. “Keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the minute details.” (https://trello.com)
- Workplace by Facebook. “Make space for teams to share ideas, brainstorm, and achieve more together. More than just a collaboration tool, Workplace by Facebook connects everyone to familiar features and their favorite business tools.” (https://www.facebook.com/workplace)
- Harvest. “Time tracking and reporting that let you operate with insight.” (https://www.getharvest.com)
- Toggl. “A simple time tracker with powerful reports and it works across all your devices.” (https://toggl.com/)
Workflow and Process Automation:
- Asana. “The easiest way to manage team projects and tasks.” (https://asana.com)
- Zapier. “Connect your apps and automate workflows.” (https://zapier.com)
Design and Creativity:
- Canva. A free, ready-made templates and simple, drag and drop design tools that help you create a perfect mind map in minutes. (https://www.canva.com/graphs/ecomap/)
Shared File Storage:
- Dropbox. “This is the cloud storage of choice for most design and dev teams I’ve worked with. Dropbox also recently announced Paper—a separate app similar to Google Docs that lets you collaborate in real time.” (https://www.dropbox.com/)
- Google Drive. “Google Drive needs no introduction. Store and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more all with your Google Account.” (https://www.google.com/drive/)
- One Drive. “Save your files and photos to OneDrive and access them from any device, anywhere” (https://products.office.com/en-ca/onedrive/online-cloud-storage)
- Evernote. “is the app of choice for many productivity geeks. With it, you can save web articles, make lists and quickly jot down ideas, and snap photos of documents and images related to your projects.” (https://evernote.com/)
- Duet Display. “Ex-Apple Engineers turn your iPad into an extra display.” (https://www.duetdisplay.com)
- Noisli. “background sounds that help to mask annoying noises in order to keep you sane, improve your focus and boost your productivity.” (https://www.noisli.com/)
- WFHappyHour. “Do you WFH but miss happy hour?Join our Slack group where people from all around the world have virtual happy hour parties on Zoom.” (https://wfhappyhour.com/)
- Grammarly. “Millions trust Grammarly’s free writing app to make their online writing clear and effective.” (https://app.grammarly.com/)
WE’RE HERE TO HELP. WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER!
At Office Guardians, we don’t pretend to have all the answers but we want you to know that we’re in your corner and as entrepreneurs, leaders, coworkers, parents, family, friends and neighbours, we understand how you feel – if you feel stuck in your business, wondering how you respond to the daily changes in the industry, what do do when projects dry up or you have to close your doors to keep people safe or have your teams work remotely – let’s talk. Here’s a link to schedule a free half-hour where we can chat together and brainstorm creative solutions that will allow you to thrive in this environment – we’re all in this together and we’ll give you our best.