Work from Home Like a Pro
With the COVID-19 pandemic, every company has been impacted in one way or another. Many companies have chosen to take their teams remote for the health and safety of their staff. The choice to have employees work remotely is an incredibly difficult one for managers and company leaders. Managing remote teams can bring new challenges to leaders because what used to be an in person meeting, quick water cooler chat, or ” just popping in for a quick update” turns into scheduled calls, countless more emails, and endless zoom meetings to keep teams functioning cohesively and projects moving along. But for employees, going from working in an office full time to working from home can also bring new unforeseen challenges.
Because the company I work for has teams spread across so many areas, I worked remotely prior to the pandemic due to frequent travel and my own distance from the local office, and I can personally attest to the awkwardness of the shift from being “ready” every day, to being “home me” every day. That was my initial struggle as well, and one that I ended up watching countless employees and colleagues of mine also encounter and struggle. You know the drill, you decide to stay up late and then sleep in a bit more than normal, because “hey – you don’t have to get ready or commute tomorrow!”. In the beginning, it can almost feel like a snow day… sort of fun, being home more, being closer to family if you are married and/or have kids at home. But after a while, it starts to drag on you. There are so many more emails. So many more zoom calls. And so much more you need to do. But you just feel… “blah” and a bit well, drab dare I say it!
Don’t fall into the “Work from Home Woes”! Here are a few tips I’ve come to learn during my time working from home – both pre-COVID, and during.
First, and Foremost, Recognize When Remote Work Isn’t for You
Working from home isn’t for everyone. Maybe you can’t focus because everything in your home feels like it needs your attention. Maybe you actually NEED the company of others to do your work, or you’re feeling too alone and crave a social encounter every now and then. I encourage those who it isn’t for to recognize this EARLY on and find a better balance that maybe includes (safely) going into an office or a public space a few days a week to work. If your company’s offices aren’t open, find a quiet coffee shop, friend or family member’s home to “escape” to a new/different place, or seek out a local rental working space. If you have children at home who don’t have a space to learn other than home, try finding a balance with a sitter or an occasional nanny to give yourself a break every now and then.
Find a Dedicated “Work” Space
For those who are trying to master remote working, having a space specifically dedicated for just work is very important. This ensures that while you are sitting in this space, you have minimal distractions and are in the right mindset to do your work. Set aside a small desk or corner in your home to ensure it is free from distractions and keep it clean and clear of clutter.
Try: A rarely used dining room table, breakfast nook, or setup a small desk in a spare bedroom, basement or in your bedroom if you don’t have a dedicated room home office.
Pro-Tip: Most cable and streaming TV services have streaming music you can play in the background to keep things interesting but not overwhelming. Don’t watch TV shows or movies though, this is a distraction you’ll need to avoid because it may cause you to be less productive.
Keep Your Routines While Working at Home
I firmly believe this is the most important aspect of remote working, and I cannot stress it enough! Keep your routine the same. If you’re used to waking up at 6 am, taking a shower, doing your hair and getting dressed for the day, then having breakfast, and getting your family / kids ready for their day, KEEP DOING THIS. By no means does working from home mean that you should slack off, sleep in, and start your day only half assembled thinking you’re able to fully tackle the day. Having a sound schedule and routine can go a long way in how you work remotely. It is important to get up and “get ready” to work, in whatever way this means for you.
When you mentally “feel” like you’re getting ready for work, your frame of mind will be in gear and ready to tackle the work day. When you’re overly relaxed and still tired because you haven’t allowed yourself the proper mind space to officially wake up – you cause yourself to run on in a half ready or laxed mode throughout the day and may not feel like your full self.
Bathe/shower when you normally do. Get dressed. Do something- anything – with your hair. You may not need to fully dress the way you did previously, but wear something that makes you feel put together, even if it is a relatively nice shirt and leggings or gym shorts – comfy but still professional from the shirt up. Making yourself feel ready for your workday is the absolute key to starting your day off right. Do just enough that you feel good about yourself. Maybe for you this means a slight bit of hair styling, a touch of mascara and some lip-gloss, and a matching outfit of sweater and leggings – whatever it is, keep your routine the same, and make sure you feel put together to start your day.
Pro-tip: I used to plan my outfits for the week on Sundays after having done laundry. Now, while working from home I still do this, even if they are a combination of sweaters and leggings instead of dress pants and shirts, dresses, and skirts. It still helps me keep my options minimized to a set of choices that are pre-assembled and ready to wear!
Develop a Daily Balance – Just Like in the Office
Ensuring proper balance throughout the day is also critical. Encourage yourself to take breaks, allow yourself to eat lunch or snacks at reasonable times, and go take a walk outside or load the dishwasher if you need to. Having a few 10-20 minute breaks away from your computer throughout the day can go far to helping you feel like your days are productive and still flexible. If you think about your previous office life – you likely often had moments of chit chat at the water cooler, in the lunch room, or at a team mate’s work space throughout the day. It’s important to continue this “break taking” even while at home. Don’t take working from home to mean that you can’t step away for just a moment. It will help clear your thoughts so that when you step back to it, you’re able to focus better.
Try: 1 morning break around 10am, lunch at noon, and 1 break around 2pm. Things like a quick walk, changing laundry, wiping down the kitchen counters, or calling a friend can help take your mind off anything that you might be struggling with or need to step away from for a breath.
Pro-tip: If you’re used to packing a lunch for yourself the night before a work day, keep doing this! It will help ensure that your “lunch break” is hassle free and ready for you every day when it’s time for you to step away for lunch – leaving you more time to chill, less time to prep and cook or make your lunch! I’m starting to read while I eat lately, which is a great and quick mini-escape!
Oh… and those ENDLESS Zoom Calls?
If you’re new to the virtual calling/meeting platform, prepare for the call a bit early – and start working with your equipment maybe 15 minutes or so before. Test your internet connection, camera and microphone so you’ll know if you need to dial in for audio by phone. Make sure the space around you is tidy and free from distractions, and ensure there is a clear, unimpeded view of you in the camera’s window.
Have your notes and questions for the meeting available on a notepad or piece of paper nearby. Feel free to check them often, but don’t stare down the entire time. You should be familiar with these notes since they are yours. During the call, make sure to look directly into the screen, not off into space, and speak as clearly as possible. Pausing lightly after speaking sometimes helps during these conversations to ensure you aren’t speaking over anyone if there is a lag on the screen.
Try: Wearing solid colors so that your clothes don’t give off a vibrating effect. Stripes and other patterns can often cause issues with screens that are unfavorable.
Pro-Tip: Feeling washed out while you stare at yourself in the Zoom screen all day? Try moving to a space where there’s a window in front of you (not behind you – this causes lighting issues with your camera). Also try adding a few curls to the front of your hair, and use a touch of bronzer on your face in each area that the sun would normal kiss your face (think apples of cheeks, right above eyebrows, top of round on chin, and a quick swipe down your nose). It will add a bit of color to you that makes you look incredibly fresh and ready – not washed out and craving sunshine.
And Lastly… STOP WORKING
One thing people often forget about is that we need to ensure we stop working at a reasonable time. Just because you are home “at work” doesn’t mean that your workday never stops. Overworking yourself is not trendy or cool. While it’s ok to occasionally work late to finish a project on deadline, setting boundaries for yourself each day can ensure that your mind has the ability to shut off the work day and begin personal life time. Working too late into the evening can cause your mind to not shut work off, leading you to less quality sleep, or even dreaming about work, which may cause you to feel like it never ends! Turn your workday off at or by a certain time of each day to ensure this doesn’t become a habit!
Have a great work from home tip to share? Drop us a line in the comments!