New to remote work? Here’s some advice to make remote work…work
If you’re among the millions who have rather suddenly found themselves working from home, you may also be among the millions for whom remote work is a new experience. Working from home – and let’s focus on that for now, since no one is doing the working at Starbucks or the local pub thing (for now, at least) – can be a jarring transition.
Working from home can be a freeing, wondrous experience from some and a stressful, isolating experience for others. If you’re among those who’ve found themselves working from home due to the coronavirus, here’s hoping you’ve settled into a productive home-work environment. But whether you have done so or you are still struggling, here are some tips help make your workday less stressful, more effective and healthier.
Create a Dedicated Workspace
On a Friday in mid-March you were in the office. The following Monday you found yourself working at home. Did you have a dedicated space in which you could now work? Maybe not! And if there’s any one tip a seasoned remote worker will offer, it’s creating your own dedicated workspace.
What is a dedicated workspace? Let’s start with what it is not. A dedicated workspace is not your bed. It is not your couch. It is not a pool floatie. A dedicated workspace is an area where you can focus your mind on your tasks and minimize distractions. Sure, your bed might be a place with minimal distractions, but it’s not ideal for focusing your mind on work. And a couch might be a great place to focus on work but it’s also usually in the middle of your house – meaning endless distractions are likely swirling around you.
Look at this situation as an opportunity to create a workspace tailored to you rather than being plopped into a workspace designed by someone you never met.
For many people working form home, that also means working amongst families. For those with children who’ve had school shutdown, this situation may very well mean juggling childcare with work. Depending on the age of your children, establishing boundaries might take different forms. Generally, what we mean is that, to the extent your personal situation allows, communicate with your family members and lay some ground rules about interacting with you during work.
Speaking from personal experience, my spouse works part time at a hospital. So that means half the week it’s me and our two boys. They’ve got distance learning to contend with whilst I’ve got my job to do. They have questions they often feel the need to ask about every 4 minutes or so. I don’t shut them out completely during the day, but we’ve had conversations about how often they’re permitted to visit my dedicated workspace. And they understand that if my door is closed – that means I’m not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. We allow them to do the same when they’re doing schoolwork in their workspaces. Is our arrangement perfect? Nope, not even close. All three of us sometimes violate the boundaries (like literally just now I had to go help with some WiFi connectivity issues so my kids could login to their distance learning applications in their rooms). But it helps me get my work done and it helps them get theirs done.
Take Actual Breaks
When you’re working from home it’s easy to forget to take actual breaks. You work through breakfast, through lunch and right on up until dinner – and sometimes after dinner too. Don’t do that! It is not good for you. When you were at the office, ideally you took occasional breaks to have interactions with people, go on a walk, run errands on your lunch hour…you remember, doing actual daily life stuff.
When you’re working from home, isolation can be real, family life stressors still exist, work deadlines still loom and a hundred other things can quickly intrude on the fantasy of working from home as a paradise and expose it for the challenge it can actually be. Taking regular breaks during your workday are vital to your wellbeing as an employee and as a human being.
Make Use of Video Calls
We’re all missing face-to-face interaction with people other than those with whom we live with. In fact, at this point most of us could probably stand to take a short break from family if we’re honest. You need to communicate with other people via means besides text and email. If you’re using Microsoft Teams, the chat option is good. The phone call option is great. But don’t neglect to use video every now and then to talk to your colleagues.
Conduct video calls with your colleagues. Try to make it a habit that instead of exclusively using chat or the phone option you choose to click the little video camera icon. With Teams it’s easy to talk to colleagues via video. You can even add a fun background to your Teams video calls. Think of it just as you would in a traditional office setting. Do you get up from your desk to go see someone every time you need something or have a question? No, of course not, usually an email or call will suffice. But sometimes you do need to see someone when you’re engaging with them. It’s the same thing here – if your question or need would be best addressed in a face-to-face situation, then use video calls to approximate that.
Don’t Neglect Your Health
If you belong to a gym, it’s probably closed. If you went on long lunchtime walks with colleagues, well, you’re not doing that at the moment. And if working from home is new to you, it can be easy to forget to take care of your health – physical and mental.
Obviously, we’re IT consultants, not health consultants. But it should go without saying that it’s important you take time out of your day to exercise and relieve stress. Take walks where possible. Stop working every hour or so and spend 60 seconds doing pushups or squats and other body weight exercises. Take 15 minutes at least twice a day to go outside and enjoy nice weather.
The overall point being that in our stay-at-home, work-from-home situation, there’s actually a lot more to deal with than you ever might have guessed. There’s a lot of people and things demanding your attention. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to remember. Just don’t forget about taking care of yourself, too.