The number of organizations that offer flexible or completely remote work opportunities has steadily increased over the past few years. However, the majority of the world’s workforce still works from an office. As we all do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19, many organizations are quickly adapting to remote work, creating many first-time work from home (WFH) employees.
We recently brought you suggestions for how managers can help transition their teams into remote work. Today we want to share a few more easily-applicable lessons from our years working remotely that all employees can use during this abrupt transition.
I worked as the sole remote employee at my previous employer, BrightGauge. Let me tell you, transitioning to remote-work is not seamless. It’s like a personal science experiment; you have to perform a lot of small tests to see what makes you most effective. The beauty of remote-work is that if a process isn’t producing, you have much more leeway to adjust it to work in your favor.
We hope the following tips help improve your quality of work and your work-life balance while you transition into WFH.
1. Get Comfortable
Set-up a dedicated workplace where you can minimize noise and distractions. Ideally this is a separate room, but if that’s not possible, set-up in a quieter place (with lots of light) that maximizes your ability to focus.
Depending on the nature of your work, a set of noise cancelling headphones, a secondary monitor, a laptop stand, and bluetooth keyboard & mouse/trackpad can make a huge impact in how quickly you can settle-in and maintain output.
Many of you are splitting your work duties with child and/or parental care; you can only do so much in regards to finding peace, quiet, and comfort amidst a packed house. I see this second-hand through Zoom meetings daily. As a childless, spouseless silverback millennial, I salute you - that is not a walk in the park. The remaining tips are more within your control and will hopefully help you remain focused and productive despite your surroundings.
2. Time Blocking: Optimize Your Schedule
Start each week - or morning - surveying your calendar. Assess what has to be accomplished and block off your schedule to ensure it gets done. A huge part of this is knowing when you are most productive and arranging your work around that schedule. Lessen your reliance on the 9-5. A remote day is more fluid, take advantage of the extra time available to you.
I suggest organizing your day into deep-work blocks to knock out the more focus-requiring elements and shorter reactive work blocks to respond to emails and internal communication channels.
One last thing to note: schedule time for yourself. Trying to fit all the things you want to accomplish within an office workday can be stressful. Leverage the additional time saved from your commute to knock-out a midday run, a long lunch, or just helping around the household. Making time to accomplish more of your personal needs/goals will have a positive impact on your work output.
3. Keep a Routine
Wake up as you would when you commuted to work. Give yourself time to prepare and focus on the day ahead. I strongly suggest not rolling out of bed and jumping on the computer, as the lack of adjustment can easily lead to a decrease in morning output….
…..Unless that’s already part of your routine. Our CEO, Brian, wakes up at 4am everyday and begins to write and that works for him. Different strokes for different folks.
I’ve made a habit to wake up, throw on a work-related podcast and go for a walk. A little movement and brain stimulation before flipping-on work-mode is a must. Truth be told, I sort of forgot how nice a quiet morning walk can be. Newfound appreciation for everyday acts we tend to take for granted can be a silver lining amongst all this uncertainty.
Over communicate up, down, and across the chain, especially in the early going.
It’s super important to stay connected. Make it a daily habit to update your team via email, Slack, Teams, and Zoom with how things are going - obviously about work - but equally important, with your COVID-19 experience/response. This is a first-time event for almost all of us and little intermittent interactions will go a huge way in helping us all stay connected.
To expand here, the transition to remote work means your manager can’t quickly see what you’re up to or read your body language. Help your managers in their transition - it’s new for them too - by communicating with him/her during your daily or weekly 1:1s so they know how you’re holding up and that you’re getting your work done.
5. Reflect on the Workday
Working from home, it’s important to do quick self-assessments. Daily write-ups force you to reflect on what you’ve learned and accomplished. Without reflection, sometimes that growth can go unnoticed. A few short sentences or a bulleted list is all you need to get going.
Important: We recommend sharing these reflections with your manager and potentially your entire team as the feedback and/or minor course corrections received are massively important during the early stages of a remote transition. A shared Google doc, dedicated Slack or Teams channel, or performance management tools are great places to kickstart your writing.
We're Here to Help
This is one of those shared experiences where we all must come together. Remote work can be a massively positive experience if done right. We’d love to offer our remote-work expertise to anyone reading this.
If you are having trouble adjusting to the newness of WFH, please reach out and let’s work together to improve your situation: firstname.lastname@example.org