During this global health crisis, we’re all spending more time around the house – especially those of us who work from home. Whether you occasionally worked remotely before the pandemic or experienced it for the first time starting in March, it has certainly been an adjustment for the thousands of Americans who made the switch. According to Gallup, in three weeks between March and April, the percentage of remote workers in the United States jumped from 31% to 62%. Of the managers polled by Gallup, 52% say they will allow their employees to work remotely more often going forward.
Since our team went virtual, an unexpected adventure that’s now excitingly permanent, we have formed some great new work habits, discovered a plethora of helpful work-from-home tools and have taken a new look at what work/life balance really means. And because I’m a firm believer in the concepts of “sharing is caring” and “knowledge is power,” here are 10 tips for thriving in a remote work setting.
- Designate an office space. Creating a space that is specifically dedicated to getting your work done can make all the difference. No spare room to call your home office? That’s okay! Just find a spot that you can comfortably work from, ideally outside of your bedroom, and ensure that it’s equipped with the tools you need to be productive. My go-to supplies include post-its, pilot pens, my Bluetooth speaker and my phone stand. Sitting near natural light is a great mood and productivity booster as well.
- Set boundaries. When working from home, boundaries can easily blur. It’s especially tricky for parents who are navigating being home 24/7 with their children. In this new world order, life is a little messier and priorities have shifted for many. Your work schedule may look different and that is okay. Talk to your manager and be transparent about your needs. When possible, block personal and work hours on the team calendar so your colleagues know when you are available. Additionally, ensure that you are stepping away from your work at a designated time each day and, unless it’s an emergency, do not resume until your normal start time the next day.
- Stick to a routine. Routines help us navigate change by providing structure and familiarity. Waking up at the same time each day, getting dressed, eating breakfast, exercising, reading and other choices like these can help set you up for a more successful day. Make sure that your routine works for you and consider what your mind and body need to feel healthy and happy.
- Adapt to your “new normal.” Understand that old habits, systems or processes employed while working in a formal office setting might not work for you at home. Think about what’s working and, more importantly, what’s not. How can you make a change for the better? Maybe you need a scheduled one-on-one meeting with your manager on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to stay connected. Perhaps you used to check emails later in the day and prioritize the most important tasks first, but now you might need to check email before diving in to ensure that you’re up-to-speed on the latest from your clients or team.
- Utilize and honor team calendars and shared file systems. Communication is key. Updating team calendars and shared file systems allows for better collaboration between you and your colleagues. Someone once told me to work as if it’s your last day and keep everything super organized so that your team can take the reins and smoothly pick up where you left off in case you can’t report for duty.
- Stay connected. Talk to your colleagues, clients and friends in the community. We may be physically distanced from one another, but technology allows us to bridge that gap when face-to-face meetings aren’t possible. In a non-pandemic world, scheduling coffee or lunch, attending networking events and switching up your workplace every now and then are all ways to add nice balance to your work week. Seeing and interacting with other people, whether by phone, Zoom or across the table at a restaurant, is key to staying engaged in your job and community.
- Move around. Be sure to take breaks often, even if it’s just for a quick stroll around your house. If you can squeeze in longer walks or more rigorous exercise breaks, that’s great, but keeping it simple by standing up, walking and stretching every hour or so is a sustainable start. Another great way to work movement into your day is to stand or walk while taking calls.
- Get comfortable. Appealing to your senses throughout the workday can help boost productivity. Consider lighting a candle or use a diffuser for a while to make your space smell fresh. Work near natural light and ensure that the room is airy and temperate. Consider investing in blue light blocking glasses to help protect your eyes from excessive screen time. If you enjoy listening to music while working, create a playlist of your favorite tunes. Ensure that you are eating and staying hydrated throughout the day to stay energized and, if it helps, meal prep in advance. Even the décor and cleanliness of your workspace can influence your mood. Customize your space with a few happy photos or paintings while keeping in mind what inspires you.
- Learn. Familiarize yourself with the tools that will help you efficiently do your job from a remote setting. Explore file sharing and task management systems, take online trainings like these from LinkedIn, practice using different video conferencing platforms and dive into helpful articles like this one from Muse or either of these previous Impact blogs:
- Top Tips for Being Tip Top in a Virtual World
- On the Fly: 15 Free or Low-Cost Tech Tools to Give You Virtual Wings
- Unplug. Harkening back to the “set boundaries” tip, unplugging certainly helps maintain a work/life balance and can also breed creativity. When working in a formal office setting, people are often engaging in meetings and conversations that pull them away from their desks and technology a few times each day. Working from home often means a heavier reliance on screen time, and having virtual meetings adds to that. If you can, take a walk, transition to a task like washing dishes or throwing in a load of wash or pull out a notebook and start jotting down ideas. Sometimes even five minutes away from your glowing screen can inspire great thoughts.
There you have it – 10 top takeaways as our team leans into the work-from-home lifestyle. No matter where you’re logging in from, take care of yourself and stay well. Success will follow!