Tips and Tricks for Working From Home
The coronavirus has fundamentally changed the way many organizations operate for the foreseeable future. While governments and businesses around the world tell those with symptoms to self-quarantine and everyone else to practice social distancing, remote work is our new reality. By now, your entire office is probably working remotely because of the growing pandemic. And if you’ve never done this before, it will most certainly be an adjustment for you, your colleagues and your entire organization.
Thanks to consistently updated technologies like Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and Google Hangouts, authenticator apps and cloud computing— not to mention texting and email— it’s no longer crucial to be in the office full-time to be a productive member of the team. As appealing as remote work is to employees, it wouldn’t be such a strong trend if employers didn’t also recognize benefits from their side of the desk. Companies with work-from-anywhere policies can boost employee productivity, reduce turnover and lower organizational costs, according to recent research at Harvard Business School. To successfully work from home, you’ll need to make sure you have the technology you require, a separate workspace, internet service and a few key tricks to keep you focused and productive.
How to Effectively Work From Home
Whether you are working remotely part-time or full-time by choice or by current circumstances— it is important to establish that you are set up to be productive. This includes having a designated workspace with the right technology; ways of dealing with kids, pets or other probable disruptions; and a schedule that allows for the social contact and stimulation that would typically derive from being in a workplace with others. Here are strategies and tips to be a successful remote worker.
Know the Guidelines
Does your employer require a nine-to-five work schedule, or is there flexibility? Are you allowed to work on public Wi-Fi? Which tools or applications will you need, such as Zoom for video conferencing, Slack or Microsoft Teams for group chats, or Trello for project management? If you work for someone else, it is important that your employer lays out the ground rules and ensures you have the necessary equipment, such as a laptop, network access, passcodes, and instructions for login, including two-factor authentication. If you work for yourself, you might need many of the same tools.
Set Up a Functional Work Space
Not everyone has a designated home office, but it is critical to have a private, quiet space for your work. If you can, separate your work area from your personal spaces and use it just for work. Don’t let the dining room table become the source for stacked papers, folders— or God forbid, a printer. A dedicated workspace (ideally one where you can close the door) is a solid way to keep work and life separate— and ensure you are not constantly reminded of your deadlines while sitting down for dinner. At the end of the day, close the door (if you can), walk away, and try not to return to your workspace until the following morning.
If you have a barking dog or construction work going on outside your window, you might consider investing in noise cancelling headphones, such as Apple’s AirPod Pros. If the kids are home and you’re without childcare, see if your spouse (or a neighbor in a similar situation) can take turns with care—which may mean speaking to your boss about adjusting your daily work schedule to accommodate for that.
Now more than ever we are finding new and creative ways to form that special social interaction while still abiding by social distancing mandates. Some people love the thought of working in solitude, but even the most introverted among us can start to feel a little claustrophobic after a few weeks at home, alone, staring at the same project for hours. It's key to schedule some thing to break up a day of just working in the house. Try to schedule a virtual lunch date with a friend or another coworker who also works remotely, call a family member, do a quick online exercise class (YouTube has it all), or take a stroll around the block. Having these things to look forward to in your day will make the work go by faster and might also be a great excuse to get out of those pajama pants.
Plan Extra Social Interactions
Beware of Workaholic Tendencies
Efficiency and flexibility are among the top reasons why employees want to work from home, along with shorter hours (think of all you could accomplish with eight hours straight of keyboard-pounding, uninterrupted by emails or daily staff meetings). But sometimes, flexibility can be too much of a good thing. When your office is always there, waiting, with that deadline looming over your head, it’s hard to just close the door and pretended you’ve left for the day. Many home-based workers find themselves working more hours, not fewer, logging in work time on nights and weekends, just because it’s there and they can’t ignore it.
The Bottom Line
Working from home can be exciting, empowering and even profitable, provided you are realistic about the pros and cons. Whether you are a freelancer, a part-time or full-time employee who just doesn’t hit the office on certain days, it’s a way to escape the daily grind. But there are added responsibilities that come with freedom, not to mention planning, foresight, self-discipline and focus. Oh, yes, and of course hours of uninterrupted hard work. As many home-based employees will tell you, it’s not easier to work from home— it’s just a different location.