14 Tips For Working From HomeKudzai
The global spread of COVID-19 is keeping people at home. A greater portion of the world is on lockdown, and, even in places that aren’t, people are encouraged to stay at home. Where it’s possible, employers are encouraging or requiring people to work from home for an indeterminate amount of time. If you’re new to the work-from-home lifestyle, whether due to coronavirus or because you’ve managed to find a remote-based job, you’ll need to change some of your habits and routines to make working from home a success.
Everyone who works remotely has to figure out when to work, where to work, and how to create boundaries between work and personal life. What about office equipment, career development, training opportunities, and building relationships with colleagues? Working remotely, especially when working from home most of the time, means figuring out these issues and others. Here are 14 tips for leading a better and more productive remote-working life, based on my experience and what I’ve learned from others.
- Maintain Regular Hours
Set a schedule, and stick to it…most of the time. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many remote workers maintain work-life balance. That said, one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, and sometimes you need to extend your day or start early.
Automatic time-tracking apps, such as Rescue Time, let you check in on whether you’re sticking to your schedule. They can also help you figure out what times of day you’re most productive versus when you slack off. You can use that information to your advantage by reserving your hours of high focus for your most important tasks.
- Create a Morning Routine
Deciding you’ll sit down at your desk and start work at a certain time is one thing. Creating a routine that guides you into the chair is another. What in your morning routine indicates you’re about to start work? It might be making a cup of coffee. It might be returning home after a jog. It might be getting dressed. A routine can be more powerful than a clock at helping you get started each day.
- Set Ground Rules with the People in Your Space
Set ground rules with other people in your home or who share your space for when you work. If you have children, they need clear rules about what they can and cannot do during that time.
- Schedule Breaks
Know your company’s policy on break times and take them. If you’re self-employed, give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks.
- Don’t Hesitate to Ask for What You Need
If you’re employed by a company or organization that supports your work-from-home setup, request the equipment you need as soon as you start working from home, or within a day or two when you realize you need something new. It’s extremely important to set precedents early that you will ask for what you need to get your job done comfortably, including the right monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, printer, software, and so forth. Organizations that are accustomed to remote employees often have a budget for home office equipment. It also doesn’t hurt to ask whether there’s a loan agreement or who will pay for returns or disposal of outdated equipment.
If you’re working from home unexpectedly due to coronavirus, ask for what you need within reason. You could be working from home for weeks on end and you should be comfortable, but ordering a new office chair and desk might be asking too much. Consider a mouse and keyboard, plus a back-supporting cushion instead.
- Keep a Dedicated Office Space
In an ideal world, remote employees would have not only a dedicated office, but also two computers, one for work and one for personal use. It’s more secure for the employer, and it lets you do all your personal activities in private. But not everyone has a separate office in their home, and keeping two machines isn’t always realistic. Instead, dedicate a desk and some peripherals only for work use. For example, when your laptop is hooked up to the monitor and external keyboard, it’s work time. When it’s on your lap, that’s personal time. You may want to go as far as partitioning your hard drive and creating a separate user account for work.
- Socialize with Colleagues
Loneliness, disconnect, and isolation are common problems in remote work life, especially for extroverts. Employees can create groups on platform such as WhatsApp where remote employees can talk about common interests, meetups for people in the same region, and (once the coronavirus ends) in-person meetups. It’s important to figure out how much interaction you need to feel connected and included. Even if you’re highly introverted and don’t like socializing, give a few interactive experiences a try so that you’re familiar with them if you ever decide you want them.
- “Show Up” to Meetings and Be Heard
Certainly, you’ll take part in video conferences and conference calls, but it’s a good idea to attend optional meetings sometimes, too. Be sure to speak up during the meeting so everyone knows you’re on the call. A simple, “Thanks, everyone. Bye!” at the close of a meeting will go a long way toward making your presence known.
- Take Sick Days
When you’re not well, take the sick time you need. If sick days are part of your compensation package, take the time off that you need. Not taking it is like throwing away money. If you’re a freelancer who doesn’t have paid sick days, it can be very easy to fall into the opposite time-is-money trap and try to power through illnesses. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s best to rest and get better so that you can be your most productive self in the long term.
- Look for Training Opportunities
When you’re not in an office with your fellow employees, you might miss out on training and skills development courses that are taught in person. Your company might even forget to add you to its online training courses. It can be tempting to regard this as a dodged bullet, but you might be missing out on an opportunity to learn something useful. Speak up and make sure you’re included.
In addition to top-down training, you can request online or in-person courses, training, and coaching if you need it.
Working remotely requires you to overcommunicate. Tell everyone who needs to know about your schedule and availability often. When you finish a project or important task, say so. Overcommunicating doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write a five-paragraph essay to explain your every move, but it does mean repeating yourself.
- Be Positive
I like succinct and clear messages, but I know that the less face time I have with people, the less they know how to interpret my tone in writing. When you work remotely full-time, you must be positive, to the point where it may feel like you’re being overly positive. Otherwise, you risk sounding rude and inconsiderate. It’s unfortunate, but true. So embrace the exclamation point! Find your favorite emoji :D. You’re going to need them.
- Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
The most successful remote employees have a reputation for being extremely disciplined. After all, it takes serious focus to do any full-time office job from an unconventional space. That said, everyone lets their attention drift sometimes. If you find yourself working one minute and booking flights for your upcoming vacation the next, don’t reprimand yourself too harshly. Instead, ask yourself whether people in an office setting do the same thing. If the answer is yes, cut yourself some slack, then get back to work.
- End Your Day With a Routine
Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. It might be a sign off on a business task reporting app, an evening dog walk, or a 6 p.m. gym class. Something as simple as shutting down your computer and turning on a favorite podcast will do. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.
Make It Personal
Above all else, figure out what works best for you. Sometimes the answer is apparent, but other times you might need some inspiration from other people who are in the same boat.