Working remotely without previous experience can be a challenging transition. The change of environment, from an office setting to the comfort of your home, may feel very strange to many. Perhaps you rely a lot on face-to-face communication or collaborations with your peers in your work life and may feel very lonely, or you miss the valuable working space that made tackling tasks much more comfortable. Whether you find yourself suddenly working from home due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak or you just landed a remote-based job, here you will find the best practices and strategies to make your remote work experience productive and enjoyable.
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has caught many of us by surprise, and it is probable that you are reading this article due to this. As infections increase and governments take preventive actions, many businesses are switching to remote-based work. This is a whole new experience for many, and as attractive as it may sound, working-from-home may not be as easy as it seems. There are many considerations and personal decisions that come into play, such as choosing where and when to work and what boundaries to create between work and personal life. Below we compile the best practices to succeed at your remote work life, maintaining a high level of productivity and good communication with your boss and coworkers.
Work regular hours and have a routine: set a schedule. This will be the basis to maintain a work-life balance. Working remotely sometimes allows for some schedule flexibility, though, so figure out the schedule that works best for you. This means that you may start and end the work day later than usual, as long as you stick to working the regular hours you do on site. Following your usual routine before and after work will also help your body and mind know it is time to start and call off the day.
In the morning, do the thing you usually do before heading to work: drinking a mug of coffee, going for a jog or prepping your lunch for example. Dress up as if you were going to work, perhaps a little more comfortable. This means not working in your pajamas! This will help you be more productive as your brain understands it is time to work and not relax in bed. Lastly, make sure you structure your day like you would in the office to stay on schedule. This planning your day ahead of time and using an online calendar or an agenda that helps you shift gears and start new tasks. Pro-tip: planning group meetings back-to-back will leave you with large uninterrupted times to get your work done.
Set ground rules and boundaries with the people that you share space with: protect your workspace and your time! Make sure your family members or roommates understand that you are busy and should not be disturbed during the work day (unless there is an emergency, of course). If you have children, you need to communicate strict rules on how interaction between you two will occur during the day. Think about little incidents in which you may get interrupted, such as receiving a package or letting the dog out. It is important for them to understand that working from home does not necessarily mean you are at home.
Know your employer’s policies and expectations for remote work, and clarify them with your team: ask your boss or the HR department for guidelines on working during a crisis. They likely have remote work policies, procedures and expectations listed. As remote work may be a new experience for you, having clear guidelines will help you during transition and organize yourself. Make sure your team and colleagues are on the same page, as communication will become less personal and perhaps slower at first. Make sure you are all on the same page. Which leads us to our next tip.
Over-communicate: since your colleagues and supervisors are not around to know about your progress, you need to communicate more than what you usually do on site. This does not mean writing long emails all the time, but letting everyone know important milestones you have achieved, tasks that have been completed, and your availability during the week. You might think you are being repetitive at times, but remote workers need to be proactive in order to generate the impact that just their presence on site would.
Have a comfortable space dedicated for work and ask for what you need: it is important to differentiate personal and work space while working remotely. This will allow you to be more efficient but also contribute towards the routine you have set and intend to follow. Make sure you select a comfortable place at your house where you can work without being interrupted or easily distracted. Think about what technologies and appliances you will need to perform your work and do not be afraid to ask your employer for them. Make sure, however, that you ask for essential work items such as a monitor, keyboard, printer or software. Companies will usually support remote workers with these needs, especially during an unforeseen situation such as the COVID-19 outbreak. Try not to mix both work and personal use on the same device, and if you do, make it easy to differentiate. Such as navigating the internet for work purposes on a different browser than for personal reasons, or using different login accounts for each type. Lastly, make sure you are comfortable. Figure out at first if your desk is too tall or your chair is too uncomfortable, and make proper changes. Investing in personal preferences will make your remote work life much more enjoyable later on.
Take breaks and know when to call it a day: knowing your company’s break policy in mind, make sure to take them. When working remotely it can feel a little odd to take breaks, since you are in the comfort of a familiar environment already. Also, without colleagues to casually talk to or discuss projects with, you may stay in front of your computer screen for longer than you should. Make sure to schedule breaks and remind yourself of them however you feel most comfortable. These breaks may be taking a short walk, eating a quick lunch while talking with a friend, or performing a house task you may enjoy. Take your breaks away from your workspace, this will help you refresh and increase your productivity once you get back to your desk. Also, make sure to know when to call it a day. You may not feel the urge to ‘clock out’ because you are at home already, but in order to not burnout throughout time and keep a healthy and productive work style, set an alarm once your day is over. End your day with a routine of your liking, just like you start it in the morning.
Keep socializing with your colleagues: besides engaging with your team and colleagues for work purposes, make sure you keep casual social interactions with them during your day. Remote work may feel lonely and disconnected in the beginning, but it does not have to be like that. Suggest chat channels for non-work related interactions and schedule video calls with your peers during your breaks. It is important to keep having that human interaction that increases everyone’s mood. Also, as you did when you were working on-site.
Be prepared by having your company's data in the cloud: companies that have access to important operational data in the cloud have a clear advantage as we quickly move to remote working environments. Manufacturers may have difficulty dispersing their workforce vs. other types of businesses because of course workers are largely doing their jobs in the factory. However, recent guidelines have indicated that reducing the concentration of people as much as possible can be helpful to protect the entire workforce. This means that roles that can be dispersed to working from home, should be. It might not have been possible to disperse operations and production management personnel a few years ago because there would have been no provision for allowing them access to real time data for accurate decision-making. That has changed with solutions like Worximity that are easy to implement, yet can offer distributed and powerful decision-making support.
Be positive: last tip on working remotely, stay positive! Whether this a temporary experience or a new full-time position, do not be too hard on yourself during the transition. It is completely normal to feel a little odd through any changes in your life, and it may take some time to get used to them. The tips presented here are all to help you during this transition, so think about the pros of working from home and make the most out of the experience! You will most likely become a more organized and disciplined person, with the flexibility of working in different types of environments.
Worximity has moved to working fully remotely as we've had to adapt to recent events. If you have any questions or thoughts about how you can make a transition to working remotely, please feel free to reach out!