Updated: Apr 3, 2020
The global spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, is keeping people at home. Across the United States and Canada, preventative measures have been put in place to decrease the risk of infection and stop the spread of the virus. Conferences have been cancelled, virtual meetings have zoomed (all puns intended), and businesses have been urged to allow employees to work from home where possible.
Here at Integrated Informatics, much of our team works remote in addition to those based in our head offices as well as on-site for clients. This, of course, is under normal circumstances. Now that businesses and homes across North America are on lock-down, all of our employees in Houston, Calgary, and St. John's are working from home with the added flexibility they need to care for themselves and their families.
While many of us know the advantages of being able to work remotely, we also know the challenges. It can take time for teams to adjust to that WFH (or "Work From Home") life and, more so, to transition to the sense of solitude and added accountability it inherently brings. The good thing about this, however, is that everyone who works remotely has something in common.
Everyone who works from home must decide when to work, where to work, and where the boundaries between their work and personal life stand...and they must do this on their own.
While it is true that it is up to each individual to figure out the work style that fits them, our team is always willing to offer advice to fellow coworkers new to the WFH life. We like to help where we can - and maintaining productivity no matter the distance is certainly on our resume. We have put together 15 tips for leading a fruitful remote-working life based on our own experiences and the lessons we have learned along the way.
1. Keep as close to your normal business hours as possible.
For most employees, your work hours are determined based on your business's operating hours, your commute time, the availability of staff across different time zones, etc. You may be used to starting work at 8 AM and leaving the office by 5 PM. You may even be someone who arrives in the office by 6 AM to beat traffic, heading home as early as 3 PM. No matter the case, most experts would recommend sticking to your normal hours as closely as possible.
Why exactly? Well, there are a number of reasons. It will help get you moving in the morning since the start time is already part of your daily routine. It also gives your coworkers the opportunity to communicate with you as usual given that they are also used to this schedule. Most importantly though is that it helps you avoid the dreaded "work creep" which can be one of the biggest challenges when WFH.
Treating your Close-Of-Business time the same way at home as you would in the office is important to ensure you are taking time for both yourself and your family.
2. Carve out a dedicated workspace in your home.
This is easily one of the most overused WFH tips, but that does not make it any less valuable. While you do not have to have a full desk set-up at home, it is recommended to designate a space as your "work zone" even if it is in a location where you have to break it down at the end of each day.
Having this space carved out not only gives you a comfortable (and hopefully ergonomic!) place to get things done, it also acts as a way to set your mind for work-mode.
Not to mention, it is a reminder to those you live with that you are - in fact - working and may not want to be bothered (see Tip #7 for more information about this).
3. With that said - Do not be afraid to change up where you work. Just be careful not to make it too comfortable.
When you are working from home, it can be tempting to grab your laptop and head straight to the couch. Unfortunately, this is not the best choice for everyone. For some people, it can be harder to concentrate when they are working from spaces that are typically for more leisurely activities like binge-watching Netflix.
Need a change of scenery within your four walls? Try moving to the dining table, kitchen counter, or even setting up outside if your Wi-Fi connection allows.
4. Try to stick to your morning routine - or at the very least, create one that works for you when WFH.
Arguably one of the most convenient aspects of working remote is the lack of a commute. It cuts down on time and frustration. For some people, however, this lack of urgency has the potential to wreck an otherwise productive morning.
It is too easy to roll out of bed five minutes before start-time, brewing your coffee while your computer boots up. This can sound fun for the first couple of days. Unfortunately, it can easily turn into a bad habit - and one that is difficult to shake when moving back to the office.
The simplest way to combat this is to stick as closely to your regular routine as possible or even develop a routine for your WFH time that offers some of the same elements as your normal one. For instance, go for a walk, stream an at-home workout video, learn how to make your favorite coffee drink, etc. The goal is to stay on track, mentally and physically preparing you for the day ahead.
5. Get dressed. Seriously.
While you do not have to put on a suit and tie - unless you really want to! - most people working from their home office or dining table would suggest changing into an outfit that does not include pajamas. This is advantageous both for those who may see you via video conference call as well as the simple mental shift that comes with changing into clothes better suited for the job at hand.
6. Update your to-do list every morning.
If you are not already a fan of to-do lists... First, why?? Second, listen up. They will be your best friend, your boss, and your ruler when working remotely. Everyone takes a different approach for when they create them, how often they check items off, and the format they use to organize them. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your to-do list...
Limit your Daily List to the 3 to 5 most important tasks to get done. This helps prevent being overwhelmed by how much you can realistically get accomplished in the hours you are on the clock.
If there are more than 5 tasks you want on the list, consider moving them to a Master List for the week, month, etc. You can then move things to your Daily List as the need (and time) arises.
Update your list every morning at the start of the workday. This refreshes your memory, refocuses your priorities, and provides you the opportunity to modify expectations should a new project arise or a coworker needs your assistance.
If you are a digital nomad, store your lists in an app like Wunderlist, Trello, Evernote, etc. The default Notes app on your computer or phone is also a great option. Bonus points are given if the app you use syncs across all your devices!
If you are a pen and paper type of person, write your to-dos down in a dedicated notepad so you can easily cross things off as they are completed. Also, do not underestimate the power of Post-It notes.