Working from home will be a big adjustment for many of you. Will you get distracted? Will you keep going to the fridge? Can you stay in PJs all day? (We’ll get to that!) And will you give in and watch Netflix?
After over 15 years of working remotely ie. from home, for companies based in Australia and overseas, I can tell you that you will be more productive, still be able to liaise with colleagues and clients and not put on kilos!
Here are seven of my tops tips that are really easy to do and will help you immediately settle into your new work environment.
1. Create a dedicated space
Thinking you can work from the kitchen bench or the couch could be setting yourself up to fail, especially if you’ve got others in the house. By giving yourself a dedicated space it’s not only a physical advantage, but a mental one. This is your new place of work, so when you go to this space you will switch into work mode and know what needs to get done.
Surround yourself with what you would normally have in the office. Printer, stationary, in-tray, whatever defines this as your work space (but don’t clutter!).
2. Have a shower
No, I’m not providing hygiene tips now, but again working from home is as much about the mental as it is the physical. Before you start your day, go through some of your usual routines and spruce yourself up. I’m not suggesting you need to don the suit or do the full make-up (skipping these is an advantage of working from home), but I am saying have the shower and get out of your pyjamas or bathrobe before you start work. It helps put you in the right frame of mind and sets you up for a successful day.
3. Plan your communication strategy
Have the discussion straight away with your manager, colleagues or clients about how you will communicate remotely. Share phone numbers, emails, skype addresses or set up a webinar platform if that’s a good way to stay in touch.
Let people know when you will be available. This is important for your work flow as well as setting some boundaries for when you can switch off. It can be helpful to have a shared calendar, such as Google Calendar, so you can log meetings etc.
I am a big fan of scheduling meeting times. Designating a time to connect with your colleagues helps people to stay on track, feel valued and also feel included.
Note to managers: don’t skip these meetings or check in late unless it’s really necessary. Blowing people off because they are not in your face can be alienating and shows a lack of respect for your employees.
4. Set yourself time frames
Who doesn’t love lists! Plan out your day and prioritise your tasks. Schedule the amount of time that you think each project will require. By doing this it will help you stay focused, maybe reduce the number of times you open the fridge door, and you’ll have a sense of accomplishment when you cross those tasks off the list!
5. Log your work
The first time I had a boss ask me to keep a log of my work, I was honestly a bit peeved. Didn’t they trust me or did they want to look over my shoulder at what I was doing? Maybe there was some of that, but actually it’s a very valuable process to go through and one that I continue today as a self-employed consultant.
By keeping a record of how long each of your tasks takes, you can better plan your day. It also lets you have a good look at whether the most important jobs are getting the proportionate amount of your time. You might be surprised at how long you spend/waste on the less significant tasks.
Being conscious of the time you take on a piece of work can help you stay focused. I also found I could account for a full day, whereas when you are in the office there are so many distractions and unproductive hours. And if someone does want to see a log of work, you have it on hand.
6. Take time out
“My name is Sue Elliot and I’m a workaholic.” I will admit taking time out is one of the hardest things for me. Even before we were confined to self-isolation, working all hours meant I could go days without leaving the house if I didn’t make a conscious effort.
When the laptop is right there it’s tempting to think you will feel better if you answer that nagging email or get a head start on tomorrow’s tasks – but try to avoid this. With steps 1, 3 and 4 in place, you have set up your work space, time frames and expectations.
This is where my usual advice would be to make time to go to the gym or for a jog, catch up with friends and plan social gatherings for some person-to-person contact. I realise that in our new coronavirus environment that comes with new challenges, but it’s important to still set aside time to feel normal and not like you’re at work 24-7.
Plan non-screen time, let yourself enjoy social calls, do yoga in the living room – whatever it takes to have a little break. It’s good for the heart, mind and soul. Plus at the end of the day, it could make this whole ‘work from home’ set up more productive and successful for you!
7. Embrace the new opportunity
I’m hoping that out of this global health crisis, one thing that becomes clear to employers is that they shouldn’t be fearful of people working offsite. Having flexibility can offer value to their staff. When staff are positive and proactive, then productivity isn’t likely to drop.
Good managers won’t see staff working remotely as a threat to their control, but rather an opportunity to expand their teams or look more holistically at their company’s structure and goals. Then there are the economic benefits of not needing to have big, expensive offices to house your entire team.
So if you are forced to work from home while we bunker down to try to help flatten the coronavirus curve, see it as an opportunity to hone your skills and make use of the hours you’d normally spend commuting. Work smart, stay connected and stay safe!