Author | Katie Levy, Salesforce Consultant
Many of us are accustomed to traveling to an office setting for work every day. Whether that office is a skyscraper, suburban campus, or somewhere else entirely, we get up, move through our morning routines, leave home, and head to brick and mortar buildings for work.
At HigherEchelon, a leadership consulting firm, we have long embraced a remote working culture whenever possible, but amid COVID-19 concerns, we know employees in many industries across the country and around the world are embracing teleworking as a new and immediate necessity. For those new to the virtual office environment, try these tips to stay productive in a remote work setting.
Give yourself a dedicated office space.
A space you can call your office is essential. It doesn’t have to be an entire room; it can be a corner, a nook, any space you can designate as your workspace works (pun intended)! Teleworking from the kitchen table or couch might sound like fun, but working in spaces normally reserved for leisure time can make being productive, and relaxing when the workday is over, challenging.
Set up a desk or table in a place you can isolate as your workspace and do your best to make it feel like a real office. If opportunities to source things outside of the home are limited, as is the case for many right now, work with what you have. Collect things like a lamp for soft lighting, a container to hold writing utensils, photos of friends and family to post on the wall, even houseplants if you have them. You may find you need to move around your living quarters during the day to be productive but having a home base makes a difference.
Get in a workday routine.
If you are used to traveling to and working in an office outside of your home, it can be tricky to figure out how to switch your brain into “work mode” if your routine no longer includes leaving the house.
When you work from home, start your day as you would if you planned to head to an office. Set an alarm, shower, put on what you would normally wear to work, find some coffee, have a solid breakfast, sit down at your desk, and get going for the day. Avoid working in your PJs. For some, putting on shoes helps as well. Develop a routine that makes sense for you and stick to it.
Set your work hours and take breaks.
When you are in an office, it can be easier to leave work when you physically leave work. But when work is in your home, it can be harder to disconnect. Developing work hour norms (and boundaries) in keeping with your company’s norms can be huge in adjusting to working remotely.
Think about when you will start working, stop working, take lunch, and take breaks. Consider scheduling your lunch and breaks in your calendar. On your breaks, walk around the home, up and down the stairs if you have them; get up and get moving. If you have a device that can remind you to stand up every 45-60 minutes, use it. When your workday ends, shut your laptop and leave work behind until the next day. Protect that free time. There might be days when you are unable to stick to a schedule but starting with one can help.
Stay connected to your coworkers.
You won’t have opportunities to bump into people around the proverbial water cooler, but those types of interactions are so important when it comes to building and fostering relationships. You can still talk about your weekends, your families, your plans, just about anything without physically being in the same space, but it does require a purposeful approach.
Remote collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams can help you check in with your coworkers when they are available, and if your company uses Salesforce like HigherEchelon does, Salesforce Chatter can be a great group messaging tool.
Beyond typing messages, you can also offer to talk live as often as it makes sense. Always be on video for conference calls and meetings if it is an option; virtual face time is valuable. If you are in a supervisory role, consider requiring that video is on unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Set and observe ground rules in a shared household.
If you live with other people and/or have pets, it can be tempting to interact with them as much as possible, given you are all in the same space. But setting rules around when and how those interactions can take place will help with productivity and help you avoid misunderstandings.
Think about what you need in order to be productive, and communicate those needs to your spouse, children, roommates, etc. Inevitably, there will be times when those ground rules cannot be observed but establishing them and trying to keep them in place is a good start.
Be flexible, try things, and adjust.
It may take time to figure out a morning routine and how to switch into “work mode.” It may take even more time to get your home office space set up the way you need it to be and to figure out the best ground rules for maximized productivity. You could find once you set rules, they work for a short time but eventually need to be changed.
Allow yourself to learn lessons and adapt accordingly. If you need alarms to remind yourself to get up and walk around, calendar appointments to remind you to take lunch, and a Bluetooth headset so you can stand during meetings, do that even if others in your “office” don’t. You may also learn that you really need those water cooler relationships to feel like a part of a team, so take the first step in deliberately cultivating them – send a chat to a colleague or pick up the phone!
In general, transitions, especially in stressful times, are challenging for everyone. Be patient with yourself, your colleagues, those you share your home with.
Bottom line? Working remotely can be fantastic, but what works for you will be entirely up to you to figure out. Read articles like this, try some of the ideas, and adjust as you learn more about what you need.