How to Effectively Work from Home
With COVID-19 making its way through the United States, thousands of people have suddenly found that they are remote workers.
This can be really overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. But it can also be very liberating.
From getting started to actually getting work done – it can be a challenge. As a worker, it can feel like sweet freedom. As a boss, you may be worried about your employees actually doing any work.
In this post, we’ll talk about how to effectively work remotely and why bosses shouldn’t be worried about your productivity.
What does it mean to work remotely?
Distributed teams, working remotely, telecommuting are all terms for working from home.
With all of the technology available to us at the tips of our fingers, there’s no reason for anyone to have to go to an office every day.
Unless, of course, you work in a physical environment like policing, firefighting, surgery, etc. Obviously these fields require you to show up every day.
Office workers. Folks that spend time pushing paper, researching, and making phone calls can all work from home.
In fact, if you want to convince your reluctant boss to allow you to work from home, now might be the best time to show her how effective you can be!
Have a Dedicated Workspace
First and foremost, make sure you have a dedicated workspace. You are working, after all.
You should have most, if not all of the same supplies you have at your office desk. Pens, paper, stamps, whatever you reach for on a daily basis at work should be easily accessible while you are working from home.
It doesn’t have to be a huge space.
If you already have a desk, that’s great! Clear off all that clutter that’s been building up over the past years. File away the papers that have been collecting dust, and put that desk to good use.
If you don’t have a desk, a dining room table will work just fine. During work hours, make sure other household members know that this is your space. If you are using the dining room table, they are going to need to find someplace else to eat temporarily.
While it may be tempting, working on the couch with your laptop in front of the TV isn’t going to cut it.
Have the Necessary Tools
Working from home requires a different set of tools than working in the office.
You’ll need to implement some sort of quick communication standard.
If you have a quick question or something that requires some sort of fast response, but not necessarily a phone call, set up a chat tool.
No, not your email.
Emailing back and forth clogs up your email. Messages may get missed or altogether ignored. It’s simply not effective for short messages.
If your office uses Microsoft Office, they have an integrated chat feature called Teams that is pretty good.
If not, Slack is free, quick to set up and easy to use. It is by far my favorite chat application.
Both Slack and Microsoft Office have desktop applications making it easy to communicate while working from your computer. They also have Android and iOS apps.
There are many other chat applications out there, too. I’ve even used Google Hangouts in a pinch.
The key is to find one with a desktop application so it’s easy to switch tasks and you’re not picking up your phone all the time.
Sometimes you just want to look at the person you are talking to, especially if it’s a conference involving several people.
Again, there are lots of services out there for this.
For one on one meetings, Slack has video calling right in the chat app.
If your office uses Microsoft Office, it comes with Skype for Business. Personally, I hate Skype.
I use Google Meet. It’s super easy to use and you don’t have to install anything on your desktop. Everyone just uses the same link and like magic, you’re looking at each other.
However, Google Meet is a paid service. Google Hangouts has a very similar service, but you have to install some software, which isn’t necessarily a big deal.
Zoom is a very good video conferencing platform with more features than Google Meet or Hangouts. It’s also paid, but it allows meeting attendees to “raise” their hands. You can also record meetings to watch later.
Have a Routine in Place
Many people like to get up in the morning, take a shower, get dressed in work clothes, and eat breakfast just like they were leaving the house.
I like to get up, workout, shower, eat and put my leggings on before I start work.
Do what works best for you.
It may take a day or two for you to figure it out, but I work best when I’m caffeinated and comfortable.
Whatever you decide, be sure to stick to it religiously.
One of the best things about working from home is the ability to get chores done while “at work.”
So take breaks. Just like at work, you need to stretch your legs. When I worked in an office, I had co-workers that would walk laps around our floor, or walk up and down the stairs.
You should continue with taking little breaks throughout the day. Use these breaks to get some fresh air.
Take a walk, get coffee or fold the laundry. Not only will your brain thank you for the change of scenery, but your chores will also get done during the workday instead of after the workday. Win-win.
DND: Your New Best Friend
If possible, put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Or put it on DND, with exceptions for your boss and coworkers.
This might not work if you expect phone calls from clients or other folks that you don’t interact with on a daily basis in a working context.
Alternatively, you can put just some people on DND.
Mom calling you 12 times a day just to see what you’re doing? DND.
Best friend calling to tell you he’s bored and tired of being self-isolated? DND.
Kid calling you from the other room because she needs a refill? DND.
There are a lot of people out there that think working from home means you’re on vacation. You’re not. DND
TV is the Devil
Want all of your productivity to go down the drain? Turn on the TV.
Save it for your lunch hour or after work, just like you would when you are working in the office.
For that matter – the fridge is the devil’s twin evil brother.
Do I really need to talk about these two anymore?
If you find you are bored, now would be a good time to take a break. Not a TV break or a foraging break, but a walk. Or even some vacuuming.
Quit at Quitting Time!
One of the hardest things about working from home is that it can be really hard to quit.
If you get off of work at 5:00 p.m., you should quit at 5:00 p.m. at home, too.
I know how easy it is to get caught in the “just one more thing” rabbit hole. You want to get just one more task done, and before you know it the kids have gone to bed and your husband is annoyed that you haven’t talked to him all day.
Not only is this bad for your relationships, but it’s also bad for your mental health.
Embrace Remote Work
Working remotely can be really tough at first, but it is also really liberating.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that I can get more done in less time while working remotely.
Because I don’t have to fight traffic or “settle in” when I get to the office, I actually start working sooner than if I’m commuting. During working hours, I’m very responsive to questions and other needs.
If you discover that you enjoy working remotely, now is a good time to demonstrate to your boss that remote work is an excellent option.
Embrace working remotely. Be more productive. This will show your boss that this remote work thing is a viable long-term option. It doesn’t just have to be during the zombie apocalypse or COVID-19, for that matter.
Overall, I’ve also found that I’m simply happier. I have more time to exercise, more time to spend with family, and more time to do things around the house.
I don’t take near as much sick time.
Once you get it down, you’ll find you can work from anywhere in the world.
Did I answer your questions about working remotely?
In this article, I talked about how to be an effective remote worker.
I talked about the tools you will need and the importance of a dedicated workspace.
I also discussed taking breaks and minimizing distractions.
Hopefully, you will be able to embrace remote work and make it a long-term option.
I personally love remote work.
What is your biggest hang-up about working remotely? Do you see yourself doing it long term?