With the world’s leading health officials and most world leaders calling on everyone to “self isolate” or “social distance,” many of us are working remotely from home in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
If you’re new at this, trying to get your team members online and keeping the workflow on track might feel overwhelming. But even for those of us used to working remotely, it’s sure not feeling like business as usual in the midst of COVID-19.
Tips for working remotely from home
At Padraig, our team is composed of great folks across four time zones and we often work remotely with clients all over the globe, so here are our nine necessary tips for working remotely from home:
Establish a dedicated workspace: It helps to have a spot for work that is separate from where you sleep or spend your after-work hours because otherwise you’ll feel like you never leave work. Ideally, find a room or desk (or table) in an area that will be your work zone. Stock the area with what you need – office supplies and tech – so that you’re ready to sit and get to work without wasting time setting up each day. When you’re done work, you can shut everything down and enjoy time away from work.
Create a routine: The trouble with working from home is that the lines between home and work can become very blurred! You can be flexible (that’s the bonus!), but some structure helps not just you but those around you respect your work time. Making your cup of coffee or tea and sitting down to work at regular times makes the workday predictable. Set weekly goals and then figure out the daily tasks you need to accomplish to stay on track – and make sure you talk with everyone in your household to establish ground rules and expectations about your workday (and theirs if applicable!). When you work hard and stay focused, it’s amazing what you can accomplish in a short period of time. When you’re done work, call it a day and don’t go back to check on “just one email” or look over something. Enjoy your downtime so that you are refreshed for the next day. Achieving work/life balance is perhaps even more important when you’re working from home.
Dress code positives: It’s so tempting to just live in your pyjamas all day, but many of us who work remotely from home find dressing up (okay, or just getting dressed!) helps with having a work mindset. Now, we’re not saying you have to pull out that power suit! But it helps you shift from relaxing to work when you’re ready to be suddenly pulled into a video teleconference. In other words, are you showered, groomed and wearing something that you wouldn’t mind your coworkers or clients seeing you in? (And Pro tip: Keep a dress shirt or blazer handy. Then, if you let things slide, the one day an urgent video conference comes up, you can still look pulled together even if you’re wearing your pyjama bottoms or yoga pants!)
Continue to take brain breaks: If you were working in the office, you’d step away from your desk every now and again to get a snack or drink, use the restroom or chat with a coworker. It’s just as important to take regular (short!) breaks when you’re working remotely. You might even want to set up team “breaks” or eat lunch together by video teleconference to check in and stay motivated with your colleagues. Since it’s arguably a little easier to lose track of time when you’re on break at home with myriad distractions (Netflix, social media, other humans who aren’t working while you are!), the Pomodoro technique we discuss in our tips to stay focused blog can be particularly helpful to work in sprints, take breaks and stay on task.
Get some fresh air: Staying inside 24/7 is not conducive to thinking clearly! Build in some time during your day to get outside. Even while physically distancing from people who aren’t in your household, you can go for a walk or run, do some exercise or yard work in the backyard or even check your emails on the balcony. Getting some Vitamin D and a change of scenery is as important for our mental health and is it for us physically while we shelter in place during the pandemic.
Make the most of technology: Set alarms to remind you of important deadlines and prompts for conference calls. You can share documents, edit and track changes and use collaboration tools (we like Asana and Google Docs) to keep everyone tracking personal deadlines and working toward common goals. There are also several very reliable platforms for video teleconferencing that let you connect quickly with multiple people and share screens. We’ll have more tech tips in upcoming blogs, so stay tuned.
Creative scheduling helps parents with young children: I’m not a parent, but I work with many people who are. Working remotely from home has a different set of challenges for parents with young children. Professionals I know who have little ones recommend getting up early to work for a few hours before the children are up (though I’m told sometimes the little darlings hear mom or dad and get up, too!). It may take time and practice to figure out what scheduling works best for your family and connecting with your team members. Other strategies to try include getting children busy and tired in the morning, so that you can work a few hours during afternoon nap or quiet time, setting tasks and activities for preschoolers and primary schoolers to enjoy nearby so they’re working while you work, tag-teaming with a partner so you take turns working/parenting and (no surprise!) working a couple of hours later at night once the children are asleep.
Working remotely and parenting older children: Families everywhere are adapting to having everyone home during uncertain times. Clients with school-age children and teens tell me they’re still figuring out this new normal. While screen time can allow for parents to work uninterrupted, many colleagues are making the most of quarantine to have time for board games, impromptu dance parties, sports in the backyard and creativity. Getting into a routine of working while the kids are engaged in something and then taking breaks together (ask them to show you the latest TikTok dance challenge!) can be helpful and make memories. Set tasks or daily goals and then celebrate together with a family meal and movie night.
Be flexible and break things down: All of us working from home benefit from being able to roll with the unexpected. It’s common to put more pressure on yourself when you’re working remotely because, subconsciously, you want to prove you’re being productive and responsible. Right now, whether you live alone, with a partner, pets or a big family, we’re all facing uncertainty with the terrible things unfolding and the worry about COVID-19. Some days are going to be better than others and some days you might feel very unproductive. That’s okay. This is when it’s helpful to focus on your weekly goals. If you can’t tackle a big chunk of paperwork or a complicated spreadsheet today, what can you do? Write some emails, call some clients and work through some of the smaller action items. Try to keep moving forward with work, but give yourself permission to take care of yourself and those you care about.
What helps you stay productive when you’re working remotely from home? What could you do differently or better? What can you do today to make working remotely better for your team?
At Padraig we’re conscious of how many of you — our clients, friends, blog readers and other colleagues are working through the new reality of working remotely, managing others working remotely and juggling a new level of business and family balance. We’re posting new blog posts every few days to try to help and answering your emails as fast as we can.
In these last few days we’ve heard from some of you looking for some short-term coaching assistance as you tackle these challenges. Normally our starting package is for 12 sessions with a coach over 6 months. But, we know you want some help right now just to get you through the changes you’re dealing with, and we know that like us, you and your employers are facing cash challenges. We want to help.
We’ve created a special priced short term special priced coaching package to give folks support immediately. Please click here for more information.