Working remotely is one of the biggest challenges for employers and employees to navigate. Entire teams are learning to adjust to collaborating and communicating virtually in real-time. Making a transition to remote work can be challenging under normal circumstances, but it can prove especially difficult during a global crisis. Whether you’re already in the swing of working remotely or brand-new to the experience, these tips will help you maintain productivity and overcome remote work challenges.
How to Maintain Productivity While You’re Working Remotely
When you’re working in an office, your commute provides natural transitions to start and end the workday. By creating routines for yourself at home, you can help yourself ease into the day and wind down for the evening. Consider dressing as you would for work and kicking off the day with activities such as reading, listening to music, taking a walk around the block, or making a hearty breakfast.
Be kind to yourself as you find your new professional rhythm. One way you can collect your thoughts and clear your mind each day is to write three morning pages, a practice author Julia Cameron recommends in her book “The Artist’s Way.” Another great resource is the now-retired online magazine “My Morning Routine.” You can find hundreds of morning routine interviews with best-selling authors, successful entrepreneurs, and inspiring creatives from all over the world.
Self-care is crucial during challenging times. Designating start and stop times for your remote workday will help ensure your habits are sustainable and give you the downtime you need. Along with morning and evening routines, you can implement break times throughout the day to support your work-life balance. Build in time for preparing meals, getting some fresh air, and checking in with your household.
To signal the end of the workday, try logging off communication platforms and moving away from your workspace until the next morning. Scheduling virtual happy hours, pursuing hobbies you can do from home, and spending quality time with your household can create a healthy separation between work and home life, even when you work and live in the same space.
When your team is working remotely for the first time, it’s more important than ever to stay connected. In fact, the instant communications hub Slack recommends erring on the side of over-communicating when you’re transitioning to remote work. Spell out what might seem obvious to you, double-check your communication for clarity, and create clear expectations about how often you’ll check in and provide status updates.
Chat tools such as Slack and Skype can help your team to cut down on emails, check in with each other, and boost morale. Asana is another great work management tool that can help remote teams to organize workflows, projects, and tasks. The key is finding the tools that work best for you and your team.
How to Overcome Challenges
When your office suddenly transitions to working remotely, it’s easy to miss the casual social interactions and in-person collaboration. With so many people feeling anxious and uncertain right now, working from home can amplify these feelings and lead to loneliness.
Chat platforms such as Skype and Slack can keep you connected throughout the day, while video platforms such as Google Hangouts and ZOOM offer an opportunity to connect face-to-face for meetings. Regardless of which communication tools your office is using, make it a point to reach out to your colleagues regularly, ask how they’re doing, and touch base on projects. You can even invite coworkers to have lunch with you over video chat.
Don’t forget you can always pick up the phone or text if there’s something you need or someone you want to reach. Strong communication and small acts of kindness can go a long way in stressful times. You can also overcome feelings of isolation by decorating your workspace with pictures of people, places, and words that inspire you. And your pets will appreciate the extra cuddles and walks throughout the day!
Grace yourself and your colleagues the fact that everyone is going through an adjustment period working from home. It’s natural that you may feel out of sync with your typical office communication and interactions. Without body language or the ability to walk to a colleague’s desk and chat, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about what someone is thinking.
Try to assume the best of people and realize that a colleague’s email, chat, or text communication may come across differently than their verbal communication. It’s OK to ask more questions than usual or request specific feedback. By communicating early and often about your projects and deadlines, you can lead by example.
Setting up regular video calls and one-on-ones are great ways to elevate your remote communication. Be sure to flag issues early on and suggest potential solutions when possible. This will help your team get ahead of any obstacles and learn from them.
Working from the comfort of home isn’t without its distractions, particularly if you share a household with other people, children, or pets. While it’s important to care for your home life, it’s also important to set boundaries around your working hours so that you can show up as your best self at work and at home. Outside of your home environment, social media and the news can pose another set of distractions, especially with COVID-19 coverage.
When you are working from home instead of the office, you are in charge of your environment. Start by creating a quiet, clean workspace with room for your computer setup, a comfortable chair, good lighting, and a strong Wi-Fi connection. You can get creative by rearranging furniture and items you already have, or consider shopping online for new office items such as an ergonomic chair or noise-canceling headphones.
Set boundaries with your household about your schedule and what you need to get into a professional groove. Try to take care of any distractions in your physical space before you start or after you end the workday. When it comes to news and social media, consider tuning in at designated times throughout the day to avoid feeling overwhelmed with information. If you find yourself losing focus, take stock of what’s distracting you and brainstorm solutions to get back on track.