Working from home is the new reality for most people and many found themselves working from their living or dining rooms, kitchens, etc. It’s quite a sensitive environment where any noise can distract you and make you less efficient.
One of the challenges of remote work is bridging the distance between team members.
During this outbreak, we all keep social distance and stay home so let’s share some short tips on how to leverage work from home to your advantage.
There are several basic elements you should consider when working remotely, but I’ve gathered them up under the ‘Preparation’ stage.
The basis of any work process is a good organization – having all necessary tools, equipment and also habits to work effectively at home.
Some short tips on basic preparation can be:
Have a designated space to do your work - if you don’t have a spare room, a small corner in the room will do - try to turn it into an office. Having your ‘work place’ matters greatly as you’d have space for your laptop or reports etc. and it will provide inner motivation as you’ll know it’s time to work when you go there.
Have designated work clothes - In his book, Remote: Office Not Required, Jason Fried says ‘Having designated ‘work from home’ clothes can get you into the right frame of mind’. That doesn’t mean that you need to dress up, but simply: don’t wear the same T-shirt at work like the one you wear while relaxing at home.
Prioritize and schedule your tasks - give your day some structure and prioritize tasks for a day ahead but try to remain ‘agile’ if the situation requires. You can organize your work process per hour, per task or per urgency, however suit your work process better. You can also schedule your breaks as it can help you to maintain consistency in your work.
Accept some distractions - many parents work from home with small kids or teens around the house and it’s proven difficult to provide yourself an ‘isolated spot in isolation’. Accept some distractions (kids, deliveries, doorbell, etc.) and try to keep other distractions to a minimum by reducing the ones you can control like loud TV or checking social media newsfeed (Facebook, Instagram etc.) as it can divert your focus.
Leave those activities for short breaks in between tasks and indulge yourself into newsfeed once the task is completed.
Connect with your team
When working remotely, a great deal of communication is via chats or messages – it can feel a bit unnatural since sometimes you cannot type properly all you need to say or you don’t want to hassle anyone. When working in an office, you tend to have live interaction that fortifies relationships and enables better project communication.
How to maintain such relationships while remote?
On a professional level, going the ‘extra mile’ for your colleague, like taking on an extra task that your colleague doesn’t have time to complete, is a vital element to keep a team working effectively. Everyone likes safe surroundings where members ‘have each other’s backs.’
Reach out as much as you can as it adds value to your working relationships – in a remote setting, your supervisor or your teammates cannot know if you’re having difficulties with something unless you tell them.
Connect with your colleagues not only for work but also for casual conversations, like for birthdays or on other important days to them.
Teams that work on a specific project may organize quick daily or weekly meetings and discuss all important details as it’s better to understand when talking rather than typing. Seeing and talking to someone face to face, even if over a screen, still builds relationships in ways “text” conversation cannot.
Away messages are as important as other elements – details about when you’re not around can also be helpful with open communication keeping all team members on the same page.
Although virtual, this kind of communication establishes trust across departments and creates a more accessible community culture.
Use Available Technology
Digital transformation led us to mobility along with the tools necessary to do the work properly. Today’s technology enables us to interact with each other without having to be physically present.
There are many types of tools today (time tracking tools, file sharing tools, collaboration tools etc.) to maintain constant communication and connection with your remote teams – review their roles and functions and check which one serves your needs the best.
Pay attention not to overwhelm people with many communication channels, yet only the ones necessary to function seamlessly.
If you have a large company and large teams, the best solution is to divide the team into subsets or subgroups (for example, per specific project) which will narrow down the number of communication channels and reduce the possibility of miscommunication.
Dividing your team into subsets will ensure a constant flow in your communication.
When you feel connected with your team, a state of ‘play’ comes naturally. Active engagement with your team members leads to creative challenges when approaching tasks and doing valuable work.
As per psychologists, this is a natural flow where a person is completely consumed into what they’re doing – that’s the ‘zone’ where we’re keenly focused on our activity at the moment.
Informal (playful, fun) conversations are also important – off-topic jokes, chatter or banters should build up to work-related discussion.
Video chats and live meetings still remain crucial for divided team members to get to know each other – if you can see and talk to a person, you can build relationships that trigger those playful conversations.
Casual communication and how we deal with each other is a huge part of building a sense of togetherness and company culture.
Manage Your Energy
It’s much easier to manage your energy as opposed to managing time – time is often tricky, while managing your energy makes more sense as it’s something you can control.
Managing energy is simple – you should establish some simple rituals that give you energy: for example, you can take 10-minute walks in between tasks, dance along favourite music when possible or just get up and do some workout at short breaks. Although it may appear burdensome to get away from your computer at the ‘middle’ of something, the short break will boost your energy.
Remember, the key is to stick to the routine for these short energy breaks in order to create effective results in your workstyle.
Define Work Time
Clearly define your availability at work – when you’re working and when not and discuss it with your colleagues. If you work double hours, your team members need to know about it to be able to communicate with you more effectively.
Don’t work ‘all‘ day as it will drain your energy and affect your productivity. Once your work day has ended, close your laptop and put it out of sight.
Some companies have flexible work schedules and if so, it’s critical to determine your peak work period.
Are you a morning person? Or do you like the silence of the night more?
The answers can help you determine your peak work periods – prioritize important tasks for these periods and less important tasks for later in your work shift.
If you know when you work the best, you’ll get the most out of your day.
If you’ve found yourself working from home and struggling with an isolation period, remember to always reach out to others and try to maintain the communication via available tools like chats and video conferences.
Being able to see and talk to your team members will keep your spirits up and boost your energy and work efficiency.
Staying connected during isolation will give us a sense of ‘working together’ no matter the physical distance between us.