Working remotely is not a new trend. Between 2005 and 2017, the number of people who telecommuted in the United States increased by 159%. Last year alone, 4.7 million people in the US were working from home (up from 3.9 million in 2015).
Those numbers have now skyrocketed even further in what Time is calling "The World's Largest Work-From-Home Experiment," where employees have been thrust into the digital world, often without time for preparation. And if that includes you and your company, you likely have a lot of questions… and likely, even more concerns.
- “How will I communicate?”
- “How will I stay productive with all the distractions of home around me?”
- “How will I meet deadlines and hold meetings?”
- “What technology is best to facilitate my work?”
Here’s a quick guide on how to remain productive and sane during your work-from-home experience.
The tools of the remote trade
It’s important that you have the equipment and technology to facilitate your home office. Here are a few tools worth considering:
This is essential. If you don’t have a desktop or laptop computer, reach out to your company to provide the equipment needed.
This, of course, is also essential. It’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in place if your service is disrupted or goes down. Internet slow-downs have become a problem in some areas due to the strain on broadband networks. Test out tethering from your mobile device, and research options for data SIMs as a backup option.
A cloud-based phone system
If your role is client-facing, a good cloud-based phone system is recommended, which allows a team to call out from their PC/laptop like a telephone. Don’t forget headsets for quality and clarity.
Email and shared content
You’re probably already using some or all of G Suite, the Google-powered cloud-based business suite. It’s ideal for email, sharing documents, facilitating video chats, and more.
This is the new email, especially for internal communications. It’s fast and efficient, and also great for fostering an online community and providing a “water cooler” for your team. Slack is often the go-to here, and for good reason. Don’t be afraid to have non-work related conversations here; it’s good to keep personal relationships going, especially considering everyone is now working far away from each other and can’t make chit-chat like in the physical office.
Video is the perfect tool for staying engaged with coworkers and managers. (It also ensures that you get at least halfway dressed for the workday) You can use apps such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts for video-enabled meetings, one-on-ones and conference calls.
If you’re worried about your productivity level and want to make sure you stay on task, consider a productivity app like Todoist or Trello, which can help manage workflow and deadlines.
Get set up for success
Working from home takes more than just good technology and equipment. It also takes planning, a dedicated space and time to make it work. Here are a few suggestions.
Create a dedicated work area
Get comfortable, and, if possible, cordon off an area in your home for your home office. It’s ideal to have a door that you can close, to create a work environment without distractions. Have a good quality chair (where you can sit for 8 hours a day), a desk large enough for your laptop, and a monitor at eye level (avoid looking down at a laptop all day). Also, consider the ambience. You’ll spend a lot of time in this space, so grab a plant, hang up some art; little things can make a big difference!
Set a regular schedule
Creating a routine is important, especially when you’re embracing a completely new way of working. Stay true to it. Do all the things you normally would do at work, but instead of commuting, simply walk over to your workspace and pull up the chair! Set a start time and a finish time, and stick to it.
You wouldn’t normally watch TV or scroll through Instagram in your office, so avoid doing that at home, too. Stay engaged with your co-workers. And stay busy with your work.
Set and own your outcomes
When your manager is no longer making visits to your actual desk, you might lose focus on your to-do list. But, now, more than ever, your outputs are important. However small you think it is, it has value. Set and own your outcomes, every day.
Facetime a friend
It’s likely you went from a buzzing office environment to a quiet home office. It can be a challenging transition, and it’s important to continue to connect with your team, your company, and your friends outside of work. Video, as mentioned above, is great at bridging the physical divide and breaking up your day. Try Facetiming a friend or colleague to make up for the loss of face-to-face time you previously enjoyed.
Your remote life, for as long it lasts
Before you know it, your work-from-home life will be the new routine. You’ll finally remember to check that messy table behind you before video chats and learn to mute yourself in conference calls so you can slurp your coffee in peace. You’ll quickly learn just how productive – and flexible – a day in the home office can be. And before long, you might even wonder how you ever worked any other way.