With all the talk of remote working – made to sound simple as flipping open your laptop and adding a headset – I have some tips. After working more than a decade from home in roles ranging from leader for a corporate Marcom team to freelancer to MSP marketing strategist, I’ve learned some tricks.
1. Set a schedule. Set an alarm, eat your breakfast, take out the dogs, shower and hit the keyboard. I am at my desk at 7:45 a.m. every day. I take a lunch break just as I would in an office. And I shut down, log off and walk away at the end of the day. It is easy to get distracted when you work from home, and it will happen. But the more your work-from-home routine mimics your traditional workday, the easier it will be to concentrate and get into the groove.
2. Hold your ground. One big drawback of remote work is that everyone knows your laptop is RIGHT THERE. I don’t answer emails after 6 p.m. unless I know we’re in the middle of a shifting situation. I don’t even look at my email after 7 p.m. Everyone needs downtime, and it’s easy to start sliding down that slippery slope to working 12-14 hour days, so don’t let the shift even start.
3. Communicate. Nope, I don’t mean email. I mean pick up the phone, dial up the Zoom, hop on Teams. Turn on your camera. Actually seeing and interacting in real-time with coworkers and clients is the only way to stay connected. You’ll all avoid a lot of misunderstandings. Trust me on this.
4. Decompress. Most people are used to a commute – maybe it’s only 15 minutes, but it’s your 15 minutes, dammit. I learned the hard way that hitting “shut down” on the computer and then walking straight into your family is not ideal. Take a few minutes to breathe, walk the dogs, walk YOU, listen to some music, read a chapter in your new book. Whatever your jam, do it and provide yourself with a few minutes to transition from the hectic pace of work or the mindset of a boss to being a normal person at home. It may seem silly, but that transition can save you a lot of tension, anger, and frustration.
5. Stand up. Seriously, when you work in an office, you are up and down like you’re observing Catholic Mass. Coffee, water, restrooms, printer, new pen, check the thermostat, talk sports with Ralph in accounting – you know I’m right. But when you work at home, it is shockingly easy to look up and see that you’ve been pounding out emails and tracking analytics for three straight hours without a break. So stand up. Walk around the house. Take the dogs out for a break. Get some water. Do a little yoga. Karaoke to your favorite Maroon 5 song. Do whatever, but move … it will lessen the tension in your body, reduce stress and you will not need nearly as much Advil for those achy muscles.
6. Stay connected. This goes back to #3 on some level, but this time I mean with your peeps. You’ll still be talking with your work friends, sure. But don’t forget to connect with friends and family. Hunkering down for the next few weeks is absolutely the right thing for our leaders to ask of us, and we’ll be fine. But working remote can be sneakily isolating – especially if you live alone. So don’t feel guilty stopping now and then to check in your friends on Facebook, drop an email to your mom or actually using that hunk of technology as an actual phone and using your words. People need people, so make time chat.
Here’s the good news: You will be incredibly productive working from home if you stay focused. But the same things that slow you down here and there in the workplace – chatting at the water cooler and talking about the weather – will also be what you miss. So take the time to keep those elements in balance.
Good luck out there – and remember, check your printer ink. That will get you every time.