Many people are new to the remote-working world. It can be a tough adjustment if you’ve never done it before. Here are a few tips to help you get comfortable in your new space.
Get Your Technology in order
Technology is what enables remote work in the first place, so make sure to take your laptop home, and don’t forget your charger. Also, take home your mouse and keyboard — anything that might make working on your laptop from home a little easier.
If you don’t have a work laptop and you’ll be spending a long time working remotely, ask if your supervisor wants you to take your desktop computer home. If you are working on a PC, be sure you have a surge protector and an ethernet cord that will reach your plug-in.
Then there’s the software. Make sure you have the right applications for your area. Iron out what your team/department is planning to use ASAP.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure all your technology actually works from home. Do you need a secure line? Are those applications accessible from your home Wi-Fi? Do you need a security key to log in? These are all questions to ask your supervisor or IT department.
Make sure you have internet connection
Another thing you’ll want in place is reliable internet access — is yours robust enough at home to allow you to video conference? Many conferences and almost all nonessential work travel are being canceled right now, so people want to use online video conferencing, which requires a good internet connection.
If your bandwidth is low and you’re on a video call, try shutting down other programs to lighten the load on your connection. If your connection is really choppy, you can often shut off the video portion of a call and participate with audio only, which defeats the purpose of seeing your team, but will still allow you to participate in the conversation. If you are using wireless earbuds try switching to the plug-in type.
Another internet hog? Kids.
If your connection is not robust, set some ground rules about when kids can’t be online because mom is on a conference call, or stagger your video meetings with your partner or other family members if possible.
Prepare your workstation and don’t forget Ergonomics
Instead of lying in bed with a laptop, try something more deliberate. The fix could be something as simple as moving a nightstand into a corner far away from distractions, plopping down your computer and sitting in an upright chair, like you would at your office desk. Be mindful of ‘tech neck’ and other ergonomic needs.
Use a good chair (if possible). If you don’t have a good chair, add pillows for back/leg support.
Raise your chair (most kitchen tables and desks are too high). Use a pillow as a seat cushion if needed.
Support your feet on a phone book, step stool, etc., if they don’t firmly touch the ground while sitting.
Raise your monitor using books, old shoe boxes, etc.
Use an external keyboard and mouse. It is essential that the monitor is separated from the keyboard/mouse. The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level, shoulders relaxed with the elbows around 90 degrees.
Kids at home?
You’ll need to make a plan for education and entertainment. Stock up on books and puzzles. Also, it’s ok to use educational streaming services. Common Sense Media has some good recommendations for kid-appropriate content.
Families across the country are getting very creative with virtual play dates using video chat. Utilize Facebook groups.
Protect your workspace
Talk to family members or roommates about the hours you are working from home and the ground rules during those hours. Assume that anything that can interrupt you will interrupt you — like a UPS delivery during a critical call or a dog barking in the background of a team video chat. Be as proactive as you can about avoiding these kinds of incidents. Don’t be afraid to hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign up.
It’s wise to have a discussion with your boss about what can actually be accomplished from home. Ask your manager what the priorities are, and discuss how tasks will get done.
Have clear-set expectations for communications day to day. Ask your supervisor if they don’t mind having a 10-minute call to kick off the day and wrap up the day. Oftentimes, managers just haven’t thought of it.
How are teams/departments going to track projects they’re working on? How will they meet to discuss this? Will you all be connecting by video conferencing or email? Will there be standing meetings at a certain time to get everyone coordinated?
This should be an ongoing conversation. Remember, going fully remote is a new experience for many companies and their workers. Be honest about what isn’t working or can’t get done in these circumstances. More overall communication is going to be necessary.
Know thyself and thy remote-working weaknesses
If you’re easily distracted, get ready for work every morning like you are going to physically go into work. Dress up, do your hair, have a cup of coffee — whatever you’d normally do. This puts you in a professional mindset.
Turn on a white noise machine or app, or your favorite music. This really helps to reduce noise distractions around your work area.
If you’re the type of person who never takes a break at home, set a timer to take time for lunch, and turn off your work. Or go for a walk. If you don’t change your venue at some point during the day and take a breather, it can make the claustrophobia worse. Try to maintain normal work hours, and shut things down when you would normally leave the office.
Try to appreciate the benefits that do come with remote work. You’re not commuting. You’re able to make your own lunch and save money doing so. You have more control over your schedule and more time with family. Focus on whatever positives you can find.
Embrace the webcam
Conference calls are tough — there are time delays, not knowing who’s talking because you can’t see the person, and people getting interrupted on accident.
Webcams can solve a number of these issues, including the sense of isolation and that confusion. To be able to see the person you’re talking to is important. We tend to miss cues when we aren’t working together in person so make doubly sure all colleagues understand their marching orders.
Don’t be afraid to over-communicate and ask, “Is this clear?” You can even try repeating back what you heard the other person say, to make sure you interpreted the person’s meaning correctly.
One undeniable loss is the social, casual “water cooler” conversation that connects us to people — if you’re not used to that loss, full-time remote work can feel isolating.
To fill the gap, some co-workers are scheduling online social time to have conversations with no agenda. Use Google Hangouts or Zoom chats and things like that if you miss real-time interaction. Have fun with your colleagues; have team chats, book clubs, competitions, etc. Again, embrace video calling and webcams so you can see your colleagues. Try an icebreaker over your team chat: What’s everyone’s favorite TV show right now? What’s one good thing that someone read that day? What is making you happy this week?
Transfer Your Commute Time to Intentional Rest time
Calculate the amount of time you normally have to commute and translate that time to your “rest” allowance. This is time for you to detach from your work. Instead of starting your day off by stressing out about getting somewhere on time, invest that time into either a relaxing ritual that gets you to a calm and clear state of mind or invest it into winding down your day so that you don’t form a habit of working into the night.