Working from home is a new reality to maintain business efforts and uphold safe public health practices.
If you are new to remote work, here are quick facts and best practices for a successful kickoff.
Facts (Purse, N. Engaging the Virtual Team. Training Journal, 2017)
- In a sample of 1000 virtual employees, 85% felt a reduction in stress working from home.
- Home-working life can lead to feelings of monotony and being easily distracted. Specifically, 50% of the sampled 1000 virtual employees said they would work more efficiently and productively in a regular workplace.
- Overall, employees working from home report higher levels of feeling isolation, boredom and lack of motivation.
- Acclimate to a new Environment
Transitioning from a traditional work environment to one’s home is more than a physical shift in spaces. Many employees experience isolation and disconnection due to the loss of people surrounding them; others feel bored or unmotivated due to less shared energy and face-to-face connection. Transitioning to a home environment takes time because you must establish a new routine and learn to utilize new tools to stay connected. Communicate with supervisors and the team to voice your experiences, hear how other people are adapting, and learn new strategies to make the transition successful.
Take some time to create your physical environment. Try to find a space with natural light and include some plants or colorful artwork you enjoy. Pay attention to the ergonomics as well. Your office may have had specific chairs, screens or other tools to help prevent aches and pains of working at a desk. Be sure to investigate how to get these for your remote work.
- Know the Expectations
Clear expectations are the foundation to successful remote work. Clarify your understanding of the expectations to make sure you are clear on the responsibilities and roles assigned to you. Ask who, what, when, where and how to confirm everybody is on the same page. For example: When should emails be cc’d to all compared to certain individuals? What specific software or tool should be used for certain types of communication, like Microsoft Teams or IM? Who should take the lead on certain virtual meetings? When in doubt, ask the question. As you and your team develop a new rhythm, overcommunication in the beginning may be helpful.
- Be Accountable
Working independently requires holding one’s self accountable. Without well understood expectations, holding oneself accountable may be difficult. First, confirm that you understand the expectations for you and your role. Second, find an accountability partner so you each can be virtually there for each other. Lastly, take 100% responsibility. Responsibility is not something you do, rather it is a way of thinking and being. Responsible people believe that success and failure is up to them individually, regardless of others connected to the task or unforeseen circumstances.
Also, what are your goals? Incorporate your personal goals as well. These may be emotional, spiritual, physical or social. Ideally, all of your goals should complement each other. When working remotely there is more flexibility in how you achieve all of your goals. Having healthy boundaries and getting in alignment with your expectations and goals is important to successful remote work.
Traditional work environments offer opportunities for brief conversations surrounding clarity and collaboration. Remote working requires more attention and commitment to communication as well as the use of different technology. First, maintain an open dialogue with supervisors and teams. Second, make sure you have consistent virtual or phone meetings with your supervisor/employees/team at least weekly to maintain an ongoing dialogue about work projects and/or clients. Also, learn how technology can offer additional ways to efficiently communicate questions or group collaboration discussions. Lastly, it is better to over-communicate and clarify than it is to assume and not clarify.
- Connect and Engage
Remote employees sometimes experience feelings of isolation, boredom and lack of motivation; therefore, explore regular opportunities for connection and engagement. For example, use work-related IM and chat spaces, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, for less formal conversations or social dialogue. Use these tools as you would for an organic chat but turn off your availability when you are needing to focus and do not want to be interrupted. Just be sure you make a conscious effort to connect. It may take more effort when you are working remotely. Set reminders to chat with others during breaks or plan to take a virtual lunch with somebody at the same time.
- Be Mindful of Time
It can be challenging to establish “working hours” when working from home. You could find yourself working more hours than you would if you were at the office. Have a set lunch time each day. Set aside time for breaks to get up and move, shift to a mindless task, or do a house chore. Identify ways to set reminders and breaks throughout each day. Use technology such as calendar and task functions within Outlook for Google or other free tools like ToDoist. Establish start and end times to the workday. Use the work approved calendar to set times for projects, meetings, breaks, etc.
- Don’t Overcommit
Some people have a tendency to overcommit when working remotely to prove they are valuable and committed to the company. Check in with you manager or supervisor about expectations. Just because you can do something due to an increase in flexibility now, does not mean you are expected to do it in a shorter period of time. When working remotely, we lose the tone managers and supervisors create in an actual shared office. We do not see them taking breaks, having lunch, signing off for the day. The tone needs to be set in a different way. If you start to feel pressured and unsure about your commitment and workload, check it out.
- Establish Self-Care Practices
Remote work often blends into personal space and time which can make self-care practices seem muddy. Brainstorm ways to define personal time, such as working out in the morning before entering your workspace or having lunch in the kitchen to step away from your office area. Also, schedule 10-15-minute breaks throughout the day and label the break with what you intend to do. Explore apps and tools to define self-care practices during these breaks like medication, stretching or exercise using apps like Calm, StretchIt or Peloton.
Additional self-care practices include outlining and upholding boundaries related to your workspace and people you live with. Define the work zone even if it’s part of a larger living space. Talk with roommates and/or family about work hours and your expectations of them during that time.
Lastly, commit to turning off electronics outside of work hours to prevent responding to emails or taking calls.
- Ask for Help
Remote work is no different from traditional works when it comes to asking for help. In fact, remote work requires a higher commitment to asking for help because of the distance, acclimation to a new space, and changes in systems to uphold responsibilities. When you start remote work, you start to really see what you most need to be productive and happy at work. You set the tone. But that often means we need support in finding our flow. Talking with a coach can help you identify tools and processes to make remote work fulfilling for you.
Purse, N. Engaging the Virtual Team. Training Journal, 2017.