Over my professional career, I’ve worked in both an office and a remote setting. I’m going to share with you some tips that have helped me over the years.
#1 – Set Up a Space Just For Work
If you have a spare room, think about setting up a makeshift space. No room? Setup at kitchen or dining room tables or kitchen islands. Carve space out that is ‘for work’ and has any items you need. My go-to’s: laptop, chargers, phone, earbuds, comfortable chair if possible.
Why shouldn’t you work from a couch? First of all extended time with computer on your lap or legs isn’t good for your body. Second, you need to be able to structure your time on and off of work at home just like in the office. Creating a conceptual barrier will help your structure and mental health.
#2 – Stay Connected with Your Team!
You don’t realize how much social opportunity exists in a day, and the shift to working from home can be hugely jarring emotionally. Fortunately, we have access to tools to keep connected. The key is having the rigor to use them – take advantage of virtual work tools like Skype, Zoom, Teams, WebEx, etc. Take that post-it note off the webcam and use it. If you need structure, consider creating small pods to run daily standup meetings. Use a last 24/next 24/issues/help round-robin to share, hold yourself accountable, and solicit help. If you don’t have it, set up a slack group to keep a dialogue going. I’ll admit that the giphy functionality can be wildly cathartic. Download Marco Polo – a few of my startups use it as a way to share thoughts like you would an email, but you get video bytes with context, emotion, which makes sharing so much richer. Most importantly, set availability rules and boundaries so that people know when you are available and when you are off. It will help you stay in touch appropriately, but also draw natural boundaries around when you are off taking care of you or your family so that others aren’t looking for support or conversation when you are off doing you.
#3 – Make a Schedule, but Be Creative!
It’s easy to slip into not so great habits – not showering, not “getting into the office’ until later. Make a pattern for yourself and stick to it. That includes time away for lunch (please please please schedule this, it’s so easy to just work through).
On the flip side, it’s perfectly acceptable to be creative. If you need to make a cup of coffee, and you are on a conference call where you aren’t speaking, put yourself on mute and make that black gold! I back up to a park with a nice walking trail, and if I had a listen-only conference call, I’d do it while taking a walk. Don’t feel like you have to be chained to a tiny little space all day if it’s going to make you crazy.
#4 – Do What Takes Care of You!
While you are still working, there are things that you can do at home that you can’t do at the office. Take me for example…
– I have a space heater under my desk (biggest corporate no no ever!)
– I’m burning a candle
– I have a 3lb medicine ball that I’ve been known to toss from hand to hand while on calls. It’s great to keep me moving, which I’m really bad about doing when working at home. Important note, don’t drop it because the noise when it hits the keyboard is brutal.
– If you have a pet, move their bed near you. My dog, affectionately referred to as HR when any of us work from home, is sleeping on the floor behind me right now.
This sounds a bit glib and frivolous, but it’s the little things that make you feel good, keep you connected and grounded. WFH is a judgment-free zone, so you do you, and that’s all good.
#5 – Be Social While You’re Home
We don’t realize how much chatter or ‘water cooler’ talk happens in our day until we don’t have it. Be intentional about planning time to chat and catch up with folks, and use the tools you have to make the connection stronger. Don’t think it will work? I had virtual happy hour with 7 colleagues after work yesterday. We sparked up a video conference and turned on our webcams. Best part, we all got to drink what we liked and there was no arguing about the location. Now go make it happen!