As many of us have entered the second month of self-quarantine, forced stay-home orders and strict social distancing due to the coronavirus Pandemic, you might find yourself getting weary of doing remote work.
If you are new to this phenomenon of working from home, rest assured when I say that it takes a while to ‘get the hang of it’ and no one can be expected to have it all figured out in 4-6 weeks.
Add to that fact that many new remote workers are isolated in their home with spouses, kids, pets and possibly other family members, this makes for a challenging time for all.
In times like this, look to those who’ve gone before you; freelancers, social media managers, small business owners, entrepreneurs – look and learn from those of us who have a home office and have made it work!
How do we
- cope with being cooped up and work from home?
- work full time, with family members and pets at home with us?
- stay connected with our team members?
- transition to being a cohesive remote team?
- secure our home network and stay safe in cyberspace?
- arrange our home for maximum productivity?
In this article, I try to get to the bottom of working remote, sharing the most useful remote work tips to get your results; whether this is a temporary solution or a new normal and more permanent way-of-life.
Remote Work and Mental and Physical Wellbeing
First and foremost, take it from someone who has worked from home for a decade; it is of utmost importance to make a plan for your mental and physical well being when working from home more than a few weeks. It makes no difference if you are on-the-clock for an employer or have your own marketing business, you have to make a plan for your mental and physical wellbeing.
That means creating a daily work plan that is flexible and allows for walks, yoga or some other type of home exercise plan.
Mental wellbeing comes when you try to balance work-from-home with live-at-home by setting clear boundaries. Here are some of the best tips:
- Set a work schedule.
- Get up and have a morning routine before starting work (watch the news, have coffee, breakfast or work out).
- Work in a dedicated work space.
- Take breaks; get up for at least 5 minutes every hour to stretch.
- Do not eat at your desk, and do not work in your kitchen.
- Implement a hard stop at the end of your day. Turn off your computer and leave your workspace.
- Get fresh air!
- Check in with friends; if you can't make it to a physical location to have lunch with friends, get creative and have Zoom lunch meetings.
- Cook dinner, listen to music, create art, read a book; relax!
- Exercise; whatever that might look like.That could mean taking a walk with a dog or spouse or a bike ride after dinner. Getting your body moving after a long day of work will help you sleep better, feel better and work better!
If you feel lonely, depressed, sad or worried, reach out to a friend, family member or call the national mental health hotline.
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You can also text “NAMI” TO 741741
Family Dynamics and Remote Work
Those who have family members at home during this pandemic and work from home, you have challenges.
Those who are all alone and self-quarantined during this pandemic and work from home, you have challenges too!
Let’s look at family dynamics and how to make things work when you are working from your home.
When working from home, communication with those at home during the day with you is one of the most important ways you control how successful you will be at remote work.
Here are some things to communicate to your family who are at home while you work:
- When you will be on phone calls.
- What times of the day you will need absolute quiet for video calls and/or recording.
- Wifi bandwidth; this is especially important if you have teenagers at home who might be gaming and using data.
- How to communicate with you during the day; can they knock on your door, should they text you, email you, slide a note under the door, or leave you be unless it is an emergency?
- If you are home with little kids who can't read, have a red for ‘stop’ and green for ‘go’ sign on the door so they know if they can enter or not.
- What constitutes an emergency?
- When you will take a break to eat lunch or have coffee.
- What time of the day you expect to be ‘home’ from work.
- Who is responsible for feeding the pet, walking the dog, picking up the mail, putting dishes away, feeding the kids etc. Set clear rules, otherwise you’d be doing more housework and less work work!
Socializing with Colleagues From Your Home Office
If you are completely new to working from home, you will miss your coworkers, especially if you’ve been in an office and have a coworking space where you work on projects, drink coffee or gather around the water cooler several times per day.
How do you socialize with colleagues when you are scattered geographically?
- Have a daily Zoom meeting!
- Use Skype for video calls.
- Install a tool like Slack to work and communicate as a team.
- Pick up the phone during lunch and check in with a friend.
- Private message; use Whatsapp, Voxer or Facebook messenger.
There are so many ways you can still feel connected to your colleagues. The main difference is that your contact and communication will be intentional vs accidental (like bumping into each other on the way to the lunch room!)
Virtual Team and Remote Work
If you are a team leader and now have a virtual team to lead, you could be in for a challenge.
How do you work together?
How do you communicate?
How do you meet?
These might be skills that need to be learned ASAP. Fortunately, there are so many resources available to any and all who need to lead or be part of virtual teams and be productive!
Cybersecurity Tips for Remote Work and Homeschooled Students
While I researched remote work, the topic of cybersecurity came up. It so happens that friends at a local security company had just blogged about cyber security in the wake of this pandemic. Here are their best tips for keeping your files and family safe!
- Be aware of phishing scams! Do not click on emails or messages asking you to check or renew passwords and login credentials.
- Recheck your Wi-Fi connection
- Reset passwords frequently and if sharing accounts with coworkers, always use a password manager to share passwords, never in an email.
- Install anti-virus software and keep it updated.
- Use your home security system to keep an eye on your home and your family, but make sure the system itself is secure against hacking!
- Back up all important files – we recommend backing up files on both a hard drive as well as in the cloud, possibly also on a second device!
- Get into the habit of locking your computer and phone screens.
- Stick to HTTPS websites!
Keeping computer files secure, passwords safe and family members safe from cyberbullying and identity theft, should be a high priority for all those working from home.
Productivity Tips for Remote Work
Last by not least, let’s look at how you can stay productive despite working from home.
- Work in time blocks.
- Block off time for uninterrupted creation time.
- Turn phone and computer notifications off.
- Access Facebook through Business Manager; you won’t see your personal pages.
- Check email at set times; I recommend 3 times per day. At the start of the day, midday and 30 minutes before leaving the home office.
- Block one day per week w/o meetings – that is your planning day (mine is Monday).
Those that work from home all day, every day and have done so for years, would formulate this question differently.
They (and I ) would say: let’s look at how much more productive you can be when working from home.
Here are the things you are ‘missing’ when working from home (aka where you save time)
- Personal Care and Dressing For Work
- Colleagues to distract you
- Boss looking over your shoulder
- Birthday celebrations and luncheons
- Watercooler small talk
- Useless morning meetings
- Coffee shop coffee runs
While not everyone sees all of these as negative, they do distract and take time away from the actual work you are expected to do!
When you work from home and these things fall away, you might have discovered already that you can do “8 hours of work” in record time!
Remote Jobs and The Future of Remote Work
My prediction is that work from home jobs will be the norm as we move forward in time, not the exception. This pandemic has clearly shown that it can be done effectively, often saving a company money; I can only see this trend moving forward in months and years to come.
Whether you did freelance work like social media management before the pandemic, or worked in-house, having companies pivot to allow more contractors and employees to work from home has yielded positive results.
I further predict that many new entry level jobs as well as management job will be created in the remote work space. We’ve already seen 100% remote companies sprout up in the last 6 weeks during this lockdown; if you were to take a quick peek at current job postings, you will see many new opportunities for teleworking jobs.
I am a Certified Social Media Manager, Strategist, International Keynote Speaker, Organic Specialist and Agile marketer! Blogging is my creative outlet. Running, hiking and skiing are how I recharge. You'll recognize me on stage and online by my always present orange glasses, a nod to my Dutch heritage.