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Working Remotely: The Tips You Need to Know

Posted by Ashley Preuss
Woman working at home with a dog

In light of the global health crisis we’re facing, many people are working from home for the first time in their careers. Whether you’re completely new to remote work or you’ve done so in the past, there are some unique challenges to navigate at this time, such as adding family, roommates, or our kids to the mix. The team at ClearedJobs.Net has been working remotely for years, and we’re here to help your transition as you begin working from home, communicating virtually, and managing other remote employees.

Create a Dedicated Workspace

When most people hear that you’re working from home, a common reaction is along the lines of, ‘you’re so lucky to be able to stay in your pajamas and work from the couch.’ That’s definitely an option, but it’s not a productive choice. It might be tempting to grab your laptop and work from the couch or even your bed, but if space allows, always sit at a table in a comfortable chair.

It’s helpful to “Create a space you want to be in—your own private lair,” suggests Tracy Mitchell, ClearedJobs.Net Remote Employee. The element of privacy is what’s important here. If you’re working while other people are home, choose an area where you can work efficiently without disturbing others or getting distracted yourself. Whether you have room for a full-fledged home office or you have a small table in the corner of the living room, the key is setting up a dedicated workspace—an area that signifies you’re at work whenever you enter or sit down.

Without leaving the house regularly, you might get a little stir crazy. Keep your spirits up by setting up in an area with natural light. Make sure to step outside or at least open the curtains to let some sunshine in. This can play a factor in keeping your mood up and also regulating your internal clock.

You might also consider playing the radio. “Not loud enough that someone on the phone can hear it, but enough to make some background noise and provide a buffer for the dog,” adds Deb Thomas, ClearedJobs.Net Remote Employee. “It also gives the illusion of having company for those who are used to working in a busy office.” Think about what you need to work effectively and set up your work environment accordingly to position yourself for success.

Limit Distractions

Remember that even though you’re home, you’re at work. So strive to limit distractions and interruptions as much as possible. “With many families potentially at home in these times, have a discussion to set boundaries so that everyone is on the same page,” says Carter Goodnough, ClearedJobs.Net Remote Employee. If your dedicated workspace has a door, let your family know you’re ‘at work’ when it’s shut.

When working remotely, you need to pay extra attention to accountability. Keep an eye on the clock when you start checking social media or reading non-work related media. It’s healthy to take breaks, but push pause on your notifications during work time if you’re one to easily go down the rabbit hole. If you’re struggling with productivity due to distractions at home, try using a time management app to help you schedule your work and break times.

However, be prepared to adapt, as distractions will inevitably occur. Someone might ring your doorbell with a delivery, similar to a coworker briefly stopping by your desk at the office. Signing for a package is a quick interruption—but don’t stop in the kitchen on the way back to wash all the dishes on a whim. Be aware of the difference between a quick time-out to handle a distraction versus a way to procrastinate on work that needs to be done.

Set a Routine

It’s helpful to have a little normalcy in our routines in the midst of so much change. This means getting up, getting dressed, and sticking as close to your regular office schedule as possible. “Dress as if you are working, because you are,” reminds Tracy Mitchell. “When I first started working remotely, that was the hardest thing to overcome. It was just too easy to roll out of bed and start work in pjs. Getting dressed for work puts you in the right frame of mind for the day.”

Did you previously have a long commute? If so, you might have an extra two hours in your day now. Think to what you can accomplish in this newfound time. Consider a mock commute, in which you go for a morning walk when you’d typically be driving. Then get dressed and start your workday when you normally would.

When it’s time for breaks, try to leave your designated workspace. Get up, stretch, and leave the room you’ve been in. It can be draining for some to be isolated from others and stuck in the same surroundings each day—cabin fever anyone? So take breaks just as you would when you’re at the office to reset your tank and avoid burnout.

Working remotely brings new flexibility, but you’re responsible for your workload nonetheless. So create a plan each day, either in the morning or the evening prior. I personally function best with a to-do list made each Monday, of all the tasks I need to do and the projects I need to complete on each day of the week. You might even portion out blocks of hours in the day for each task, to help manage your time and better ensure you accomplish what needs to get done. Though your traditional routine will encounter some changes when working remotely, it will help you adjust more seamlessly if you put a structure in place to keep you accountable.

Communicate With Your Colleagues

Staying in contact with your team and communicating effectively is vital to working remotely. For one, it helps prevent loneliness and the feeling of isolation. If you’re accustomed to seeing your colleagues daily, it can be a real culture shock to suddenly be in your own bubble. Thankfully we live in an age of technology that makes it possible to call, email, instant message, and video chat regardless of our locations. But just because the tech is at our fingertips doesn’t mean everyone will automatically use it. It requires effort to make sure your team stays connected.

When communicating virtually, be mindful of how much information you’re sharing. People don’t absorb info in the same way on a phone call or email as they do when standing right in front of you face-to-face. Even with video chats, especially when multiple people are involved, it’s not unusual for people to get distracted or lose focus at times. Be really sharp about how much info you are sharing and the way you are presenting it. Don’t ramble around things, be quick and to the point for the best results.

And most important—be compassionate. Check in with your colleagues during this time and recognize the challenges they may be facing. Many people are balancing work and personal obligations to a higher degree than usual. A colleague or yourself might have kids, pets, or a loud lawnmower in the background of a call—be considerate of these situations and give yourself and others a healthy dose of understanding and compassion.

Managing Remote Teams

If you’re in a leadership role it’s especially important that you “learn how to gather information under these changing circumstances and fine-tune your empathetic skills,” says Kathleen Smith, CMO, ClearedJobs.Net. “Our teams are dealing with new boundaries and priorities. And as managers we don’t realize how much information we gather from our teams through body language. When working remotely we need to learn how to evaluate tone of voice and other non-visual signals.” Create a plan to ensure you’re regularly communicating with your employees and supporting their transition to working from home.

Set expectations upfront so that everyone is on the same page. Is everyone expected to keep their traditional work hours, or do you need to accommodate schedules for those in caregiver roles? When you can’t walk to someone’s desk for a quick answer, how quickly do you expect them to respond to an email instead? Furthermore, define how you will communicate and how often. Will you be using phone calls or video conferencing? As a team or on an individual basis? Once a day or once or a week? Being a proactive leader and managing these expectations from the start will help your team adjust to their new norm.

Whether you’re responsible for managing a whole slew of employees or just yourself, it can take some trial and error to understand what type of schedule and communication structure works best when working from home. If we continue to support one another we’ll be ready to adjust to the changes and challenges that come our way.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 30, 2020 12:40 pm

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