The age of technology brought us some wonderfully flexible options when it comes to how, when and from where we can do most of our jobs. Working remotely is not a new thing but it certainly has become a trending subject in the past weeks, with governments taking measures to implement social and physical distancing in the hopes of managing and overcoming an invisible yet powerful threat.
Today’s knowledge economy has made it possible for many workers to perform their job with just a computer and an internet connection. People working in corporate offices all over the globe are well versed in the basic logistics of working remotely.
Most of the time, the possibility of seeing to their tasks from a location of their choosing was employed when something unpredictable happened (a snow day, a big event leading to roads closing, a child having to stay home from school) and it was limited to a short period of time.
This article is about how to make work from home actually work when it’s for more than a couple of days and one can’t just leave stuff to be done when back in the office.
Here’s how to make remote work actually work for you.
Before you start
We are all different and need various things. There are, however, a few general best practices you should consider:
- Set some SMART objectives for your activity – they can either be short or long term depending on the specifics of your job.
- Plan for the whole week and for each day:
- What are the deadlines you need to make?
- What activities are required and when must they be undertaken for you to respect the aforementioned deadlines?
- What will you be doing every day and during what specific intervals?
- Ask for the resources you need ahead of time to avoid not being able to perform your tasks appropriately.
- Negotiate realistic timeframes for completing your projects.
How to stay focused
Even in an office environment where you obviously go to work, keeping your attention on the tasks at hand is not an easy thing. If you are working from home (and new at it) it may seem even more difficult. This is what you ought to do:
- Find what are the distracting external factors and deal with them – whether it is the kids, your pets, the tv, outside noises or your personal phone apps, you need to come up with ways to ensure you get a few blocks of time when you can only focus on work. Try:
- Physically moving into a room that is not used by anyone else in the house.
- Using headphones or play some brain-stimulating music.
- Using the ‘do not disturb’ status on your apps so people know not to expect an immediate answer from you.
- Establishing an interval every few hours for checking and responding to emails, messages and calls.
- Find what the distracting internal factors are and deal with those as well – you may not feel comfortable in a certain room, you may feel like you are ‘cheating’ on work by simply being in your familiar surroundings or there may be some thought or emotion bothering you. Especially when work from home is brought about by external disaster or calamity there’s a strong possibility people are worried and feeling ill at ease. Even if you are not able to make these negative feelings simply go away, it’s important you acknowledge them.
- Build routines to keep yourself from being distracted. Keeping to small, repetitive behaviors that, performed together, lead to positive and predictable results is the best way to make sure you stay ‘in the zone’ and get your work done.
Keeping your personal life separate from your professional one
This is all about setting the right limits. You don’t have to ask everybody to ignore the fact that you are in the house but they need to understand you have a job to do and your help is required, mostly by keeping out of the way. Here’s what you can do to make this easier:
- Clearly define a working space; if you have to share it, make sure it’s clear which one is ‘your spot’ by marking it in some way – mostly your laptop, headgear and a cup of your favorite day-time beverage will do;
- Have a set work schedule – it’s important for you (and everyone else in the household) to know when you begin and what time you are supposed to be done. It’s a good idea to start your day by looking over your set objectives and ending it by reviewing how (or if) you’ve reached them.
- Dress professionally even if you are not leaving the house. You don’t have to go all out and put on a tie and dress suit but don’t stay in your pajamas either. It will be a lot easier for you to get into the right frame of mind if you put on clothes you would when going to work – perhaps on a casual Friday.
- Get a good support system going if you also have children who need to be at home all the time and a partner or spouse who also needs to work from home. This article from Harvard Business Review provides some great ideas about how to do that.
How to keep teamwork going while remote
For people who are for the first time finding themselves having to mainly communicate with the rest of their team using online means, it may seem a bit daunting, to begin with. They may have a feeling of being excluded and less important to others. There are some best practices to observe in order to get over that:
- Testing all communication channels is paramount. A lot of people may feel very uncomfortable both with hearing their voice and with filming themselves, whether live or in recorded videos. It will take some getting used to, so gently easing into that by starting with short, friendly online meetings of this kind is the way to go.
- Initiating or joining in on online work sessions is also a good way to get and offer input to others. It’s also great to have one on one meetings to get and offer feedback as well as check with other colleagues to see what the collective progress on your tasks really is.
- Make constant communication a priority by adding it to your healthy routines – don’t just call emergency online meetings when something goes South but strive to keep all channels open and set aside time for regular interaction.
Read more: The science of teamwork and true leadership
Make remote work actually work for you!
Whether you have a big home with an already established office or you need to move stuff around in your kitchen to make room for office equipment, modern technology offers all that is necessary to make remote work feasible. You just need the right mindset and a bit of discipline from you and those around you to make it nice and easy.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.