If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you’re still working to adjust to the new normal: working from home. As a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, thousands of companies have implemented mandatory or voluntary remote work policies. This new environmental and cultural shift has left hundreds of thousands of workers feeling a little cut loose and adrift as they struggle to create a new routine and adapt to the situation.
At iProv, we implemented a flexible workplace years ago and have several employees who work from home several days a week. During the pandemic, we shifted that to full-time work from home. Even with our previous experience, it’s been a learning curve.
So while you’re adjusting to working from home, we’ve compiled a list of tips for working from home based on our team’s combined years of experience including productivity tips, organizational and scheduling advice, and the tools we’ve found most helpful during this time apart.
#1 – Be Kind to Yourself and Others
This feels very basic and possibly childish, but we think it’s worth noting. At the risk of using a very overused phrase, these are unprecedented times. We’ve never before had to deal with more than a third of the population working from home suddenly and (sometimes) against their will.
No matter how you feel about the situation, we guarantee someone in your office or that you work with feels the exact opposite. Some people love being at home. Some people are having a difficult time adjusting. Try to meet people where they are and remember that technical difficulties, major stress, and honest mistakes are not a reflection of who you (or they) are as an employee or a person.
If you’re in HR or recruiting, remember to be a little more lenient of things like kids bursting into the room during an interview, pets howling in the background of a presentation, or timers going off in the laundry room. Better yet, laugh about it and use it as a way to connect on a more personal level. We’re all doing our best right now.
#2 – Get Dressed…Please
In the vein of obvious, but still deeply important, advice to anyone working from home: please put on pants in the morning. This is one of our most important tips for working remotely. We don’t expect you to wear a full suit or even your pre-pandemic jeans (not that we could fit into them), but you should try to be in non-pajama clothing whether or not you have a Zoom call scheduled.
Following your normal morning routine—showering, brushing your teeth, getting dressed—sends a message to your brain that it’s a workday and you’re gearing up to be productive. This makes a huge difference in your productivity and in your confidence levels. Getting dressed and seeing a professional look back at you in the mirror helps you feel human, put-together, and in charge.
Getting dressed for work is also a great way to help you delineate between work time and home time—something that’s a major problem for a lot of people right now. If you train your brain that “real-people” clothes mean it’s time to work and comfy clothes signal that it’s time to start winding down and invest in family time, self-care, and home projects, you can avoid the burnout that is sweeping at-home workers who feel on-call 24/7.
And, this can’t be overstated, getting dressed can help avoid some very embarrassing gaffes in your next company meeting or client review. Leaping up from the table suddenly when you spill your coffee should not be the moment people realize you own Baby Yoda pajama pants—and that they just don’t work with that button-up and tie.
#3 – Build Routines
We’re big on schedules and routines at iProv. There is nothing sexier in digital marketing than a color-coded calendar or a flawless time-allocation spreadsheet. But working from home has brought the need for coordination and collaboration to a whole new level. When people can’t call across the room to clarify a note or a point, you have to make up for that with high-quality scheduling, communication, and company-wide routines.
Different teams have different functions and processes, so you’ll likely need to break down schedules and routines by team and job description. But in general, you should work to schedule both meeting times and block hours.
For example, we meet every Monday morning as a company to review our strategic goals for the quarter, the month, and the week. Every person has a chance to make announcements or ask questions, and we usually take about ten to twenty minutes for employee-led learning about a topic of their choice.
Teams meet daily either in the morning or in the afternoon and catch up on any missing pieces of information or new business that needs to be addressed. Individuals are encouraged to block out their schedule so other employees know when and how to reach them. For instance, our VP of Sales and Marketing always blocks a few hours in the morning for “Emails and Catch Up.” He marks it on his shared calendar as a DND (do not disturb) time so the rest of the team knows he’s not available.
Developing shared routines and schedules and communicating them clearly helps us to respect one another’s time and increase productivity. It also builds culture and team cohesion by giving them a shared sense of purpose and a comforting level of expectation.
Working Remotely Tips and Tools
As far as productivity and work tools go, there are several that we use internally that may or may not work with your company’s workflow. We’ll recommend some of our favorites, but be open to doing some research, asking around, and trying out new tools on the market in your vertical.
Google Calendar: Each of our employees, teams, and leaders has a Google Calendar that is shared with the rest of the company. It is so helpful to be able to pull up someone’s calendar and know that you can call them in five minutes when their meeting is finished or that they would prefer not to be disturbed until later this afternoon. It eliminates unneeded interruptions like emails and IMs asking for a meeting, and brings transparency to what it is you’re “doing all day.”
Slack: Slack is our IM tool. It’s where we have brief conversations, post long-term ideas and questions, and share motivational material (i.e. gifs, memes, pet photos, and silly selfies) to help us get through the day. Having a tool like this can help you keep the company culture alive and realtime no matter how far away your employees are from the office.
Asana: We cannot recommend Asana enough as a collaboration, scheduling, workflow, and agile project work tool. We use it for every task that’s assigned in the company. Our motto is, “If it’s not in Asana, it doesn’t exist.” Whether or not Asana works for you, it’s vital that you find a place to store information, assign tasks, and communicate with your team virtually.
If you’re looking for more tips for working from home, reach out! We would love to schedule a time to talk to you about your company’s growth strategy and how that includes the future of remote work.