House rules: Working effectively outside the office

working effectively remote
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For all of us, the world had changed overnight. Suddenly, many of us are wondering how we’re going to function without going to an office. We’re used to bouncing ideas off our colleagues just by lifting our heads. But a large portion of the workforce still can’t do that right now.

For some of us, working remotely has been our daily existence for years. Remote work is not easy. It has its perks. Yet it can be lonely and isolating. You’re trading office distractions for home distractions. But they’re distracting all the same. So what can you do to work more effectively while at home?

Stick to the routine

Humans are creatures of habit. Having a daily routine can go a long way toward keeping you sane during this period. If you start treating remote work as a vacation – rolling out of bed at the crack of 10, working in your PJs – you’re going to find yourself struggling very quickly. By all means, enjoy the fact that you no longer have a commute! Use that extra hour or two a day to get a little closer to your family. Read some books. Get a few chores done around the house. But during your regular working hours, you have to shift gears, just like you would when arriving at the office.

Have a dedicated workspace

WFH Robs Desk

The nature of working remotely will have real-life intruding on work and vice versa. It’s unavoidable. The more you can dedicate a space for work, the easier it will be for you to shift gears at the start and end of your day. And we mean dedicated. A corner of your bedroom or an alcove in the living room doesn’t cut it. You need a place that says, “I’m working now.” It really can’t be a space you use for anything else, or you won’t effectively make the mental shift you need to be at your most productive. Having a door that closes is ideal!

Embrace the overlap

Take advantage of the more flexible environment – within constraints of your job, of course. Real-life stuff is going to bleed into work hours. Your dog might demand to go for a walk right now. Your daughter may decide she’s lonely and wants to see what you are doing. Go ahead and carve out a few minutes. It may mean that you put in longer days, but you can always start earlier or end later. Use flexible time during the day to deal with personal stuff without feeling guilty.

Get comfortable with video

Turning on video during a meeting is how you give “proof of life,” but in all seriousness, you should treat working remotely just like you were in the office when it comes to interpersonal relations. The distance remote work creates between you and your co-workers can be hard. So, use whatever tools are at your disposal to get a virtual presence during meetings. Turn on that camera. Use that time to really connect. And as much as possible treat it like face-to-face interaction. It’s not just important to prove that you’re working; it’s important so that you feel connected.

If you feel disconnected, speak up!

This is going to be hard. Don’t suffer in silence. Even those of us who are introverts still need social interaction. If you feel out of the loop, it’s your responsibility to raise your hand. Remember, all of your co-workers are trying to figure it out just like you. Do you need more face time? More frequent updates? Need something analogous to those water-cooler moments? Let people know! This is a time when we can get creative and come up with cool solutions. Scheduling weekly team meetings and weekly one-on-one meetings with managers is important, as could be adding a quick daily stand-up to help maintain that connection.

Things are very uncertain in the world right now, and we’re living through a future history lesson. This is an opportunity to show that remote work isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s a way that we can all be productive and thrive – even in the face of that uncertainty.

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