So you’ve been told to work from home due to the Coronavirus and you’re looking for remote work tips. Companies in the U.S. and abroad are asking workers to stay home and still be productive.
If you find yourself in this situation, or you are the decision-maker trying to rally a new remote team, here are the essential tips to survive and thrive in your new remote work situation.
You can throw out about half of the tips for working from home and remote work that you find online. Forget planning time to meet up with friends for lunches to stay social, finding a coworking spot or even making an every other day coffee shop pilgrimage.
I’m not suggesting full-blown self-imposed quarantine, but if you are working from home to avoid the Coronavirus in your city — going out to these places isn’t going to be high on your to-do list.
I’ve been remote working for a decade, and from that experience, I’ve distilled down the essentials to make a new remote work experience successful. By succeeding during this temporary situation, you may even be able to champion remote work after COVID-19 subsides but to do that you need to be successful in the short term.
Read: Best Video Chat Apps
Dedicate a Place to Work
Not everyone has a perfect apartment or home for remote work, but you can make what you have filled your needs in the short term. While I enjoy the flexibility of working in different areas of the house now when I started I was most productive when I set up a specific place for work. As a new remote worker, this is essential.
If you have a dedicated desk or room, that is the obvious choice. During my first months of working from home, I didn’t have this option, so I set the kitchen table up for work every day and cleaned it off every evening when I finished. I even mounted a monitor on the wall of the kitchen so I had a bigger screen. You may not need to go that far, but I highly recommend a dedicated spot in your house.
When you are looking for this space, think about how you will feel sitting or standing there all day. Look for a place with good lighting, a view to the outside and if you need to make video calls a backdrop that has some character or color.
Spare bedrooms or something with a door is awesome if you have kids, roommates or a partner who isn’t accustomed to you working from home.
Buy Good Headphones
If you share a house with someone else or are easily distracted, you need to buy a good pair of headphones — preferably noise canceling. For this situation, I recommend over the ear headphones instead of AirPods Pro since in-ear headphones aren’t always comfortable for hours of use.
This will help block out other people in our house, the small annoying noises that distract you and stuff happening outside your home. Here are a few pairs that I recommend;
- iFrogz AIRTIME VIBE – $99.99
- Jabra Elite 85h – $238.98
- Bose ANC Wireless Bluetooth Headphones 700 – $399
- Sony WH-1000XM3 – $348
You can use whatever you have on hand, but setting yourself up to zone out the world around you will help dramatically. Especially while other people in your life adapt. It’s easy to explain that headphones on, means that you shouldn’t be interrupted unless it is an emergency.
Set Up an Ergonomic Workspace
You’re now working from home, but that doesn’t mean ergonomics don’t matter anymore. You can work from the couch or your favorite recliner, but you shouldn’t spend all day there unless you enjoy neck and backaches.
When you select your work spot, find a desk or a table that is a good height and if you can, an actual office chair.
I recommend a laptop stand with an external keyboard and mouse. If you don’t want to buy a stand, set your laptop on some books or a box to get the laptop higher on your desk. I’m currently testing the Yohann MacBook Pro Stand and it looks and works amazing.
When it is time to stop work for the day, mark the end of the day by putting all your gear in a Work From Home Bag and clearing it from the living area. This mentally helps you end the day and turn work off even if you don’t have a space that is just for work. We love the SFBags Work From Home bag.
Your first instinct is to turn on all the work notifications so that you don’t miss something. Do not do this. You will not get any work done if you let notifications interrupt you all day.
What you need is to set expectations on how to get ahold of you when there is an urgent matter. Most of the time using Slack or a similar tool will work. If your company still lives in email, now is a good time to try and shift to a tool like Slack or Microsoft teams. If neither is an option, you may need to have coworkers text for urgent matters. In that case, set up a separate number or use Whatsapp or hangouts if you can.
You may need to specifically limit notifications from friends or family while you are in a focus period. If this is something you need to do, try setting a 20-minute timer and turning on do not disturb.
Schedule One Non-Work Call A Day
This is where I would normally tell you to get coffee or schedule some lunches out, but you may not want to go through with that during Coronavirus concerns.
Instead, schedule a non-work call each day. This could be with a friend, but it is also just as good to call your work friend or “work spouse” who you would normally chat with during the day. This virtual watercooler chat will help keep both of you sane and on track.
When you are just starting, and especially if this is new with your team, communicate more than you would in the office. Pick the platform that you will use and then keep everyone up to date on what you are doing.
Now, this doesn’t mean a full recap of what you are about to work on, but if your work requires handing off tasks or knowing what others are working on throughout the day, drop a short note saying that you are working on a specific project or task.
Think of it like a Facebook status or tweet, where you’re keeping your work network in the loop, and if someone needs more information or background they can leave a comment or send you a private message.
Take Advantage of the Situation
Lean into the advantages of working from home. You don’t need to dress up, put on makeup or do your hair — assuming you can keep video calls to specific days. You can also use this time to keep small chores that you’d normally deal with at the end of your commute. Dishes, laundry, and other small tasks are much easier to keep up with when you are working from home.
This is also a perfect time to take care of yourself by taking the time to make a healthy lunch and eat away from your desk. You’re gaining a lot of time with this change, so build in time to cook or even time to workout at home.
If you have kids or pets, this is also a great time to spend more time with them. In short, find time to build joy into your workday that you don’t get at the office.