You’ve probably seen dozens of similar articles floating around the internet or pushed to your inbox. I’m sorry. Here’s another one. Yep. I am going to write another one of those articles about how to work remotely; however, this comes from someone who has tested these methods and actually uses them to push through an eight hour day with their chihuahua and homemade coffee.
Get A Dedicated Space
I see you at your kitchen table. You think you’re cute. But you might regret where you’ve placed your new corner office. Please do yourself a favor and build a dedicated location for your work. If you’re going to use your kitchen table, that’s okay, but it’s no longer the kitchen table. It’s a desk with all of the materials you need for work. It’s set up with monitors and maybe even pushed into a corner so it no longer feels like a kitchen table. Eating dinner will happen elsewhere.
If you have the luxury of living in a residence with a separate office, use it. Close the door and don’t spend time in that space when you’re not working. Similarly, don’t continue sitting at your kitchen table office when you’re not working. Keep it as a separate space for the intention of work. This will help you feel more relaxed when you’re off the clock and more focused when it’s time to get your 40+ hours in for your employer.
When I was a child the thought of a video call was a big deal. It was not accessible and definitely not cheap. Fast forward to 2020 and there is little point in a verbal phone call because every piece of technology has a video component. If you’re a leader that is holding regular meetings, turn your camera on. Most laptops come with cameras and showing your face in a meeting is a great way to bolster your contribution to the team and your support of the company that employs you. If you’re a business owner, consider inviting your clients to join you on a video call. I recently heard a great piece of advice (sorry I don’t have attribution for this), if the meeting facilitator has their camera on then yours should be on too.
I should share one caveat with you about video calls. Learn how to use your camera, speakers, and microphone, before you make or join a call or meeting. There is no excuse for the echo. Google how to fix it. Speak to your IT department. figure it out. Oh, and if you hear feedback in a meeting – it might be you. So mute unless you’re talking. Please.
Snacks and Drinks Help You Think
Trying to work on a detailed project while you’re depleted of glucose is not useful. Leaving your dedicated workspace every ten minutes for a small cup of water is distracting to your productivity. Pack a bag of snacks and drinks to last at least four hours. Use ice packs. Or, invest in a mini-refrigerator. It’s worth it and will save you at least an hour in lost productivity. How? When you go to grab a drink you also see the dirty dishes, the dog that wants a treat and the plants that need to be watered. Don’t allow yourself to be in a position where you can meander over to other tasks when you were simply looking for a Fresca.
Take Breaks. Sometimes Many.
Some people can focus non-stop for hours on end. I am not one of those people. I need variety. If you have worked with me then you know I am a conversationalist. This was a way for me to take a mental break between projects. My work in marketing is very project based and interpersonal interactions help me create transition time between projects. Working at home means being alone. There is no one to chat with about the odd power outage that happened because of a herd of deer. I am not sure that has ever happened but it’s possible in Vermont.
Oh, right, breaks. So instead of speaking with colleagues I take periodic breaks. I use this time to check in with myself physically. Do I need water? Food? Social interaction? If I need social interaction I may not always scroll through social media. I may actually take that time to speak with followers or post something. This helps me still feel like I’m speaking with someone. Other times I will take the dog out for a five-minute walk down the street. Or, I’ll pop through the drive-thru for coffee. I try to do something that has an obvious ending. For example, going for coffee means that once I get the coffee and arrive home, the break is done. It’s on to the next project.
If you feel you need to take more breaks and work a longer day, do it. If you’re hourly and working from home, speak with your Manager about how you can best work mini-breaks into your day. If you’re salary, get to a full day and build your breaks in as you go.
I’m feeling very empathetic toward parents that are working from home. Especially parents who would otherwise have the escape of an office environment. Yes, I said escape. It can be very jarring for a parent to go from a 40hr office work week to a 40hr co-working space with their toddler. For those without children, like myself, it’s still important to set boundaries.
So what boundaries can we set to enhance our remote work experience? Consider the following ideas:
- Set a start and end time for work. If you’re taking more breaks, then your day may actually end later than usual.
- Break up the childcare duties. I don’t have much experience with this matter but balance in all things is valuable.
- Be careful not to set lunch dates or social visits when you should be working. Granted, we’re all pretty confined to our homes but a socially distanced brunch could drag on and distract you from your day.
- Do still use PTO. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you don’t need a vacation or time to focus on your medical appointments. Early on in the pandemic I took a Friday off just to process what was happening in the world. You can too.
- Don’t work 15hr days because you can. I remember working so late in one office that I had to wave my hands to turn the sensor lights back on. Overworking can lead to physical and mental stress so be sure you’re setting the expectation that the day ends after eight or nine hours. Or less if that’s what is required of you.
I hope you found these tips helpful. Perhaps they’re the same tips you’ve seen all over your TikTok “For You” page. Regardless, stay sane out there. Grab a snack and enjoy this time of personal grounding as we get through 2020, together.