Tips and Tricks for Remote Working Environments. Part Two Employees – How can you set yourself up for success?
Undoubtedly, remote working has not only become a trend over the last several years but is a necessity amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. If you or your company have never worked remotely, you are more than likely facing challenges you have never dealt with before – working at home, full-time, possibly with a new set of “co-workers” – family members, pets, roommates etc. I’d like to share a few things that I have learned over the last several years with my remote organization, Female Integrator Mastermind (FIM), and a few things that BCR® Wealth recently implemented during our transition to working from home.
Part Two: Employees – How can you set yourself up for success?
When working from home you have a lot of things to determine. These items include your work schedule (is it different from your in-office hours?), where are you going to work, what technology and resources do you need, and how to create a work environment that allows you to be productive. Below are five things to consider setting yourself up for a productive environment.
- Create Consistent routine
Most people thrive with consistent routine(s)! Personally, I have a morning routine that includes breakfast, meditation and prayer, grooming and dressing, and a work routine that includes meetings, emails, accomplishing tasks, etc., as well as a night routine, a makeup routine, etc.
It is important to prepare yourself for “work mode.” The best way to accomplish this mental transition while working from home is to replicate the things you do when going to the office. If you normally wake up at a certain time, eat breakfast, take a shower, groom and dress yourself, and head to the office then you should keep this same routine. The only difference would be heading to the office now consists of walking over to a desk at your home instead of driving into the office.
It is important to set your schedule. Work with your manager to determine the expectation for your working hours. It is important that you “start” and “stop” working with lunch and breaks according to your schedule to put yourself in the right frame of mind that you are in “work mode.” Share your schedule with your new co-workers (those in your household) so they are aware that you should not be interrupted during this time period.
Lastly for this section, I encourage you to groom and dress yourself as if you were going into the office. As simple as this sounds, this is another simple method to transition yourself into “work mode.” In addition, you are prepared for being on camera during virtual meetings.
- Create a Work Environment
In an ideal world, you should set up a dedicated workspace that allows you privacy and with all the office supplies you would have at the office. Not everyone has this luxury in their home, especially with their spouses, significant others, roommates, etc. also working from home. At the very least you should set up your computer/laptop at a desk or table with a comfortable chair with back support (definitely NOT a couch or your bed). If at all possible, do this in a room with a door that can be closed to create privacy when needed.
Create an environment that allows you to stay focused! For me, turning on a radio creates background noise that allows me to tune out all the distracting noises. With the radio on, I don’t hear every little creak of the house, my spouse’s conversations, or the neighborhood kids playing outside with their pets. Instead, I remain focused on the work at hand. In addition, log out of your social media during working hours. It is incredibly easy to get distracted by social media notifications and the next thing you know, you’ve been on your phone for 30 minutes checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or a myriad of other platforms.
As mentioned in the previous bullet point, share your schedule with those in your household so they are aware of when you are available and when you are preoccupied. Consider putting a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on your door with an expectation of when you’ll be available again. A tip I heard for parents is to coordinate with your significant other and inform your child(ren) who they can contact and when. One mom even shared “most common answers” on her door sign: “fruit in the refrigerator”, “did you check your closet or under the bed?”, “be nice to your sibling”, “30 minute tv time and one hour school time.”
- Plan your day/week ahead of time
Planning your day and week ahead of time allows you to be prepared for your workload. Personally, I plot out my task list, meetings, etc. for the following week every Friday afternoon by keeping it organized in an electronic calendar system. Not only does it allow you to organize your day so you are focused on the projects and tasks at hand, it is extremely satisfying to mark the “to do” items off as done! You feel accomplished and ready to take on the next task!
- Communicate, Communicate and Communicate some more!
Communication in a remote working environment is critical to your success. It is important to speak with your manager and your team to establish the best means of communications for everyone. Be sure you understand how to contact them to ask a standard question versus how to contact them in a high priority situation versus an emergency. These means of communication might be different which is important for you to understand to get prompt responses to/from them.
Sometimes, the smallest things can have the biggest impact. It is imperative to promptly return emails and voicemails. Your supervisor and coworkers may not be aware of whether you are in a meeting, on a call with a client/customer or working on a task or project. In return, you may not be aware of why they are asking for information – maybe they need to return a call or email. A brief email acknowledging receipt of their request and when you expect to respond is highly effective and appreciated by everyone involved.
In a remote environment overcommunication is key. My rule of thumb is if you thought someone “might want to know about it” (whatever “it”: might be), then they probably do! Be sure to share information, when projects or tasks are completed, etc.
One last thing about communication – be sure to get face time with your manager and your coworkers. Be present with a camera on, even if it is uncomfortable at first, so you can all see each other. It makes a big difference!
- Technology is your ally
Some technology that you will need is obvious; computer/laptop, webcam, headphones or a microphone, etc. Almost everyone has an internet at their homes and a lot of us use Wi-Fi connections, especially on our laptops. When working from home it is beneficial to connect to the internet using an ethernet cable, if at all possible, for a stronger connection. Wi-Fi will certainly work but you may experience delays or lags.
When transitioning to a remote working environment, your company might integrate new technology like virtual meeting spaces, group messaging services, collaborative documents, eSignatures, etc. Be sure you make every effort to stay informed of what technology is being used, the expectation for how it will be used and most importantly, be sure you are trained on how to use these resources. They are for your, your team, and your company’s benefit, but they are only effective if you know how and when to use them.
One of the many changes you may experience is virtual meeting space, like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype for Business, etc. Since you have woken up and conducted your morning ritual as suggestion in bullet one, you are ready for these meetings. In virtual meetings not only is it important to be groomed and dressed, it is just as important to have a professional setting and background. Be sure you have a clean workspace that does not reveal any documents that you don’t want seen by the participants. In addition, check your background to make sure you don’t have anything behind you that you don’t want seen on camera.
My hope is that these tips and tricks will help you set yourself up for a successful and productive work day while you are working remotely.