Hello, newly remote employees! As someone who has worked from home for the past four years, let me welcome you. Whether you’re excited or terrified about this change, I can assure you: you will get used to it. As you adjust and find your groove you may be tempted to ask around for tips and tricks. Here are my top four recommendations for anyone who is adapting to the sudden newness of working from home.
1. Give yourself time to figure out what works for you.
Your organization, your friends, your coworkers: everyone likely has their own spin on what works best when working from home. While these tips are well-intentioned, remember that your telework setup is fundamentally similar to your in-office setup – what works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Some of my coworkers crave a highly regimented and structured approach to their work when they are in the office: they rarely leave their desk, they don’t chat with their peers much, and they leave at 5:00 pm on the dot. For them, a highly structured at-home approach is going to be crucial. For others, those kinds of parameters and rules may feel arbitrary or even impede their ability to work well. (Personally, sometimes I work in my very meticulous office and sometimes I work at the messy kitchen table – it’s really just however I’m feeling that day.) Don’t feel like you need to copy anyone else’s exact approach. It’s going to take a bit of time to figure out what feels best, and that’s okay. Remember, the goal is to stay productive and positive; there is no right or wrong process for how you get there.
2. Video chat whenever possible.
This recommendation stands true even for the most introverted workers. Losing out on the human connection overnight is going to be jarring, and while phone calls help, they aren’t the same. For meetings that have at least three people, opt for video chat as your standard approach. (For one-on-one or external client meetings, you can still defer to a phone call instead. Just don’t start relying strictly on instant messaging!) At worst, a video chat will feel a little unnecessary. But at best, it will keep you connected with your team and help maintain a sense of normalcy. No one’s going to care if your kids, pets, or partners are walking around in the background – if anything, it’ll help encourage that sense of community and camaraderie and reinforce that you’re all in this together.
3. Take breaks to avoid burnout.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in a task in the comfort of your own home, so it’s important to make sure that you take breaks throughout the day to both avoid burnout and to remain productive. Set aside 15-minute breaks both in the morning and the afternoon. Make sure to take a lunch break. When you have a chance to step away for a moment, you can better reflect on what you’ve been working on and then, ultimately, come back to your tasks with a renewed sense of purpose and productivity. And it’s good for your mental wellbeing, too, when you have the opportunity to step back and take a breath.
4. Sign off at an appropriate time.
As mentioned in the prior tip, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your work in the comfort of your own home. So just as important as it is to take breaks throughout the day, so is it to make sure you sign off at an appropriate hour. It’s so easy to work longer, more discretionary hours when you have no commute and you’re comfortable in your home. But you also want to avoid further burnout by working long hours past your official sign-out time. Barring any urgent requests, it’s important to differentiate work and life so they don’t muddle together in such a way that you find yourself sacrificing your personal time.
At the end of the day, the approach that works for you is the only approach that matters. Just remember that if you’re feeling unproductive or frustrated, that does not necessarily mean that working from home is a bad fit for you, it just means you haven’t found your best style yet. Keep experimenting, keep adjusting, and keep growing – I promise you will get used to it.