Working from Home for the First Time? Don’t Panic. Here are 5 Tips
You’re one of the millions of people thrust into working from home now, and you might not have ever done that before. Even if you have had a taste of working remotely, you might now find yourself in a new situation with schools and offices closing for the longer term.
Don’t panic; working remotely can be effective, and the commute is VERY short. I have worked remotely nearly my entire career, and AKA has always supported working from home. Here are a few pointers that have helped me be successful. Hopefully, they will work for you, too.
1. Even if you’re working from home, get ready in the morning as if you were going to the office
You may be asking, “Wait! Isn’t the primary benefit of working from home that you get to stay in your PJs all day long and work from bed?” That seems fun at first, but the lines between comfortable and lazy begin to blur. Please take my advice; get ready for work by doing the following:
- Get dressed. it doesn’t have to be “suit and tie fancy,” but getting ready puts a clear line in the day (and trust me, lines get blurry working from home). Sometimes I even wear shoes.
- Be aware that you might be seen if you do video calls. In general, match the culture of your company or clients, but a frumpy hoodie will ALWAYS look like a frumpy hoodie.
- Sit at a desk or table (even though that couch is SO much more inviting).
2. Set boundaries with roommates, partners, and children
This is a hard one. Even after working from home for close to a decade, we still struggle with this.
- Try to start with a formal discussion outside of working hours to come to mutually acceptable guidelines for remote work. Here are some of mine:
- Please keep the door closed to the room I am working in
- Try to avoid non-essential conversation when I am at my computer
- Check to see if I am on a call before you ask a question
- Yes, I am at home, but that does not mean I am available (for chores, errands, etc.)
- Don’t be a jerk. No one likes to work in a house with “Ms./Mr. Grumpy-Pants.” Remember: Everyone is human, and you are SOO enjoyable, how can the people around you honestly be expected to keep their distance for an ENTIRE day? Be patient and calm as you gently remind people of the boundaries.
- Don’t become a workaholic. Because of the blurry lines, it is easy to keep doing “just one more thing,” and since you don’t need to leave the office, you can easily work 1- hour days every day. I stay very focused on work only during the work day and then turn everything OFF when it is time to make/eat dinner.
Again, this is a hard one to do and takes time, so be patient with those around you AND yourself. My son still asks me to play LEGOs with him almost every day (sometimes I say yes…).
3. Put the right tools in place
The tools you use can impact your work greatly. Here are some tools and technology that have helped me a LOT in working remotely:
- Second screen – You probably have one in the office, but once you go two, you can’t go back. Don’t try three screens; it’s dangerous.
- A mouse – Does this seem obvious? I used my laptop’s built-in mouse pad for a couple years before my friend forced a wireless mouse on me, and I don’t know how I did it before.
- Headphones with a mic – I use calm music without lyrics to drown out any house sounds that might be distracting. Headphones are also helpful for hearing clearly on conference calls. You don’t have to invest in anything fancy, but ask people on the call if they can hear you well enough. Not all mics are created equal.
- Internet connection – Due to the increase in the number of people now working from home, there has been a noticeable strain put on the video conferencing software and the internet itself. Additionally, your WIFI router and/or internet speed might not be great to start with. If the call quality is awful, turn off your video feed or try calling in with a cell phone and just view the screen share on the computer. If you have the option to plug your computer into the internet on a hard line, that might be the best option.
4. Follow conference/video call etiquette
POP QUIZ: Do you HAVE to show your video or not? Answer: It depends.
- Typically, I will mimic the video sharing behavior of the most senior person on the call.
- Also, I allow the general behavior of the call to dictate what I do. If everyone else’s video is on, I’ll turn mine on. That said, if I am having a great hair day and want to show it off to the world, I will often be the first one to turn on video #trendsetter.
- Sharing video for internal team calls makes you feel more connected.
- Sometimes I choose not to share my video, and I don’t feel bad about it for a second.
- Be aware of what is behind you in frame.
- On that thought: If you’re using Microsoft Teams, there is a cool “Blur my background” feature that makes the pile of dirty clothes behind you disappear.
- FOR GOODNESS SAKE, LEARN TO USE YOUR MUTE BUTTON. This one gets its own section because it is THAT important. Here is a list of things people don’t want to hear on the call:
- Your dog barking
- You YELLING at your barking dog
- You making excuses for your barking dog
- You TYPING LOUDLY
- Echoes from your speaker
- Your side conversations about Covid-19 (yes, everyone can hear you even if you whisper)
- Your TV in the background
- Chewing food or sipping coffee
- The toilet flushing (I wouldn’t mention it if it hadn’t happened….multiple times)
- Yelling children
- You walking around
I think you get the point. A good rule of thumb is, mute yourself if you are not talking, but be ready to QUICKLY unmute at any point.
5. Get outside…go for a walk or something
I have caught myself many times realizing I haven’t left my house for DAYS. Fresh air, a change in scenery, and physical exercise are all important to maintain sanity and overall health to bring your best to the work day. A quick walk does wonders.
Hang in there
Be resilient! We’ll get through this. I am confident that these hard-earned lessons I have picked up will help you adjust to your new normal.
If you want more help for your team or organization, AKA Enterprise Solutions has been helping companies quickly transition to a remote workforce during the past few weeks and are here to help your team or organization on working through this adjustment. Now, if you have any tips on homeschooling….I am all ears!