Social Distancing | Tips for Working From Home
First and foremost, it is a strange time. That is something we can all agree on. As we are adapting to our modified environment, it is important to take care of yourself, mentally and physically. I think Dana, Owner/Principal of Kinetic, put it best.
“Take care of yourself, take care of your family, and THEN take care of your other family (Kinetic and our clients.)”
This is very important to remember when we are looking into the unknown. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.
On to our regularly scheduled programming.
COVID-19, the Novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 – whatever you call it – it has shaken the world. As individuals and businesses are working to adapt to this environment, there are a number of actions we can take to do our part for our communities. By now, you are aware of social distancing and what it is, so we won’t review that.
Social distancing can have different meanings, depending on what your typical workday looks like. For some folks, this means a two-week hiatus from work, for others it means taking work home, and for some, it means full lockdown.
If it means “taking work home,” you are in the right place. More and more offices are moving to a remote-working situation, and Kinetic is one of them. But what does that mean for individuals transitioning from the office to the living room? How can you maximize your productivity and minimize distractions?
In this quick article, I will break down some of the tricks that I use to stay productive from my home office. As an agency, we had a discussion on how to best move work forward while transitioning from a group setting to a digital team. I hope that our game plan can help you and your organization during these trying times.
I have been working remotely for the last five years and have come up with a plan that meets my needs. Here are my top five tips:
- Work a regular eight-hour day, if possible
- Start your morning as if you were going into the office
- Set expectations with your housemates
- Take breaks
- VIDEO CHAT
The Most Important Step – Technology
This may seem like a no-brainer, but once you have schlepped all of your tech from the office, you don’t want to have to go back to the office for that one thing. Take time before you pack up to run through your day and the projects you typically work on. If there is anything you use beyond your computer, you may want to bring this home with you.
The most important tech item for me and the one I miss the most when I don’t have it – my second monitor. This is a major productivity killer for me and is something that I do not take for granted. Figure out what your “second monitor” is and make sure you have it!
Internet access is key to a work from home environment. If you are experiencing slow load time or just an overall poor connection, it is time to nix any streaming during business hours. If you have kids around, download their favorite shows from Netflix so they are not using your precious bandwidth! Still not working? Turn off your video or screen sharing and use your phone when possible.
A few other items you may want to discuss with management before you head home for the next couple of weeks.
- Meeting software
- Hours of operation
- Client meetings
Pro Tip – I have found that a set of iPhone headphones works just as good, if not better than most of the USB options available.
Now that you have your tech sorted, let’s get into some other items that will prepare you for high-level productivity.
Communication is the backbone of an organization, and this couldn’t be more true when you have a team working remotely. Make a habit to let people know what you are working on and when you will be done. This will help to keep everyone on the same page and will also allow those with whom you work to have no questions when tasks are moving forward. This is a productivity booster for all parties involved.
Work Regular Hours
For me, personally, this has been a huge part of my work-from-home success. Setting proper work hours will help you be in sync with your colleagues but will promote proper work-life balance. Now, with that being said, one of the bonuses when working from home is flexibility. Be cognizant of your time, and don’t overwork yourself.
For some people, this is more important than others. For me, this is VERY important. I want to sit down at my home office and be ready to tackle the day. I approach every morning as if I was going to be going to the office, which I am. It’s just at my house. Do what works best for you, but if you find yourself struggling in the morning, try your old routine!
When you are working from home, it is easy to get caught up in your tasks and work eight straight hours. I have two alarms that go off throughout the day that remind me to take a break or get some food. I find these breaks more valuable in the afternoon when I am becoming a little more lethargic. A quick walk around the yard gets me back to center and more productive.
Scheduling breaks is easy, taking breaks can be a little more difficult. Don’t cut your breaks short. Take the time you have scheduled to reboot, refuel and refocus. You will thank yourself at the end of the day.
Leave the House
There was a time when this meant I would go to the coffee shop for a couple of hours. With that no longer being the best decision for myself or my community, I will switch up where I am working within my home. An hour or two at the kitchen table changes the scenery and allows me to focus through a task. If you have a patio, this may be a great place to get some vitamin D and catch up on your emails.
Talk to Your Co-Workers
Working from home can be isolating, and that feeling may be exacerbated by our current situation. Give your co-worker a call before you dive into work-related items and catch up briefly! I’m sure that my co-workers would agree that I am guilty of this more often than not. Not only can this be refreshing mentally, it is a good way to connect with your colleagues on a personal level.
It is easier to connect with individuals if you can see them, it also can help keep you accountable and engaged during long meetings. At Kinetic, we use video chat as often as possible to keep that connection between all parties involved. There are a number of tools available for this, from Skype to Zoom… and even FaceTime if needed!
Just because you are home doesn’t mean you won’t get sick. Your employer should not expect because you are home that you should be working through an illness you may encounter. If you are sick, take the time you need to get better. Always take care of yourself and then your work.
Ground Rules With People in Your Space
It can be hard for housemates to understand that work hours are work hours. Set your expectations with them early to avoid any conflict during your 9-5. At my house, it is well known that I am unavailable for the majority of my workday unless I am taking breaks. Setting this understanding early has helped to avoid conflict and allows me to be more productive during the day.
Ask for What You Need
Just because you are not in front of your co-workers does not mean that communication should suffer. When working from home, it is more important than ever to communicate and over-communicate with our colleagues. People will not know what you need to move forward unless you tell them. Don’t let distance bottleneck your workflow.
Prepare a Dedicated Office Space
Although this is not possible for everyone, it can be a game-changer. I have worked from my bedroom, the living room, the kitchen and everywhere in between. Once I finally had a dedicated space, it allowed me to focus on the tasks at hand and reduce the chance of interruptions. If you don’t have a dedicated space, do you best to remove yourself from the busy parts of your home where kids, spouses or housemates like to congregate. Trust me, you will thank me later.
I hope that this guide can help you be successful at home. There is currently a large amount of uncertainty in the air and controlling what we can is paramount. If you are concerned about your work-from-home adventure, take it one step at a time and be in constant communication with those around you. This will give your colleagues an opportunity to better engage with you. Help them help you.
Also, enjoy it! None of the items above are steadfast rules, this is just what works for me. If you want to work in your pajamas while watching Greys Anatomy, do it! Find what works for you and double down.
Stay clean and stay productive!