These are the 5 best tips for working remotely if the coronavirus has forced you to transition from office work to work from home.
The rise of COVID-19 has forced many of us to drastically alter the way we conduct business. Maybe your business has been temporarily forced to shut down until workers are allowed to gather. Or, maybe your company has been deemed a necessary business, and you’re now tasked with remaining productive while keeping your employees safe. One way in which companies are solving the last issue is by transitioning their employees from working in an office to working from home. Unless remote work was already a part of your business, this can be a difficult transition to make. Thankfully, there are many professionals out there (myself included), who have been successfully telecommuting for years and can share a number of tips for working remotely based on the experience.
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Communication is one of the most important tips for working remotely. That’s because many employers worry that if their employees work remotely, they’ll take advantage of the unsupervised time to binge Netflix series. (Anybody else watch Tiger King?) In reality, there have been numerous studies done on employees who work remotely that show a significant performance increase when employees are allowed to work from home. Working from home for many people results in fewer sick days, increased production, and higher job satisfaction.
To calm the concern of managers, however, remote workers should really focus on their communication skills. For example, I send an email at the end of every workday updating my supervisor with what tasks I accomplished that day. This helps me advocate for myself and prove that I’ve been productive, and my manager is also aware of the progression of any projects.
One-on-one meetings are also a crucial communication tool. Have you ever had a misunderstanding that occurred from a text or email conversation? Miscommunication can easily occur when you’re not able to read the other person’s body language or tone of voice. Whether over the phone or through video conferences, one-on-one meetings are a great way to touch base with your team or clear up any misunderstandings.
2. Purchase Technology That Supports Working Remotely
Many remote workers will tell you that one of the best tips for working remotely is having the right technology and equipment. Can you get by for a while with just the basics like wifi, a cell phone, and a laptop? Sure. But after making your third call of the day with your cell phone cradled between your shoulder and your ear, you’ll soon realize you need a better solution. Consider using earbuds or purchasing a headset if you make a lot of calls every day.
An external monitor, wireless keyboard, and wireless mouse all work well to give you a desktop-like setup. From one remote worker to another, though, a wired mouse beats a wireless one anytime. While you can use a wireless mouse from up to 30 feet away from your computer… why would you? Most of the time, you’re working near your laptop, if not right at it. And there’s often interference that prevents the mouse from reaching its full range of distance anyway. Finally, wireless mice are usually battery-operated, meaning you won’t have a functioning mouse if your batteries die. On the other hand, wired mice have ample cord length and are powered by your computer via a USB port. They’re also quicker and more responsive, which is great for PC gaming (after work, of course).
Software is also a great purchase for remote workers. Our company was able to go completely remote during the Coronavirus crisis because we actually use the software we sell. Whether you’re in the field or you’re quarantined at home, cloud-based software requires only an internet connection to work. There’s software that turns your cell phone into a business phone (no more having to give out your personal phone number!). Or software that can help you make your calls three times faster while still enabling you to transfer calls, get help through whisper coaching, and maintain TCPA compliance. And don’t forget about sales software that lets managers monitor their remote employees’ productivity with reports.
3. Think About Your Workspace
Creating a dedicated workspace is one of the most often mentioned tips for working remotely. That’s because it’s so important. You need a section of your house where you can have some privacy to make phone calls and focus on your work. If you’re lucky enough to have a home office, that’s great. If not, you can make it work. A table or countertop is adequate in a pinch.
Perhaps most important is to make sure that your station is ergonomic. Are you able to type on your laptop with your elbows near your sides so your shoulders aren’t constantly lifted? Do you tend to find yourself leaning forward in your desk chair too much? You wouldn’t think little things like this matter, but if you’re not maintaining the correct posture, you can seriously injure yourself over time.
True story, I once bought a beautiful mahogany leather desk chair for my home office. The chair was padded and was supposed to provide ultimate comfort for a full workday. However, as is often the case with office desk chairs, the chair was built for someone taller than myself. I ended up having to sit forward in the chair in order to place my feet comfortably on the ground, and the lack of lower back support resulted in me leaning my neck forward to compensate. After several months of this, I (unsurprisingly) strained the muscles in my neck and had to complete physical therapy. Learn from my experience and get an office chair that fits you.
4. Figure Out Your Work Style
Not every work from home job requires you to chain yourself to your desk all day. At the office, employees spend a great deal of time engaging in what I like to call office chit-chat. These are the informal conversations that happen when a coworker pops into your cubicle or office to ask a question or just to see how you are. In an office, you might also get up to make coffee, replace the water cooler, or empty the communal dishwasher. Doing the same in your home is perfectly normal, and these small breaks can even improve the quality of your work.
Also, not everyone’s workday will look the same. Some people are more productive in the morning or in the afternoon. There are some people that need several small breaks throughout the day, and others who will want to take one long one. Find what works for you. Perhaps one of my best tips for working remotely is to focus on task completion, rather than working from one specific time to another specific time.
Especially if you’re quarantined with young children, it’s almost impossible to get an uninterrupted hour of work where someone isn’t barging in needing help or asking for a snack. Write down a list of what you need to accomplish. Break that list down into smaller steps, and work on it, step by step. Not only are you able to pick up where you left off if you’re interrupted, but even the most herculean tasks will become more manageable.
5. Be Sure to End Your Work Day
One of the most challenging tips for working remotely is knowing when and how to end your workday. After all, we’re constantly connected to our phones. These are the same phones we might use to make sales calls or message our coworkers. That makes separating work time and you-time difficult. For example, if a message from your boss pops up on your phone at dinner time, aren’t you tempted to check it?
Make sure that you set an end time for yourself each day. Then, be sure to communicate that time to your team. Though you might feel like a bad employee for unplugging when the workday is over, a clear separation between your work life and your home life will prevent burnout.
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No one knows for certain when businesses will be allowed to reopen. Luckily, with these tips for working remotely, you can continue with business as usual.