How to Make the Most of Working Remotely

Remote work has been steadily growing in popularity for so many reasons. Workers want more flexibility, it expands your talent pool options and cuts costs since there’s no need for a physical location. But a lot of employees are finding themselves suddenly working remotely without a choice as their companies are taking precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus or testing out their processes in case employees are required to stay home. 

Companies and employees may be unprepared for this sudden shift in day to day operations, but you can use this as an opportunity to prepare for the future and test out options for remote work. Here are a few ways to keep your team on track during this time. 

For Everyone

1.) Get Everyone Comfortable With A Video Conferencing System

I’ve found Google Meet, Zoom, UberConference, and Webex all easy to use, but I make a point to try them out before an important call. Get everyone on your team into a group call just for this reason, play around, and make sure everyone understands the key functions. If one person is saying “Yeah I’ll get logged in eventually,” stay on and walk them through the steps. 

2. Turn Your Cameras On

I cannot stress this enough. Having a meeting with a blank screen is like talking into a void. The point of a web call is that you can connect and see one another, gauge reactions, and ensure your team is present. It happens to all of us; if no one is looking at us and talking in a large group, we start to drift. We check email, pick up our phone to scroll Instagram or grab a snack. You would never do that in a regular meeting, so why would you be that rude on a web call? Be present, be engaged, or excuse yourself from the call if this isn’t relevant to you. Also, check what’s in your background before you hop on a call. A plain wall is best, but check for anything too distracting; you can even hang a plain sheet behind you or use the new background effects to blur out your kids toys.

3. Schedule A Quick Call, Don’t Message

Don’t fall into the trap of just emailing or going back and forth on Slack for questions. We all know things can get lost in translation via text, and some things are just easier to say out loud. Message your co-workers, “Got a sec?” and send them a link to a call. When you have to work remotely, you’ll quickly become aware of how often you tap your co-workers on the shoulder for things you could have figured out on your own and better appreciate the calls where you collaborate.

For Companies

1. Ensure Your Workers Have The Capability To Work From Home

Upgrade their Wi-Fi and foot the bill. You are saving money by not having the lights on in your office so you can afford to make sure they have fast, reliable Wi-Fi for meetings.

Check-in that they have a workspace and offer options. Your employees may have kids or roommates at home that don’t allow for a quiet dedicated home office. Let them know they can expense those lattes from Starbucks while they soak up their Wi-Fi.

If needed, set up a call app or forward your desk phones. Employees don’t suddenly want clients to have their cell phone number just because they are working from home. Programs like RingCentral can ensure your employees’ privacy, and your clients don’t need to learn a new number.

2. Clearly Communicate Your Expectations

Some of your employees may be feeling a little lost. (Some will thrive in this new environment with fewer distractions! Note this for later.) But for those who need more structure, make sure they are set up with everything they need to do and clear metrics to track themselves. This is key. You do not want to turn into a micromanager because you can’t see your team – let them show you what they can do. Schedule recurring team calls and one-on-ones to stay checked in.

For Employees

1. Your Couch Is Not Your Office

Ok, sometimes I work from my couch, but it is important that you dedicate an area to work or it’s very easy to start, well…not working. You may not have a home office or a spare room just lying around for this but set up a space that, during office hours, work is what happens there. Be it your kitchen table or that cute little table you got at that yard sale, dedicate a space.

2. Set Boundaries

With your family, with your friends, with yourself. Work from home is still that: work. People often feel that because you are not physically at work, they can drop in to chat or ask you to run errands. It is crucial that you let the people in your life know ahead of time, “I’m working from home, so please be respectful that I am at work.” And for yourself too. Don’t try to do everything you would do when you are home during work hours. There is always something else you can be doing, your house will never be perfectly clean, and those dishes will be there after work, so leave them be, and do the work you are being paid to do.

3. Enjoy Not Being In Your Office

The time you would have spent getting a coffee can now be a quick walk around your neighborhood or changing over your laundry. (Yes, this breaks the last rule and only do it if you can stop housework after putting clothes in the dryer.) 

Eat better! Now that you don’t need to pack a lunch at 6 am, you can make better food choices throughout the day. Drink lots of water to avoid the temptation of constant snacking.

Take a nap at lunch. YUP. I said it. If you are someone who can power nap for 20 minutes and wake up refreshed, do it. It’s amazing. The trick is to drink a cup of coffee, then lie down for 20 minutes. (Set two alarms just in case.) Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to metabolize, so you pop back up feeling refreshed. 

4. Business From The Waist Up

Because your co-workers will see you (since you have your cameras on, right?) it’s important to be presentable just as you would in the office. And every company has different levels of what is appropriate, but my go-to work attire is long sleeve tee, sweat pants, and slippers. Throw on a blazer and cute earrings when it’s meeting time and BOOM: professional from the waist up.

5. Take Note If This Works For You

Moving to being a remote worker 4 years ago has been a game-changer, and I couldn’t be happier. The amount of time and energy I save not commuting is of immeasurable value to me. In that extra two hours a day I cook healthier foods, exercise regularly, and started taking pottery classes. 

Not to mention how happy my dogs are, they sleep next to my desk. We even started fostering rescue dogs because I’m home all day, so why the heck not? Record your progress, and make a case to your manager why this should be an option full time or at least more often.

It’s also good for my company too, that’s probably important to mention. There are numerous benefits to your entire organization around cost savings and expanding your talent pool. Your employees who value peace, quiet, and no commute will be the hardest working most loyal team you have ever had because they are grateful.

Personally, I work better away from my wonderful but distracting coworkers. At home, I can just put my head down and power through what’s in front of me. Then our meetings and calls aren’t a bother because I’m trying to get other things done, they are productive. There is a list of things I want their input on and am excited to collaborate. Having always been a fairly independent  person, to be in an environment that says “Hey, we trust that you will do your job and will come to us when you have questions,” makes me feel like a truly respected and empowered team member. Take this moment to give that opportunity to your team.

 

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About The Author

As the National Account Director at Shiftgig, Laura is the least pushy salesperson you will ever meet. Her background in retail sales management left her determined to find a better way for people to work and is excited to help her clients discover that path. Laura works remotely in Milwaukee, WI where she fosters rescue dogs and yes you can ask to see them on your next call with her.