Work Well When Working Remotely


Over the past few years, working remotely (also referred to as telecommuting and working from home) have become more and more commonplace.  There are websites like devoted to finding flexible work-from-home positions and many employers offer the ability to work from home as a company perk. The majority of Gen Z and Millennial workers say they work from home at least one day per week.

Not everybody likes to work from home for a number of reasons. Maybe you miss having a big desk set up just how you like it. Or you miss the social aspect of working around a number of people. This is partly why co-working companies like WeWork exist and why you see people camped out with their laptops in coffee shops all day.

But in the past couple of weeks, as the novel coronavirus Covid-19 makes its way around the world, remote working has taken on greater significance as more than a perk letting you cut down on a long commute or throw in a load of laundry before dialing into a conference call.  It’s being used as a possible avenue to reduce the spread of the virus itself.  As far as researchers know to date, this strain of coronavirus spreads like other respiratory viruses: from person-to-person and from objects.

While the US hasn’t ordered the kind of large-scale quarantines we have seen in China and Italy, major employers with offices in areas where Covid-19 is making its presence known, like Amazon in Seattle, have taken the step of asking employees to work remotely. Schools are also employing online learning to reduce person-to-person contact of their students and staff (also known as social distancing).

While the full extent of the spread of coronavirus in the US remains to be seen, if you find yourself working from home, whether as a company perk or a necessity, there are a few things you can do to make sure you stay productive, keep some separation of work and life, and get your social fix.

  • Set Up a Designated Office Space
    • If you only occasionally work from home, you might be tempted to just plop down on the sofa with your laptop, remote in hand. While that may work out well for a couple of days, it’s not necessarily a strategy for long-term success.
    • Instead, space permitting in your home, find a spot where you can set up a home office of sorts. Even if that spot is your couch, use the same spot each time.
    • The idea is to push your brain into “work mode” instead of “home mode.”
    • If your work setup is fairly complex – for example, if you use two monitors at work and are planning to work from home remotely regularly – it may be worth buying monitors and a docking station so you can create the same setup.
      • Bonus Tip: Before spending your own cash on this, check to see if your employer has a technology allowance or budget to purchase monitors or docking stations for remote employees.
  • Stick to a Morning Routine
    • While the occasional work-from-home day in your pajamas is certainly a nice treat, resist the urge to make it a habit, especially if you work from home a lot.
    • Instead, get up at your regular time and stick to your usual routine by getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc.
    • Don’t get us wrong, unless you conduct a lot of video conferences, there’s likely no reason to wear business clothes (and even then, you really only need a business-appropriate top!), so go ahead and embrace the sweats or leggings…just wear different ones during the day than you wore to bed.
  • Take Breaks
    • If you normally grab coffee with a coworker at 11am each day, take a quick walk around your block at that time, or pop in a load of laundry. Your mental breaks might look a little different working from home, but you should still take them.
  • Stop Work at Your Usual Stopping Time
    • When working from home, it’s very easy to blur the line between work life and home life. That is one reason why setting up a dedicated office space is helpful – spending all day laying on the couch doing work and all evening laying on the couch watching TV is not a recipe for a good work-life balance.
    • So if your normal stopping time is 5:30pm, then at that time, shut down your computer and put it away. Do your usual dinner and evening routine. If you need to log back in to do work later or just want to in order to get a jump on the next day, of course go ahead, but make sure you take a break to mentally reset away from work and back to home.
  • Make Sure Your Roommates and/or Family Are on Board
    • If you live with others, especially others who may be home during the day, make sure you communicate to them your work schedule to avoid disruptions during the day.
    • Similarly, don’t hang out with them (or invite friends over to hang out) unless you’re off the clock. Would you invite non-work friends to hang out in your cubicle? If not, follow the same practice at home.
  • Pick up the Phone
    • Working from home can be very isolating, especially if you are working from home due to social distancing rather than preference.
    • Nowadays, much of our work is done over email. You may hate talking on the phone or have no need to do so when you’re in the office – you can just pop in on your boss or coworker for some face time.
    • But when you work from home on the regular, the phone takes on greater importance. If you usually check in with your boss a couple of times a week for an in-person meeting, schedule a call to do that. Do you usually spend some time chatting with a coworker about office news?  Take a virtual coffee break from your home offices over the phone or video chat. You might feel silly at first, especially if you normally steer clear of phone calls, but human connection is important and when you cannot do it face to face, the phone is a great substitute.

Photo by A R C H I G E R O S A on Unsplash

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