I’ve been working remotely for over a decade as Renderosity’s managing editor. Over the years I’ve developed through trial and error several habits and practices that have enabled me to work effectively. With the Coronavirus pushing more people to work from home, I thought I’d share some tips for those who might be working remotely for the first time.
Tip 1 - Create a comfortable workspace free of distractions
At home, it’s easy to be distracted so you need to find or create a space that allows you to work without being interrupted. You don’t want your pets crawling all over your work or your spouse/partner chatting with you unexpectedly. Look for some kind of table or desk space in an area you can isolate. I use a comfortable chair next to my bookshelves that has a side table with a good standing light. Take some time to create a space you feel comfortable in.
Tip 2 - Set a schedule
Since you aren’t used to working from home you will need a way to structure your time. I use both an erasable board and an online organizer to plan my work. To start out make a list of all of the tasks you have to accomplish and then break them down into the top 5. Write those top five tasks on your erasable board and place it where you can see it while you are working. Put all of the other tasks on your digital organizer of choice (I use millanote).
Tip 3 - Communicate Regularly
Since you are away from your workplace, you will need to communicate regularly with your fellow workers in order to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes. One misunderstood task can result in hours of work you have to throw away. Use texting, email and video conferencing in one form or another every day. With video conferencing (I use Skype primarily), you don’t necessarily have to use the video part. Audio only communication works fine, plus you don’t have to worry about what you are wearing. Remember to schedule meetings in advance and allow about 15 minutes extra at the beginning for technical problems (“my mic doesn’t work”). Be sure to end meetings on time and avoid casual chit chat.
Tip 4 - Take breaks and relax
Since you are working from home you can choose to set your hours of work at any time during the day or night. Work for an hour or two and then take a break. Go for a walk or just relax and read a book. This will help you concentrate better when you are actually working. Also, long periods of sitting can make you feel sleepy. When that happens be sure to get up and stretch. Take a five-minute break and have a glass of orange juice or tea.
Learning how to combine breaks with work will take a little time, but you’ll get there.
Tip 5: Develop a work-at-home mindset
Social media, television, neighbors, food, pets; all of these can keep you from having a work at home mindset. I use a timer from some work sessions. If I think a particular task will take an hour, I set a timer and put it on my side table so I can see it. It’s a psychological way of telling you to get to work! Plan certain jobs for certain days and keep to the schedule. Tell your friends that you are working from home and to avoid calling while you are scheduled to work.
Working from home can be an enjoyable experience as long as you are disciplined and careful in creating your workspace. There are advantages in that you can avoid office politics, work at any time and can take breaks when you need them. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to stay in regular communication with your coworkers and manager.
Images from Pixabay