Heya fellow remote worker.
My name is Chris Priestly. I’m a PR/Marketing coordinator here at Evolve PR and l work remotely from home. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are now working outside their regular office space, likely from their homes. There are a lot of positives in working from home, but there can also be pitfalls if you’re not careful. This blog is intended as helpful advice from someone who has been working remotely for over five years, has made some mistakes, but now knows what he’s doing.
For some, working remotely is a completely alien world. Many people have worked most of their adult lives in traditional offices, with multitudes of fellow employees in close proximity. They’re used to people passing them in the hallways, coworkers stopping by their station and gatherings in the break room to discuss last night’s big game or juicy office gossip. Now they’re working from home and all of their ‘normal” day-to-day contact has disappeared, which can be pretty jarring.
Fear not! Working from home may be different from what you are used to, but it can be as rewarding,as important, and just as productive as working at the office. All you have to do is take some simple, easy steps to ensure that you actually work while working from home.
Working Remotely IS work
First, when working remotely, you have to remember you are doing your job. No matter whether you are at home, in a coffee shop (if any are still open), or wherever; you are doing the job you are being paid for. Many people, when they envision working from home, think of spending the day in their pajamas, playing with their pets, and long coffee breaks without the boss watching and, in truth, there is an element of that. However, just like back in the office, if you don’t get the work done, people are going to notice.
Treat your remote job as your job. Don’t think no one will notice if you don’t get the work done because they absolutely will and you will be accountable.
Have a Dedicated Work Space
Create a dedicated work area in your home where you can do your job, just as if you were back at the office. If you already have a dedicated home office, great! If you don’t, set up an area where you will do your daily tasks while you are “at work”. It can also be an area with another purpose while you’re not working (the kitchen table, the recliner, your bed, etc.) just be sure that you can work for hours at that location comfortably and that you are productive in that location. If you aren’t comfortable or aren’t productive where you are, move to a different place. For example, if you try working from your bed, but find yourself struggling to stay awake, move someplace else.
You can also consider moving between areas based on what you are doing. Writing an in-depth proposal with a lot of deep thought? Close the door to your office or find someplace quiet. Replying to a batch of emails? Sit on the patio and enjoy the sun. Find someplace that will allow you to do your work efficiently and enjoyably.
Have What You Need to Do the Work
Make sure you have the tools, equipment and materials you need to do the job each day. If you were in an office, there would likely be a supply room with paper & pens or maybe an IT person to help you get that program working on your PC. Well, working from home means you have to take the responsibility for having everything ready to do the work each day. Is your internet fast enough and robust enough to handle the work you need to do? If not, consider upgrading to a better plan. Buy a good webcam or microphone or headset. Set up a printer and scanner (if you do printing or scanning). Make sure your PC or laptop allows you to connect to your office’s servers or programs so you can keep working, and if they do not, know where to go to get the programs or permissions to make them work. Basically, be ready to do the work you need to do no matter what you need to get it done.
Stay In Contact
Just because you work alone at home, doesn’t mean you’re alone. Your company, your friends and coworkers are out there also working from home, and just like when you were at the office, communication is key to getting work done. Fortunately, there are all sorts of programs that allow you to remain in touch such as Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. Set up channels that allow you to message your co-workers to ask work related questions and conduct necessary department meetings. Also, create a channel or channels that allow you to have time to chat for fun. If you aren’t someone with a spouse, kids or even pets, working from home without direct human contact can make for a lonely experience. Being able to chat with your officemates will help alleviate the loneliness and remind you that you’re part of a bigger team. Plus, just like back at the office, no one works continuously all day. Speaking of which…
Be Structured, But Take Breaks
Set aside time each day to do your job. Working from home is more freeing than having to punch in and out at the office, but having dedicated hours where you are mentally prepared to do the work will help you get it done. Create a routine that works for you and stick with it, such as: Wake up, have a shower and get ready, make your coffee and then get down to work. Remember, try to remain flexible to take advantage of opportunities or challenges as they arise.
Make sure you take breaks during the day. If you were at the office, you would take a break to go grab a coffee in the break room or head out for lunch with a colleague. Same thing at home. And by break, I mean actually get up, stretch your legs and get away from the computer. Maybe go walk the dog, put on a load of laundry or take a nap, just take a moment to clear your head and then sit back down and get back to it.
At the end of the day when you are done with work, STOP working. It is very easy to get back online and just answer a few more emails or revise that document one more time before tomorrow. Know when to say enough, then go say hi to your kids or make dinner for your significant other.
Be Prepared for Distractions and the Unexpected
No matter how ready to work you may be, there is always the possibility that something is going to interrupt you. At the office, it might have been a fire drill or a co-worker dropping by your desk. The same thing can happen at home. Maybe one of your kids gets sick at school or the cat barfs on the bedspread or that delivery finally arrives and your doorbell keeps ringing until you sign for the package. It’s important to set aside work time that is devoted only to work, but remaining flexible enough to handle these unexpected happenings will help keep you on track.
Distractions are more common now that you are working from home. Unlike interruptions, distractions are those little things that get in the way of productivity. At the office, it may have been browsing the internet or chatting with coworkers. At home, there are many, many more you have to face like that book you started last night is just sitting there asking to be read, the next episode of that really good series waiting for you on Netflix, or just one more multiplayer round online because the boss won’t know you’re not working. Whatever it may be, you have to be aware that the distractions are there and you have to remain strong and avoid them. Save them for before or after work or take a dedicated break, but be ready to come back to your work and complete it without further distractions. A short break to refresh yourself can be beneficial and good, but losing hours of productivity binging a whole season online is not.
Tips from the Evolve Team
Don’t just listen to me. All of our team here at Evolve work from home. I asked my teammates for any suggestions they had for people to work better from home. Here is what they suggested:
“Having a dedicated work space in order to be in the correct mindset to be productive. Working on a laptop in bed is not ideal, for example. Have “watercooler” type chats with your coworkers. Working from home can be lonely and it’s important to have regular non-work-related interaction.” – Kate Hall, PR/Marketing Coordinator
“If sharing space with family, friends, or significant others, be sure to establish that work time is for work. Instill upon them that distractions can derail your productivity. Then, turn that upon yourself. Eliminate as many distractions as you can and give yourself occasional breaks to check back in with the rest of the world.” – Charles Singletary Jr, PR/Marketing Coordinator
“Invest in your space. A comfy chair, noise cancelling headphones, [or] a nice blanket will keep you focused.” – Lorenzo Sapora, Lead Technology Developer
“My personal advice is to take little breaks when your mind needs one, even if it’s just standing outside for a few mins and breathing some fresh air. Also, for me personally, showering and getting dressed for work makes a big difference to my productivity.” – Ryan Seville, Video Lead
“Invest in work pajamas and/ or related comfy type outfits. Take a nap if you’re tired.” – Astrid Rosemarin, Senior PR Specialist
“Establish periods where you push yourself to focus on a singular task and turn off notifications. Give yourself breaks in between these where you can check social media, work messenger spaces etc. Allow yourself room to take breaks. Shared workspaces often have interruptions that break up the flow of work, and you should allow yourself the same in a home environment. If you’re struggling to focus, walk away from your desk and do another activity in the house to refresh yourself. These are also great times to let your thoughts wander and inadvertently come up with unique ideas!” – Bryden Keks, Senior PR Specialist
Set aside unstructured time. Whether it’s a knock on the door, laundry buzz, pet demanding time, or other distraction, knowing that you have 15 to 20 minutes built into your day to handle anything that can come up can change the way you look at interruptions. Lay in a stock of healthy snacks. With your kitchen nearby, it’s easy to get up from your workspace to grab a bite. Having fruits and veggies on-hand will give you more of a slow burn energy to get through the day. – Lee Guille, PR Specialist
Covid-19 is scary and the more we can all do to minimize social interaction and risk spreading the virus, the better. Working from home, instead of at the office, will help everyone by reducing the risk of spreading the virus. For the time being, this is the new normal, so hunker down and do the best you can in your new home office. Hopefully what I and the team at Evolve have said here will help you work from home efficiently and effectively.
Remember, at the end of the day, you need to get the work done. If you want to have a shower, get dressed and sit at a desk in your home office to do so, that works. If you want to wake up late, make a coffee and work in the nude, that works too, as long as you get the work done and that you remember your 10am conference call with the boss.