Due to recent events, lots of people are now "Work From Home (WFH)". If you have never worked from home for long periods of time, it can feel a little weird at first. You might find yourself easily distracted by the TV, streaming services, chores, or your bed might be calling your name. Working from home can be a great experience - start with little changes to get comfortable. I want to share some of the things that have helped me in being a full-time remote employee for Bitovi for the past four years.
This requires focus (which may require more coffee). If you are the type of person who gets easily distracted, or if the task you are working on isn’t one that you really want to be doing, you need to start by stepping up your attention game. There are many ways to help to remove distractions from your working space – my coworker Jennifer covers some automated options here – I like the StayFocusd extension to blacklist the distracting sites and apps that are the biggest time-sucks.
Remove distractions, image from giphy.com
One of the first things I did when I got my remote job was to create a space for me to do my work. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get distracted when you don’t have a designated workspace. Think of it like this – at an office job you have your desk where you do your work. Having your own space to do work at home helps you to get into the “work time” mindset. This doesn’t mean you can’t float around your house to add some variety to your day. However working from your bed can lead to being less productive (not to mention unprofessional looking meetings).
Set up a new work space, image from pexels.com
When I first started working from home, a friend of mine suggested wearing a tie to signify that it was work time. I like the point of the suggestion; put yourself in the mindspace of “work”. Keep your daily routines to help get yourself into the headspace to do your work. Get up in the morning, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc – whatever you would normally do on a day that you would leave for work, and then go sit at your designated workspace and kick off your day.
The absolute worst part of any video call is when someone on the call has a crappy set of headphones where their microphone cuts in and out. Or, even worse, someone is using their computer microphone and it causes everyone to hear echo and feedback. Buy a nice set of headphones with a good microphone – it will help to make everyone’s day better. [ I recommend these Bose wired headphones (wired? Yeah, no one wants to wait in a meeting for your headphones to connect ;)]
Additionally, when you start working from home, that is the time to bump up your home internet connection. This will help with laggy screen sharing and choppy video calls. If you have good internet speeds and you still have these issues, you probably need to invest in a mesh wifi network for your home. I have 300 Mbps internet, but at my desk I was getting 9Mbps because of all the walls between my router and my desk. As soon as I set up my mesh wifi, I was getting 250 Mbps at my desk.
Mesh wifi, image from pexels.com
Distractions hurt production, so meetings for the sake of meetings really hurt productivity. If a meeting can be an email or Slack message with a thread, go for written over getting bodies in virtual rooms every time. When you do need to have video-face-to-video-face meetings, keep them short and on top topic to be respectful of everyone’s time.
I hate Mondays, image from dilbert.com
Successful meetings are done over video where you can see everyone.
Step one, make sure you are wearing clothes (I could stop here) that represent you and your company well. I keep a button down close to my desk that I can toss over a t-shirt if there is an impromptu client meeting.
Step two, turn your camera on for the entire meeting so everyone can see you. This practice will make you more memorable and recognizable. If you are working on things that are visual, share your screen while you are talking (show & tell).
Step three, master your mute button – no one else wants to hear you typing (or worse, slurping your coffee into the microphone) while someone else is talking. Stay muted until it is your time to talk.
When working from home it is easy for you to fall off the map for your other coworkers. Reach out to say hi to your office friends on Slack. Check-in with your team and client regularly. Be clear in your written communication and remember that sarcasm does not work well in text (winky face emoji). A couple years ago, a coworker and I started a Slack channel #coffee-break for when you need the time to still stay work-centered, but want to have some interpersonal watercooler chat with your work friends.
Slack channel #coffee-break
One of the biggest issues that I have found among my colleagues with remote work is the concern that the perception is that they are not “working hard”. When you are at an office, managers can see butts in seats, they can drop in a check on timelines, etc. When working from home, no one is looking over your shoulder. I’ve found that this causes me to overwork myself to show that I’ve been working hard enough. Do not fall into this trap, there is no escape.
At Bitovi, we do a daily stand up – teams do it either as a short, succinct video call or as a brief update in a Slack thread. In either medium keep it short (this is not a place for solving problems, schedule those meetings after stand up):
Teams text stand up channel
Working from home can be a great experience if you approach it with the right mindset. Choose one or two tips and focus on getting good at those first. Remember, it is a constant evolution to determine what works best for you.
Yes, no one is around to watch you now. It is more difficult for someone to drop in at your desk. This is your time to choose if you are going to succeed as a remote employee, or leave a lasting impression as the coworker in sweatpants who played video games while on the clock.