These new times have led to an assortment of new challenges, such as purchasing items as basic as toilet paper or figuring out how to work from home—for many the latter is foreign territory.
At Element 74, we’ve had to adjust as well. With our brand new office anxiously awaiting our return from this situation, we’ve had to learn a few new skills to keep business moving. Luckily, many of us are used to working remotely every once in a while, so we’ve had a bit of practice for this. That being said, here are some of our tips and tricks for working remotely. We hope they’ll make your workday just a little bit easier!
Create a workspace
If you can, designate a specific place in your home to work. Whether it’s a spare room, home office, a spot at the dining table, or, if you’re our VP of Digital Jon Fox, your family RV, make that place your new office. Set up your new “office” so it’s as similar to your usual workspace as possible. Borrow as much of your usual equipment as you can so you can have access to your files, but also so you can recreate your usual environment at home.
To help make your workspace more normal, use your usual workday playlists or whatever else helps you focus. What’s important is that your remote work environment is a space that helps you remain productive and keeps you on track.
Keep your regular hours
Without the separation of work and home, it can be easy to lose track of time and forget to take a break. Try to start and end your workday at the same time you would if you were at the office and take your usual lunchtime. This will help you maintain a normal schedule in an irregular work environment.
Make sure you’re taking breaks too. When working from home, you may feel guilty for taking any kind of break, but you need to in order to maintain focus. Besides your lunchtime, take a few minutes between tasks to breathe, take a short walk, or do something not work-related. Research shows short breaks help productivity and decrease stress.
However, be aware that as things change outside and in your own home, adjustments must be made. You must be flexible and be prepared to adjust your schedule as needed.
Stay connected without being together
While we’re on the topic of breaks, there’s a pretty high chance you’re missing the best part of your usual work breaks: chatting with your coworkers. While we’re all working from home, it’s easy and normal to feel a little disconnected because, well, we are.
To help bridge gaps in connection, try Slack or another instant message service. When you do, make sure there’s a channel or group for non-work related conversation. By providing a place for casual conversation, you can almost virtually recreate the fun conversations and allow for your team to continue to learn more about each other. You can also set aside a specific time for you all to come together. At Red Letter Communications and Element 74, company Happy Hour is a Friday tradition. With Zoom, we’re able to keep with tradition and spend time together while maintaining social distancing.
Create a ritual
This one might be hard, but just because you don’t have to wake up to get ready and commute to work, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have that pre-work time to yourself. It’s easy to roll right out of bed and walk to your at-home workspace (I’m guilty of this), but you’re not allowing yourself the proper time to wake up and prepare for your workday.
If you usually wake up at 6 am to shower, get ready in your professional clothes, and head to the office, stay on that schedule. However, maybe instead of giving yourself the time to get dressed in your normal attire and drive to work, take that time to walk the dog, read a book, journal, or even make a nice breakfast (pancakes anyone?). Not only will this help regulate your sleep schedule, but giving yourself the extra time between sleep and work will help you get into the flow of your workday easier.
Set Ground Rules With the People in Your Space
With schools closed and many other businesses also doing business remotely, odds are you aren’t working from home alone. If your family is also home with you, you may have to set some ground rules with the rest of the household (to the best of your ability, of course).
Create a schedule.
If you know what hours you need to be working, make sure the rest of the family is aware of that time and that you shouldn’t be disturbed. If you can, close off your workspace from the rest of the house so you can focus on your tasks. Have the kiddos make you an open and closed sign for your door to signal when you’re in the work zone or on a call with a customer or colleague. This will give them a visual sign that you are not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.
Give the kids work to do.
Many teachers have assigned homework to keep their students on track while school is closed. Make sure your kids know that when you’re working, they should be too. Their homework most likely won’t be the same eight hours as your workday, so give them other education time throughout the day. Find an educational film to take up an hour or two of the workday, assign reading time, or even give them a nap time (if only we adults could have nap time too!) However, don’t completely leave to their own devices. Make sure you give them your attention at certain points throughout the day, like lunchtime. This goes back to the “Take Breaks” section of this article. Take breaks from work to make sure your kids are doing well, go on walks, or play a game. After all, your kids are more important than your job (don’t tell my boss I said that 😉).
If you have older kids, a significant other, or relatives living with you, try to set up a schedule to have Kid Duty. Set up 4-hour shifts for each person to keep an eye on the kids. Get as much work as you can when you’re “off-duty” so you can give your attention to your kids when it’s your turn.
Do what you can.
Obviously, every family is different and every kid is different. Creating a routine might be easier said than done, especially if your kids are very young. Be ready for flexibility and don’t beat yourself up for not having the perfect schedule.
Open the Windows
Staying inside all day can be…well, depressing. As Spring weather starts to arrive, it can be disheartening watching the flowers bloom from outside your window but being unable to enjoy the sunshine. On those beautiful days when it isn’t raining, open the windows in your workspace and let in the fresh air. The smell of clean air will lift your spirits and help you focus. If you can, work outside for a little bit to soak up some Vitamin D.
For many, working remotely is uncharted territory, but we hope these tips have given you a little bit of direction for your day-to-day. Remember, you’re not alone in this new territory and Element 74 is standing by ready to help make your new schedule a little bit easier. If your business needs help setting up connections with your customers, we can help you set up video calling, a virtual scheduling platform, or whatever else you need to help keep your business on track!