For many, working remotely has been a dream – now it has become a reality for millions of people worldwide. The current Coronavirus outbreak has led to a crisis in many companies, not at least due to the obligation to send employees into remote work. Managers now have to lead entirely remote teams and employees need to quickly learn how to manage themselves. During times like this, it is important to stay positive and make the best out of the situation. This might seem hard at first, however, remote work has proven to be a factor of success for both companies and employees.
1. The transition
First and foremost, it is important to understand that the transition from working in an office with your colleagues around you, to working alone from your home is easier said than done. Although 99% of employees say they would prefer to work from home at least partly, it can be hard to adapt to the changes in the beginning. If you live alone you might feel lonely, if you live with your family you might feel overwhelmed and not seeing your colleagues regularly might decrease your motivation. Adapting to bigger changes takes time, as does finding out what you need to do to make the new environment work for yourself.
2. Figure out your working style
Before you start working remotely, it is important to figure out which environment will work best for you. Of course, this is also very dependent on your living situation, however, there are a few basics everyone can establish. Do you prefer working in silence or would you rather have some background noise? Do you enjoy company in the form of coworking or would you like to work alone? Would you like to take one longer break or multiple short ones? The most important question for most, however, when it comes to working remotely, is the question of when you are most productive. When working remotely you are in charge of managing your work-life-balance to perfectly fit your needs.
When working in an office, you do not really think about your working hours. You work somewhere between 8 am and 6 pm, together with your colleagues and without any major distractions. Once you work from home, where you are either alone or surrounded by family or friends, you have to motivate yourself to get your work done while also managing your private life under the same roof. This might require your schedule to change a little bit. Find out what works best for you in terms of efficiency, motivation, and productivity.
When making decisions about where, when and how you work, it is important to make sure that you are comfortable with the outcome. However, you also have to consider that your colleagues and your management who, although they should turn to a more flexible approach, might have their own personal schedule. For the remote work system to be effective, it is very important to constantly ask for feedback not only on your actual performance but also on issues concerning communication and collaboration.
3. Protect your time, and schedule the day
Contrary to the often wrongly believed prejudice that remote employees are less productive, practices show that the opposite is mostly the case. People tend to work more as it becomes harder to actually ‘leave’ work.
Avoid time conflicts
To avoid any conflicts with managers, family, friends and with your own preferred schedule, it is important to go into working remotely with a plan. We already talked about figuring out your working style, now it is time to apply it. When making a time schedule, you have to take into account what your most productive hours are, when your colleagues and your boss need to be able to reach you, and if you have a family or roommates, you might also have to consider private issues which normally could be put aside.
Break up your day
When making your schedule you also need to break up your day by taking some breaks. In an office you naturally move around a lot more – commuting to and from work, walking to meetings, chatting with colleagues, going for lunch breaks. When working from home it is important to make sure to not only walk from your laptop to the kitchen and back. Take a short walk in between or do a quick home workout to get your blood running – it will do wonders to your motivation and your ability to concentrate.
Know when to log off
Lastly, when making a schedule for your remote work, you need to know when and how to log off. This is, especially for anyone who is new to working from home, rather challenging as your work life and your private life will become increasingly connected. Although your colleagues' schedules might differ from yours, it is important to make a habit of setting a time when you officially log off of work. After this hour you should turn off your notifications and physically leave your workstation.
Once you have established a schedule, you need to communicate it accordingly. Make sure that people whom you live with understand that you have to do your work and coordinate your schedule with your colleagues and your managers.
4. Set up your workspace and also set up yourself
Setting up a dedicated workspace is essential for two main reasons. On the one hand, it helps you get into the mindset of working and on the other hand, separating it from your private home, will help you to unplug after work.
Not directly linked to your workspace – but just as important – is to make it a habit to get yourself ready before you start working. Although it would be great to work out of your bed in your pajamas, it is questionable if this will increase your productivity. There is no need to dress up in a suit or put on makeup, however, you will find yourself to be more motivated to work after following a daily “getting ready” routine.
Our last tip needs to be taken with caution. By over-communicate we do not mean that you should share every thought that crosses your mind, however, as all the social interaction that would normally take place in an office is eliminated, communication on other channels should be increased.
Before going into remote work, the company needs to establish channels that can be used to stay in touch. This can include company chat rooms like slack, call and video conferencing services like Zoom or Google Hangouts or online tools like Asana which help with the coordination of tasks across several departments.
Once the channels and tools are established, it is important that they are also used throughout the company. 1:1 meetings, daily check-ins, team sessions – whatever is necessary to make sure that everyone is on board with the overall development of the company as well as upcoming projects and daily tasks. When you are not in the office it can be hard for managers to keep track of what everyone is doing, it is now your job to manage yourself, keep your supervisor up to date and remind them of important deadlines in case they forgot.
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