Working from home has been a big adjustment for millions of workers as we try to stop the spread of coronavirus. But for some company employees, remote life is all they know.
“Setting up Zoom or Slack or Google Meet or any other tool … that is the easy part,” said Shane Pearlman, co-founder and CEO of Modern Tribe, a fully remote digital agency and products company. “Then comes the hard part of creating a meaningful stream of work and protecting your sanity.”
We checked in with several work-from-home veterans to get their best tips and practices.
Designate a work space
One warning we keep hearing: Don’t let work encroach upon every part of your home.
“The best thing is to have an office that is where you work, and leave it all behind at the end of the day and don’t bring it with you into the living room and work until midnight,” said Angela Wooden, a quality assurance specialist who has worked from home with her husband for 15 years.
If you don’t have an entire room to dedicate to a home office, silo off part of a room or create a workspace as your temporary office that you can leave your work in at the end of the day.
Manage the process, not your team’s time
It can be a big change for managers who are used to seeing their workers busy at their desks to suddenly have no idea what their employees are doing at any given minute.
But it’s in their best interest to get over it and trust their employees are using their time wisely.
“Focus on managing the process and deliverables and not micromanaging the team,” said Kim Houlne, founder and chief executive of Working Solutions, a contact center outsourcing company in Dallas that has been fully remote since its launch 24 years ago.
“If you are micromanaging the team, you are wasting your time.” Houlne said.
Be strict with your schedule
Having a designated work start and stop time can help keep you on track and prevent 12-hour work days. And make sure your family and friends know when they can and can’t interrupt you.
It’s tempting for others to see you at home and want to hang out or give you a call to catch up. But you wouldn’t take an hour-long personal call at the office and you shouldn’t start getting into the habit of doing it now.
“It is really important to make it clear to other people, including friends and family, about the hours you are working,” said Wooden.
Define ‘the win’
When a team starts a new project, make sure everyone has the same clear definition of what success looks like. With people working apart and sometimes in different time zones, taps on the shoulder or office drop-ins aren’t possible.
“It took me years when projects would fail and we’d go into post-mortem to figure out what the heck happened. Turns out, everyone had a different definition of success. Everyone thought the win was different,” said Pearlman.
There’s no such thing as overcommunicating
“When you are working remotely you have to communicate, communicate and communicate a little more,” said Houlne. “What you thought they heard they probably didn’t hear.”
Now is the time for everyone to be very clear when it comes to setting goals and expectations and providing regular and transparent updates.
At app automation company Zapier, CEO Wade Foster holds one-on-one check-ins with his team every Monday to go over work priorities, discuss any problems and talk about anything else that might come up. On Fridays, everyone provides a written update that details the worker’s priorities and progress that’s posted for everyone in the company to see.
Don’t try to work nonstop
You didn’t work for eight hours straight in the office so don’t feel guilty about taking breaks when working from home. In fact, be sure to schedule in breaks to make sure you are coming up for air – it will help keep you sane and productive.
“You shouldn’t be trying to work 8-5 nonstop,” said Foster. “If that is what you are doing, you will burn yourself out and won’t have time for important deep work.”