As many of us start to adjust to having to work from home, it can be hard to know where to start to ensure the most efficient, least stressful set up that helps you stay on track with your deliverables. We’re a 100% remote company, so we’ve got tried and tested methods and tools for getting the most out of your work day, while still remaining flexible to any changes or challenges that can happen with a “work from home” situation.
Getting Started: Setting up your “Office”
It may not be feasible, but if possible, try to find a space where you can shut the door and have a private, quiet space for video calls, phone calls, and distraction-free work.
If you’re also caregiving, it can be hard to have a quiet space, but it’s really important that you try to institute a closed door policy. This means asking family members or visitors to knock before they enter your office space (even if it’s a metaphorical knock), giving you time to finish a task or thought before they can enter. This can be especially important if you’re also dealing with sensitive or secure data, but it also helps you finish up an idea, task, or thought.
Communication with others in the space is key; make sure they know when you have important meetings or calls to make, so they’re mindful of noise and interruptions. But also know that much like Professor Robert Kelly experienced in his now-viral BBC interview, you can’t always control what happens!
Getting Started: Treat It Like Your Job
It can be very tempting to fall into a loose schedule and stay in those PJs all day, but part of succeeding while doing remote work is sticking to a schedule and routine. Try to stay in a work mindset by getting up at the same time you would for your in-office work, get dressed for work, and work your usual scheduled hours. Know that you may have to adjust this, given other responsibilities or challenges that can arise, but getting into the work mindset and dressing for your work day helps you create a mental separation between home and work.
It’s also important to be clear on what your work hours are, so that you don’t have work creep into your personal time. Use a time tracking app like Harvest to keep track of your hours. Within reason, try to stop answering calls or work emails after your office would close; it can be easy for people to assume you’re always available, but boundaries are very important to ensure you aren’t overworked, overwhelmed, or burned out.
Helpful Remote Work Tools
Fortunately there are a lot of great, sophisticated tools to help with remote work, from project management software to video conferencing tools. We’ve included some suggestions below, with the tools we use in bold.
- Document collaboration tools – Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Sheets; Office 365 and One Drive; Dropbox
- Video conferencing tools – Zoom (includes a limited free option), GotoMeeting, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts
- Project Management tools – Slack, Asana, Trello, Jira, Basecamp
- Virtual “whiteboarding” tools – Miro, ConceptBoard, Whiteboard Fox, AWW app
- Time trackers – Harvest (limited free version), Toggl (free), Clockify (free), Everhour
- Meeting scheduling – Calendly (includes a limited free option), Meetin.gs, Doodle, FreeBusy
- Noise cancelling headphones for shutting out distractions (remember that plug in rather than bluetooth or wireless will give you better sound quality in general)
- A webcam and decent speakers
- Ergonomic keyboard
- Comfortable chair
- Standing desk/counter
Tips for Sticking to Deadlines
Set a routine and stick to it. It may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you in terms of whether it’s best to check emails first thing or to get right into tasks. Schedule regular check-ins with other team members and managers; research consistently shows that if you set up an accountability appointment with someone else, your chance of success increases by almost 95%.
Try to keep your calendar up to date and use reminder functions. Create “to do” lists and prioritize - it can be easy to get distracted by non-essential tasks, so try to break down tougher tasks into more bite-size chunks and schedule time to work on these chunks. Switch to a new task when you need to, and consider a project management tool like Asana with assigned tasks and priority listing to keep teams on track.
If you do need to rearrange your schedule because of childcare, appointments, or other issues, then make sure you’ve adjusted your timelines and that you’ve scheduled in time to work outside of your regular office hours to catch up.
Don’t forget to practice self-care! Take breaks, stretch, stay hydrated, go for a walk to get out of the “office,” and take proper meal breaks too. Some people like to listen to music or have some background audio as “white noise” to block out other distractions (this may not work for all jobs). You can also set calendar reminders or reminders using apps to step away from the screen to give your eyes a break. Avoid taking or making personal calls during the “work day”; let your phone go to voicemail and call people back after 5pm, as it can easily eat into your day.
And remember to breathe! You won’t master it all in one day, but by following these tips, you’re on track to a successful work-from-home experience.