5 tips to help you get ready and maximize your productivity.
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Most of us make an intentional decision to take a remote job. I made it in 2012 when I joined Omnicom Group digital agency Organic: I was one of two employees aligned to the Detroit office living and working in the Washington, DC area. It was my first remote gig and I knew there would be some adjustments but I really wanted to try something different than commuting in, out and around the DC Beltway. I believed I had the discipline necessary to be productive in between our Volkswagen client’s digs in Herndon, VA, my monthly trips to 888 Big Beaver in Troy and my home office, where I spent the majority of my time.
Eight year and two remote jobs later, I am confident: working remotely works for me. So much so in fact that I can now literally work from anywhere. And I love it.
Yet to this day, I still believe there are two different types of people in this context: those who make it work, and those who think they can’t. Some of us are capable of focusing on getting work done in the potential distractions of home, others just aren’t cut out for it and need an office milieu. “Are you a work from home person or do you need to go to the office to be productive?” is a polarizing question I often ask to find out more about an individual. My anecdotal finding: most prefer the office.
For those of you who don’t have that choice at the moment, are forced to work remotely, most likely from home and might be apprehensive about how it’s all going to work out, here are some tips I’ve learned and practiced over the years you can adapt to make working remotely work for you.
1. Dedicate & Clean Up Your Workspace.
It’s simple, you need a dedicated space to work. Not a place where you do art projects, stack mail, edit photos, pay bills, read, watch tv, Netflix and chill or anything else. At least for now, you need to commit to a space where all you will do between now and when we return to “normal” is work: the work that brings home your paycheck. Clean that place up of anything that could distract you from working. Anything else you would normally do in that space, you will find another place to do it in the meantime. Then actually clean it, the entire surface of the desk, with some powerful anti-bacterial cleaner.
2. Honor Your Rituals.
In the morning, don’t do anything different than your usual routine. Do all the things you would during your typical morning: get up at the same time, make your coffee and put it in your to-go mug, take your shower, get your beat on, get dressed, and go to work. Rejoice, you have the best commute ever now! Use that bonus time wisely for something that enhances your life or helps you move towards one of your goals. Before you fire up your laptop, read a chapter of that book that has been sitting on your coffee table or nightstand. Or write a paragraph for that story you have been wanting to publish.
At the end of the day, leave your office. Close up your laptop as an indication that your work is done for the day. Clean up your desk and transition back to your life.
A note about working from home attire: I am a huge proponent of what I call “waist-up business casual” – make sure you are always the presentable equivalent to your usual office dress above the waist and wear whatever bottoms you want.
3. Bridge the Physical Digital Divide.
Get your tech and digital tools ready so that you can be seen by your colleagues online. Connect to all instant messaging communications and collaboration tools, turn your notifications and be responsive. During meetings, turn your video camera on. Also worth a little investment of time up front, make sure all your digital hygiene is up-to-date: latest OS, software versions, passwords resets, etc.
Set up some time to connect with your core team and favorite colleagues during the week: drink coffee together, as you would do in the office to heighten communication channels and to continue regular interactions.
Smile! I’m for real: it shows up in your tone and voice and it actually makes us happier!
4. Set Clear Boundaries.
Restrict yourself from straying away from the work, especially when working from home. Stay focused on the business tasks on your plate. Look at your schedule for the entire week and set aside some time for breaks. For example, when working from home, I take a 45-minute break at 12:15PM every day to prepare and eat my lunch, away from my home office. I give myself permission during that time to take care of something in my home if needed, like fold a load of laundry (yep, it happens) or make a personal phone call.
This is really difficult to do when working from home but don’t work more than you usually do. Stay within your boundaries and don’t change your work behaviors. But if you must and find yourself wanting to do more, this is a great time to focus on yourself and work extra time on your own personal growth initiatives or your passion projects.
5. Get Up and Out.
Staying in the same space for a prolonged period of time, alone is often difficult. In this period of social distancing, I suspect it might be even more challenging. To combat this phenomenon, get up from your desk at least once every hour and move. Additionally, take 15 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon to step outside and get some steps. Every day. You would normally get this movement naturally getting about the office; fortuitously, spring is almost here; smell the flowers. And wave to all your neighbors.
A final note, practice grace and gratefulness: you are lucky enough to work remotely. Not everyone has that luxury in this tough time.
Got comments? Other ideas you want to share? Feedback? Questions? Go ahead.