With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, you may find yourself in a totally different work situation. You used to physically go to work but now you have a “home office” (which might be your couch – no shame!). One thing to point out – How cool & lucky are you for getting the opportunity to work from home during this crazy time?! The Pipeline team works remotely often and we’ve been enjoying the benefits for years now.
While it has obvious perks, remote work is not without its challenges. Here are a few tips for remote work newbies that will keep you productive & sane.
1. Set Clear Boundaries with Your Space
Our physical environment has a huge impact on our productivity. If you haven’t been able to get quite as much done as you used to, look around and take stock of your working conditions. We bet you can point out more than a few obstacles to your work—a few too many Instagram notifications tempting you, your comfy couch begging you to take a “short” break, your makeshift workspace covered with unnecessary stuff, that next episode of (insert favorite show here) that is just a click away . . . Even if you didn’t particularly like going to your desk every day before this remote work situation, you have to admit that your productivity levels benefited from a few boundaries. Rather than feeling guilty about your lack of productivity, get some new routines to get you back on track.
Action: Make a list of all of the things that impede your productivity and work towards eliminating or mitigating those things. Obviously you can’t eliminate the fact that you may have some new, demanding coworkers—aka your darling children, spouse, or roommates. Our point is—just set a couple of boundaries to your physical space where you can and you’ll see improvements to your workflow.
2. Find New Sources of Accountability
Your boss is no longer there to be a physical reminder of your deadlines. In some ways, you’ve got to be your own boss now. No one is coming to gently remind you about finishing that report or calling that person. Yeah, you may be using Slack but online messages just don’t hold the same level of authority as your coworkers looking straight at you asking for that thing you were supposed to have finished by now.
This might not be your issue. Some find it pretty easy to set their own goals and work pace. If this is not you, find a new way to hold yourself accountable. One idea for an accountability push—Map out what you need to accomplish each day and stick to that list. Ask a coworker to check in on your progress at different intervals throughout the day. You can do the same for them!
3. Be All on or All Off
Don’t jump around from working to not working. Not an easy task when all the comforts of home are looking at you all day.
If you start a task and then keep taking short breaks to check your Instagram, send a quick text, run to the kitchen to get another snack, bother your coworkers with gifs . . . yeah, it will be more entertaining than working and pass the time quicker, but your actual work tasks will take forever to finish and the quality won’t be great.
Instead of interlacing your work with constant breaks and interruptions, schedule your breaks in reasonable intervals and make sure you have several sessions of uninterrupted work. Your breaks will be so much more refreshing if you aren’t also thinking a little bit about the work you abandoned. And your work will be much more on point if you don’t force your brain to have to reboot on the task you are supposed to be working on every time you return from a 15 min Instagram scroll.
4. Take Your Lunch Break
In the same vein, don’t forget to take at least one good long break. Breaks in short bursts are good, but you still need some prolonged time away from hunching over your computer.
It can be super tempting to just push through your lunch break or just eat in front of your work because the line between your work-life and home-life has been blurred. Being in the comfort of your home might have tricked you into thinking that you, in fact, don’t really need to stop working. You feel fine and you can crank out a bit more work. You’re gonna crash.
Just take your break as you normally would (or should – looking at you, workaholics!). You’ll benefit from the routine of working hard and then taking a rest so you can gear up to finish your tasks strong.
And, also, get some air. Open a window, take a short walk around the neighborhood, skip to the mailbox. Whatever you need to do to interrupt your 4-day hiatus from the sun.
5. Multitasking Is Now Possible
If you spend any time at all on the internet, you’ve probably read that “ having good multitasking skills” is just a thing people say on your resume to add some fluff. We now know the truth—as it turns out, you actually get more done if you focus on one thing at a time. Imagine that!
So that’s still true during remote work, but one thing that is possible now is putting on that load of laundry that is normally waiting for you after you return from your 9-5 . . . you know, that pile of laundry that you definitely said you would have the energy to tackle right when you got home from work. Now you can throw that load of laundry in the wash because you are just in the next room and will be there to throw it in the dryer when it’s done.
You still shouldn’t juggle 5 tasks when it comes to your job responsibilities, but you can take advantage of being home by starting a few chores earlier than you normally get to.
6. Communication is Key
Getting up real quick to get clarification on a task is no longer an option. Now you are chatting with your coworkers online or over the phone. You feel all alone now, but remember that your coworkers and employers are still out there and they have their own deadlines and expectations. And they need some friendly encouragement from you from time to time too!
- Set clear boundaries with your time and respect others’ boundaries. If you need a couple of uninterrupted hours to complete something, make sure whoever needs to know that knows. This will cut down on the number of very important memes your receive throughout the day. If you know your coworker is pushing up against a deadline, maybe wait to send your very important memes.
- Don’t go MIA. If you are going to be away from your computer for a while and you know people are waiting on you for something, let them know when you’ll be back so they don’t have to guess. Update coworkers on the status of uncompleted projects when necessary.
- Overcommunicate sometimes. Your coworkers can’t see your face or hear your tone. You may need to over-explain things to get your point across and prevent miscommunication.
Be nice. Working out a new way to communicate isn’t easy. Give yourself and your coworkers a little extra grace while you all work out the kinks.
7. End Your Day Well
It’s unclear when the workday is over when you’re working from home. You would think that at 5 pm you would just stop working, but it’s not that simple is it? That’s because you can no longer do the things that signaled to your brain that the workday has ended.
For example, you used to close out all of your tabs, grab your things, say goodbye to your desk buddy, and drive home. All of those things told your brain that it’s time to stop working and move on with the rest of your day. Now, all of those signals are gone and your brain is looking to you for how it is supposed to know when it is time to stop thinking about work and start thinking about other stuff like dinner.
Be nice to your brain and set up a new way to tell yourself that it’s time back away from the screen. Maybe instead of grabbing your things and heading to the car, it’s getting up to make a cup of tea and checking the mail. It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as you do it after your remote work – every day – so your brain can get with the program.
We also recommend referring to your to-do list, seeing how you did, and jotting down a few things that you need to tackle tomorrow at the end of your workday. Then you can end the day knowing that you’re set up for a productive day tomorrow.
Now that you are working remotely, what are you doing to stay productive? We are always looking for ways to improve our work and would love to know!
Oh, and don’t forget that you’re on-screen during video conferences. People can see you. We’ve seen some embarrassing things and don’t want you to make the same mistake, ha. Thank you for reading!