Suddenly Working From Home?

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Suddenly Working From Home?

Working remotely is on a lot of people’s minds today especially in light of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) health crisis and the desire to rethink travel as a means to reduce carbon footprints. For some people, this is a regular practice, but for many, it’s a new way of working — and presents new challenges if you are trying to manage in a small space while juggling family who are home as well. Here are some practical tips about how to improve the work from home experience.

Think About What You (and Your Teammates) Need First

It’s tempting to be “on” constantly when you work from home. Others find being home distracting and challenging to stay focused and productive. Identifying boundaries can help you maintain a healthy and productive balance. Keep in mind each person may have different boundaries depending on their life or the day. Decide on your schedule each day and try to stick to it.

If you are not at your computer, be sure to communicate that with your colleagues. Make your calendar visible to your team, update your status in any team/collaboration software you use or even leverage your out-of-office auto reply. Let your team know when you’re going to be away and when you’ll be back, especially when you work in different time zones.

Think about ways to keep relationships intact while working from home. Consider creating a group chat for social interactions – during stressful times, everybody loves a good meme. Set aside time for more informal conversations to foster team cohesion. Schedule coffee with a colleague over video to catch up. Remote workers need more of these checkpoints than those who are in the office.

Agree How You’ll Work Together

It can be easy to slip into a siloed work experience when everyone is working on their own. Institute a quick daily virtual team connect to keep work moving forward. Furthermore, pick some consistent tools for instant messaging, video conferencing, sharing documents, file transfers, etc. But, don’t stop searching for the next best thing. You may find a process that sticks around long after this uncertainty has ended. Take a lesson from agile teams and start a virtual project board. List your tasks, progress and deadlines to keep everyone on the same page. Plus, you get the added benefit of people knowing where to jump in and help when needed.

Look Beyond Your Laptop

Conference calls invite participants to multi-task, or worse “zone out” — because you’re hidden from view. Video should be the default setting for any remote collaboration. Seeing facial reactions and body language lets you “read the room,” plus people are less likely to interrupt or speak over one another. To do it well, keep the computer at eye level — put it on a stand or further back so it isn’t looking up your nose. Look into the camera and use natural light, but avoid putting your back to a window or you’ll look like a silhouette.

Avoid rooms with lots of hard surfaces that echo (like a kitchen). Choose rooms with rugs or other softer materials (like a living room). Headphones provide a better experience than computer audio. And, if you switch from one video platform to another, close one before opening another because the software may grab hold of your microphone. Finally, if you’re late to an online meeting or not speaking, mute your audio to avoid disrupting the conversation.

Pick Places that Work for You

Not everyone has a home office, so think about establishing a territory that clearly signals “I’m at work.” Discuss protocol with other members of your household to signal when you’re “on at work,” even if you’re reading on the sofa. If you tend to be distracted by other household demands, find a way to create visual boundaries so you don’t see the dirty dishes. And, if acoustics are an issue and you can’t shut a door, headphones may be your new best friend.

Don't forget to vary your posture! A risk of working from home is becoming more sedentary. Look for ways to vary your posture and the spots where you work throughout the day.  Sit, stand, perch, go for a walk — activating the body, activates the brain and can keep you from going stir crazy.

Look at the physical distance between you, your furniture and your technology to make sure it’s comfortable and effective. Residential furniture isn’t always designed to be optimal for work. Is your laptop easy to reach? Can you avoid “text neck” and slouching over a coffee table? If you spend the day typing at your dining room table, for example, you may feel like your shoulders are in your ears.

Joy is one of our six primary emotions and research shows experiencing joy actually makes you more productive. Surround yourself with things that make you smile like a bright colored coffee cup, inspiring pictures or silly tchotchkes. It may seem trivial, but it’s proven to make a difference.

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