If you just woke up in your bed and realized you didn’t have to get out of it to go to work this morning, you may be experiencing the exhilaration that is working from home for the very first time. Working from home has its pros and cons; same as going into the office. Say goodbye to crack of the dawn alarm clocks, laying your clothes out the night before (if you’re that organized) or in most people’s case pawing through a dark closet and hoping the items you picked out match, and then commuting into the office through what seems like an endless line of 4 wheel compartments transporting 1 person at a time. You my friend, are now working from home. And whether it’s by choice or by quarantine there are steps and measures you should heed to maximize your WFH experience.
More than ten years ago when I first thought of the notion of working from home I was elated at the possibility of not having to go into an office, having ample time for kids and my family, and being able to master the work-life balance. My hopes and desires quickly faded as I began my first startup from my garage in 2010 and saw all my worlds blending together and my time constantly running out.
I had days where I didn’t brush my teeth, days where my kids only ate fast food, and days where I worked for 14 hours straight. A decade later, I would consider myself a work from home ninja a.k.a WFHN and I’m excited to share my experiences with all of you who are entering this phase for the first time in your lives…welcome!
There is no one size fits all formula, but you can better pioneer your ideal environment with the helpful tips derived from thousands of hours of trial and error. One of the most important things in working from home and running a team from home is making sure that you have the right tools. Too many tools will create confusion, too few tools will create chaos and the wrong tools will waste money and time. Here’s a quick overview of quintessential must have tools we use on a day to day basis:
Constant communication is a must. A slack tip that really helps me stay organized is geekbot. Our team uses it to have virtual daily standups. In our company, we believe that if you are not on slack and responsive in the team workspace, then you are not at work. It’s important to communicate effectively and often with your teammates when working from home so that you stay on track with your tasks and avoid confusion when collaborating.
Zoom is mainly used for external calls with clients. It has a recording feature which is critical for recall and reference. I set my zoom to automatically record all my calls. Zoom can host multiple participants on one call/webinar and you can share your screen and present what you’re working on.
Google Hangouts is an excellent tool for internal team calls and connecting. Slack also offers a feature to call teammates individually or host multiple individuals on one call.
Google Suite or Microsoft Suite are excellent and easy to share documents and spreadsheets to collaborate simultaneously and in real time with your colleagues.
To help ensure you are sticking to your work goals but also not getting totally lost in work without rejuvenating yourself.
Depending on your style, the beauty of working from home may warrant the feeling of throwing all structure out the window, but I’m here to tell you that is not the best laid plan. According to experts, our workspace and surroundings act as our “vision board” influencing mood, thoughts and even concentration abilities. Working from bed is a leisure we can indulge in from time to time, but you’ll find your overall productivity and satisfaction levels will maintain when you construct a working area that allows you to focus and function much like you would at work or even better! Everyone has a unique ideal work space but general guidelines include:
- Construct a dedicated work area
- A space separate from leisure, reducing clutter allows more laser beam focus
- Utilize a desk, counter, or your version of a work area where you are sitting or standing is key to staying productive and not feeling like you’re loafing around
- Whether you like seclusion or need to have activity and noise around you, mirror your at home workspace to incorporate these attributes.
- Consider your lighting
- Lighting dramatically impacts mental fatigue, our psychology and physiology, positioning your desk in a “command” position where you can see the most of the room and the door of the room you are in, and putting something symbolic relating to a big goal somewhere visible to inspire you.
- Get your Feng Shui on
- Feng Shui addresses space arrangement for good energy flow – check out full talk by Marie Diamond.
- Choose your environment based off your optimum style of productivity
MASTER YOUR ROUTINE AND YOUR WORK SCHEDULE
Consider your typical daily office routine, your new home routine. Start your day as if you’re going into the office.
- Set your alarm before you go to sleep
- Make your bed
- Brush your teeth
- Get dressed
If you’re on board with us so far, you’re starting to master your WFH ninja skills.
- You have put together a work station, desk or space that speaks to your style of productivity and concentration in your home.
- You’ve identified, downloaded and set up the communication tools you and your company will use for daily communication and conference calls.
- You’ve come up with a suitable morning routine that gets you up and ready to brave the day.
You have this in place and now you need to hone in on your daily schedule.
I’m no stranger to having my head down working on a project or deadline only to realize I missed or am late to a call. Set your calendar settings to alert you when a meeting is about to begin–a phone alarm is a good backup tool. I like to have a 30 minute and 10 minute alert to ensure I am on time. It allows me to wrap up my thoughts, refocus, and get to the call on time.
One aspect of working at home and what many may not expect is that you tend to work longer hours and without breaks. This can lead to burnout, lack of productivity; your mind and body need an opportunity to rest and reboot. Every morning or evening prior, calendar your meetings, your break times, and your “no call” times aka designated time to complete tasks, as well as your start and stop times for your work day. This will help give your day structure and allow your teammates and managers to see what your day entails and when you are available. Shared team calendars are also very helpful, they allow for transparency amongst groups working together.
- Set up your calendar alerts
- Use your phone alarm as back up
- Parcel out your tasks on your calendar for dedicated working time
- Share work and team calendars
BREAKS & BOUNDARIES
Hello! You’re home not in a prison. If you have the luxury of having some outside space where your WIFI can reach, take your laptop and utilize that space. Take your calls outside and work on your tasks and projects in a place that feels good and gives you a change of scenery.
Desk fatigue is real. When you’re stationary for hours at a time you can find yourself losing energy and motivation to do your job. While you’re working from home you can do simple things while you clack away on the keyboard that can help combat fatigue.
- Take a walk around the block while you have a call
- Get outside and get fresh air in between meetings
- A quick meditation or 15 minute power workout is great for increasing blood flow and boosting concentration
Bottom line, give yourself an opportunity to break away from your immediate setting and todo list for a change of pace and perspective.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS!?!
When I first started working from home, working in the same space that my family lives in was really the strongest motivating factor, later I realized this would become the most challenging element. Having multiple working spaces throughout your home is a good place to start; one space where you can lock the door and not be disturbed, and another where you can be in the same room as your kids and still be productive. When my children were very young I created a shared work and play space for them in my garage, now that they are older I pick where I want to work from during the day and the kids take over the rest of the house!
Meal prepping isn’t just for bodybuilders, it’s something that has proved to be very effective in our house. At the beginning of each week, my kids and I make a list of what meals they want me to cook for the week. We create meal kits that the kids can take out of the fridge and reheat on their own- so no more hangry interruptions or constant moans “there’s nothing to eat”.
Ultimately, working from home is indeed a great opportunity. The learning curve is incorporating some semblance of structure for both spheres: home and work. It’s a unique time to relish in the convenience that is WFH living. Embrace it and set yourself up for success by acquiring the right tools, the best daily practices, and creating a true work life balance.
If you want to dive deeper and have a dynamic discussion on the topic, please join me for my Work Remote Webinar next Thursday, March 26th at 6:30pm Pacific Standard Time.