In light of recent events, this post seems extremely timely and appropriate. But these tips and tricks for managing your work from home can be used at any time. Whether your full-time job has moved to the remote life or you’re simply brainstorming ways to scale your side hustle into a managed, work from home job, it can be more challenging than you expect.
So how do you adjust from the office or classroom to your at-home office… or worse, your couch? These 8 tips will help ease your work into remote operation and will help you keep on top of things.
After all, managers and those who oversee other employees have to understand that some give and take happen when you switch to remote offices, especially when your hand is forced to do so. In contrast, employees working from home must keep their employers’ trust and ensure them that they’re doing what they can with the tools they have. Don’t just sit and watch Netflix all day. Trust me, it does get old.
1. Understand “me” time vs. working hours.
You may have already dealt with this challenge in your work before, but understanding me time vs. working hours is crucial. If your work starts at 9:00 am, try waking up an hour or two before then and taking time for you. If you have personal emails to respond to or value a slow morning enjoying your coffee, carve out time for those things.
If you do everything on the clock, not only does that make getting the work you actually need to complete harder, but I find my coffee is less enjoyable, and I start missing important things in my emails when I try to multitask and jump through a million things at once.
2. Keep a structured schedule.
Blocking times for tasks and to-dos is super helpful in my day to day work. I use Google Calendars for all of my workload items, but whatever tool you utilize, try blocking out your time. Say day to day, your at-home work will consist of emails, phone calls, lesson planning, reviewing a budget, and editing some paperwork. Try identifying how much time each of those items should take and schedule them throughout your day.
Professionals recommend diving into your deeper, more thought-provoking work earlier in the morning when your energy is at a high. When you’re reaching the mid-afternoon crash, schedule emails or tasks that require less focus and are easier to jump in and out of. Don’t forget to schedule time to eat lunch and take small breaks, too.
3. Open communication is key.
Just because you’re remote doesn’t mean you are cut off from all communication with work. If your day normally consists of chatting with coworkers or meeting with your advisor, text your coworkers to stay connected and schedule calls as necessary with other individuals. Send an email to your boss if you need help with something or reach out to a peer if you have a question. Don’t allow yourself to be helpless and detached.
Additionally, many remote organizations utilize Slack or other similar tools to keep in touch throughout the day. If your employer is expecting to stay remote longer than a week or two, consider introducing this idea to your boss.
4. Add alerts to your calendar, phone, watch, and other places where you’ll see them.
Because I schedule everything on my Google Calendar and that is connected to my laptop, my phone, and my Apple watch, I get alerts for everything I schedule and can manage my time more efficiently knowing when it’s time to move on to the next task on my schedule. I receive alerts 10 minutes before every item on my calendar which helps me get in the zone on the work I need to finish, and it helps me step back when my time is up.
5. If something isn’t working, look for tools to help with what you need or let your employer know.
Similar to Slack, many tools are available that can make your life and remote work easier. If remote work isn’t the norm for you, you’ll be learning what works and what doesn’t work along with everyone else. And if one thing seems exceedingly hard to tackle from your position, it’s probably hard for others in your situation, too. Don’t be afraid to be vocal about what needs improvement. Your employer should value that, and adjustments and changes are possible.
6. Keep moving physically and take frequent breathers.
One of the biggest challenges I came across when I switch from retail (AKA all day every day on my feet for 8+ hours) to working from home where I can sit on my butt literally all day was staying active. It’s so easy to be sedentary and literally sit in the same spot for hours on end. I wear my Apple watch which reminds me to move every hour. I also try to get in a walk over my lunch breaks when possible and go to the gym after work if I can. Although many gyms are closing, at-home workouts can be a great way to stay active, too.
7. Switch out TV for a podcast or light music.
I get it. The temptation to turn on Netflix in the “background” while you work is real. Don’t get me wrong, I do it some days, too. But TV shows are tempting to watch, and it’s easy to get distracted from your work when the TV is even on.
I love listening to podcasts as an alternative to TV. TV shows make me feel like I’m behind or missing things if I’m not fully engaged the whole time. Or else I breeze through an entire season of a show and have no idea what happened because I really was working the whole time (Matt loves when I say I “watched a show” that I don’t know the first thing about).
Podcasts are super easy to turn on, are really entertaining and offer great advice, stories, or narratives, but are also easy to turn off, turn down, or rewind while you work. Here are just a few of my favorite Podcasts to listen to:
- NPR’s Life Kit
- Nike’s Trained
- Babes Talking Business
- NPR’s How I Built This
- Crime Junkie
- Monster: DC Sniper
- Down The Hill: The Delphi Murders
- The Officer’s Wife
- To Live and Die in LA
- Dr. Death
8. Work-life balance is necessary. Log off when the workday is over.
Again, you may have already run into this challenge before, but it’s so important for mental health to log off of work when the day is over. Working from home makes it exponentially easier to sit in front of your laptop all day, answer emails at all hours, and become accessible 24/7. Don’t let that happen. Employers need to understand that just because you may be home doesn’t mean you need to be working all hours. Respect your own space by limiting your work hours, setting screen time, and shutting things down when time is up.
And if you’re in a position where you have to oversee other employees and recently made the new switch to remote work, remember that your employees are capable, you don’t need to micromanage, and things can change. Nothing has to be set in stone. If you feel employees aren’t staying on task, try adding in morning calls to touch base and discuss priorities. Don’t assume every employee is sitting at home doing nothing. And employees, don’t sit at home and do nothing.
What tools or tips are you using to make working from home an easier transition?