After 12 years of working remotely, I don’t even think about the novelty of it. Considering I get paid to do what I love, and I get to avoid Denver traffic, I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world. So, I try not to take any part of working from home for granted. Everyone can benefit from the following common sense work-from-home tips, plus some that are not so common.
Don’t become a hermit. Three wise people once told me, “You’re not an island.” And they all told me that within the same week, so there’s got to be something to it. It’s rare that someone can do their job without input or advice once in a while. If something isn’t working right on your remote computer system; if you don’t understand what your manager expects from you; if your video conferencing is acting up, nip frustration in the bud and ask for help right away.
To be the most effective at your job, you need to maintain a healthy balance between work and not-work, whatever that looks like. If you’re an introvert, maybe your social life includes walking your dog or watching your cat chase a laser pointer dot. If you’re an extrovert, you’ll benefit from getting together with friends – even if it’s a virtual happy hour – and sharing your work-from-home stories.
Set the times when your day normally begins and ends. If your family will be at home, let them know these guidelines. Allowing an interruption once in a while is more of a work-from-home benefit than a disruption. But interruptions every 15 minutes will overstep the boundary you need in order to focus. In addition, continuous interruptions might remind you of the atmosphere in the “real” office, something you may come to realize you don’t miss all that much.
If you have chips, candy or other treats in the house, it can be all too easy to grab something quick and get back to work. Not only is this a fairly easy way to gain weight, it’s also not very healthy. Choose healthy meals and snacks for a more stable source of energy.
Another health tip: move away from the desk. Take regular breaks from your work to walk outside, do some stretching or a yoga move or two. Exercise clears your mind, strengthens your immune system, lowers your blood sugar, eases arthritis aches, alleviates bone loss, increases energy, wards off dementia . . . well, you get the picture.
Communicate regularly with your team members – maybe even more than you think is necessary. When everyone is on the same page, projects go more smoothly. A weekly team meeting, at the very least, can keep you connected.
When you’re working in informal surroundings and are in contact with customers or co-workers, be careful what you say and do. You may inadvertently let your guard down and say something that you’ll regret later. Always make an effort to be businesslike; you’re still in the same job, just working from a different “office.”
On conference and video calls, be ready to switch to mute in an instant. By now, most of us have been on a call when someone’s dog starts barking in the background. The meeting has lost all of its momentum at that point. Also, make sure you’re on mute when you join a meeting, especially if it’s already started. It’s actually a good practice to stay muted unless it’s your turn to talk.
Working from home is an opportunity to improve your quality of life. When you get a few moments to reflect, you’ll realize that you only get so much time in this life – and none of us really knows how much time that will be. Use it wisely and deliberately.
One of my favorite cooking tools is my crockpot. Find yourself some slow-cooker recipes and treat yourself and your family to home-cooked meals. My go-to crockpot cookbook is “Fix-It and Forget-It 5-Ingredient Favorites” by Phyllis Pellman Good. At least twice a week I spend just 15 minutes or so before I start work combining ingredients in the crockpot, and at the end of the workday supper is ready. Most of the time, it’s even better than going out to eat.
Treat your remote coworkers like people . . . because they are. Online communications can be so impersonal, and you can come across as being less friendly than you planned. So, make an extra effort to be polite. You never know what others are dealing with.
For more information about working from home, see the Applied Software on-demand webinar, “Working from Home: Best Practices.” When you choose to partner with Applied Software, you’ll discover that we’re in this together, and your life can be a little better for the experience.