New to Working From Home? 8 Tips to Support Your TransitionBy Courtney Godfrey, Senior Client & Team Experience Leader
When I had the opportunity to shift my role from leading a team in our St. Louis office to working remotely on project work from my home in Austin, a lot changed in the way I approached and accomplished my work.
After working 100% remotely for 10 months, I’m sharing some tips and tricks that have worked well for me in hopes to make it easier for those now doing the same:
1. End and begin each day with a plan. If I wait until the morning of each day to make my plan, I spend the first 30 or so minutes planning and not doing. Therefore, I have set a few rhythms in place to ensure I can jump in each day with an intention.
After work, I do the following for the next day:
- Determine my start and end time based on my overall schedule.
- Make a list of the top three things that must get done.
- Block my calendar to accomplish those tasks and treat them as meetings that can’t be pushed (unless another important team meeting pops up, then I shift it to a different time that day).
- Keep an ongoing “ideally done today” list to ensure items aren’t missed and can roll over to the next day if needed.
2. Gather necessary materials.
- Headphones: I’ve found that as much as my team does their best to ensure audio is working well from the conference room, plugging in headphones is essential.
- Mouse: It sounds so simple, but all day on a laptop without one can really affect your hands and wrist. Make sure you’ve grabbed your office one or order an extra to keep at home.
- A good coffee mug and water bottle: Keeping both things at your desk handy so you are easily fueled throughout the day.
- Strong WiFi and cell service: Test for the areas in your home that work best and work in those areas to ensure calls and internet usage are not dropped.
3. Consider your audience and medium. At Chapman & Co., we talk a lot about communication styles and preferences. I aim to prepare for conversations with different team members in a way that I can predict will be the best environment for them to respond. If I know I’m speaking to a teammate who prefers data, I prepare those numbers in advance via email before we have a call. If I am speaking with a teammate who processes verbally, I set an agenda to ensure we can cover all topics but also create the space to connect and share. This is a helpful way to approach all meetings, but I have noticed especially when meeting remotely. It makes remote team communication more efficient and helps me build trust from a distance as team members feel cared for.
4. Email or phone call worthy? Working remotely can lend to a lot of email communication; you don’t have the luxury of a cubicle drop by for a quick question. But sometimes that 10-minute brainstorm session with a team member can produce more creative solution than a back and forth email thread throughout the day. So ask yourself: “Can I add or gain more value with this individual by having a virtual personal connection?” If so, still go in with a plan to ask specific question, gain clear outcomes, and improve team communication.
5. Clear distractions. Some of you might be just as lucky as me to have a large snoring and barking dog who wants to join the office party more often than you’d like. Identify a noise free space to conduct calls. Think in advance when you need that absolutely silent space. But also know it won’t work 100% of the time. Let your teammates or client know in advance that if you hear some background noise, it’s just Winslow the dog trying to get to know them too. Also, set boundaries with anyone you co-habitat with to ensure they are aware of and can be respectful of the hours you are working – especially when you have set meeting times that require full focus.
6. Take a walk. Working from home can get pretty sedentary – missing the walks to and from conference rooms, grabbing a quick lunch, etc. Identify some work productivity, inspirational or news podcasts that are 10-15 minutes. Plug one in and take a quick walk around the neighborhood block. Just a simple change of pace (literally) can really help reset your productivity and keep you focused.
7. “Shut down complete.” Now that your office is at home, it can be a challenge to shut it off and enter a different mode for your other responsibilities in the evenings. By following the recommended steps in #1, you can set yourself up for success to have a true end to your day. Whether it’s a check mark in your digital or paper planner, or setting a specific end time to your day, this triggers your brain to know your work day has ended and it’s time to exercise, make dinner, and do whatever you or your family needs of you to rest and recharge for the next day.
8. Ask for feedback. Since this is the first for many working remotely full-time, get in the habit of checking in and asking your teammates how it’s going and iterate as needed. Questions you could ask are: “Would you prefer an email or video call follow-up?” and “What is one thing I can do to make working together remotely easier?”
Keep in mind that as you are navigating the change, so are others. It may take some adjustment for this to feel like a new normal. Share best practices with your team on a regular basis. Recognize what’s working well and ask for help when needed. On that note, if anyone has tips and tricks for a dog that snores, let me know.