Yep, this is happening. Coronavirus has forced thousands to work from home. The reality is that working from home can be a struggle to get used to (even our internal team feels this reality). So, we asked some of our remote workers how they make it look so easy, and how they stay sane! Here are some amazing tips to start with.
Set Up a Home Office
- Plan for the long haul. Some experts are saying COVID-19 could last 3-6 months, so it’s best to set up a long-term remote workspace. Take home any tools from work: a monitor, Wacom tablet, noise-canceling headphones, your cactus named Charles, etc. Then wipe them all down with disinfectant to get rid of germs (except Charles, he’s not a fan of bleach or vinegar). Find a quiet space where you won’t be distracted by roommates, dirty laundry, kids, pets, or a TV—ideally somewhere with a door. *Granted, not all of us have this kind of space, so a good pair of noise-canceling headphones are an investment you can write off on taxes this year.
- Stay professional. If you need to do frequent video conferencing, test your setup ahead of time and make sure you’re not backlit so people can see you.
- Pro-tip: Extra credit for getting ready for work as you normally would. It does wonders for the mood, even if you’re just moving from your bed to a couch office.
- Adjust your expectations for getting immediate responses to questions. Many people are moving locations to stay safe and healthy in the next few weeks. Be clear with your coworkers about your availability for communication by using away messages on chat platforms like Slack and keep your calendar up to date. Mute incoming notifications so you can focus without interruption. Respect time zone differences when scheduling meetings with coworkers who may be hours ahead or behind you.
- Be extra clear in your written communications to avoid misunderstandings. Smiley emojis and exclamation points can be the difference between coming off as sarcastic or appreciative, e.g., “Thanks” vs. “Thanks! 😀”
- Social distancing doesn’t equal social isolation. Make time for some virtual water cooler talk by setting aside a moment at the beginning of a meeting to check-in and see how your coworkers are doing. It’s OK to share some of your worries right now too. We’re all human.
- Adjust your tolerance to disruptive sounds. There might be kid-related interruptions your coworker needs to take care of. That’s completely OK. Learn to be cool about a 2-year-old screaming for their mom or dad and respect early bedtimes.
- Manage your time. Designate blocks of time, from 30-120 minutes, and turn off all notifications and focus on your work. Set boundaries. Kids staying home from school and pets clamoring for attention can be disruptive. Just do the best you can and try to communicate your need for quiet blocks of time.
- Take healthy breaks. With the time saved from commuting, take care of your well-being by going for a walk, getting fresh air and sunshine, and doing simple calisthenic workouts at home. Hold a plank for 30 seconds every hour, do a few pushups, release neck tension, or try a 30-day yoga challenge on YouTube. Make healthy snacks and meals for yourself (limit sugar!). Take your lunch breaks away from the keyboard (and don’t check your phone for constant news updates; in fact, delete distracting apps altogether if you can).
- Listen to happy music. Maybe your happy music is metal or classical. Maybe it’s screamo or ’70s Indian pop. Whatever it is, make a playlist or find one and put it on repeat. It might feel silly listening to the Beach Boys or Bob Marley at a time like this, but after 20 minutes, it’s hard not to feel better.
Managing a Team
- Be confident. In times of crisis, teams look to leadership for confidence. Be honest, clear, and open in your communication and any policy changes, especially around working remotely. Give regular daily updates and stay in touch with all team members.
- Trust your employees to do their best work. Anticipate a slump in productivity over the next couple of weeks as employees transition to working remotely. Check-in with your team at preset times so you don’t interrupt their productivity.
- Stay up to date. Check-in on the CDC and other reliable news sources so you can make educated decisions with good information.
- Keep the community together. Daily all-hands meetings, designated break times, or even a group meditation session can keep everyone in touch and remind your team of their shared mission. (Still curious? Here are more tips to integrate remote workers.)
- Share and solicit regular updates on work. If you have a regular design review, try to keep the meeting as interactive and productive as possible. By hosting a video chat and asking for feedback from the entire group, you can keep employees engaged and creatively fulfilled during an otherwise stressful time.
- Give employees the tools they need. Make decisions on file sharing and communication software as soon as possible to get everyone on board. If your budget allows, offer to purchase equipment and work tools for employees’ home offices. This not only keeps business flowing but also boosts morale and a sense of belonging at a time like this. If you want to go even further, think about purchasing a meditation app or sending digital gift cards for streaming or game subscriptions. Employees will always remember how you handle this situation, so opt for being overly understanding right now.
We know this is a tough time, and we truly believe we are stronger together. Whether you’re looking for remote talent to join your team or looking for a remote team to join, our team is always looking to connect creatives with great jobs, now more than ever. Sign up for our newsletter for more tips and updates.
Want more on remote workers or how to work from home? See our other blogs for more resources: