How can we reimagine togetherness outside the four walls of an office building, collaborate without sitting in the same room, and contribute to the greater good from our homes?
Even when we’re physically distanced, we can be emotionally present. Together with empathy and digital transformation we can rethink human connection and the future of work.
In reviewing the practices of employees who regularly telecommute, seven essential tips emerged. Keep scrolling to discover how you can be productive, dynamic, and focused while working remotely.
1. Set up a dedicated space
Your “dedicated space” doesn’t have to be a Pinterest-worthy home office. It could be a card table in your bedroom, an old door suspended by cinderblocks, or even your kitchen table nudged out of sight from the refrigerator. You get the idea.
Creating one place to work will help you focus. It signals to your body when it’s time to get down to business. If possible, try to choose a space that avoids distractions (like your TV!). For some, particularly those sharing a space, it may be hard to minimize disruptions. Work out a system with your roommates or family members, such as putting up a sign when you need to take calls.
What else do you need in your workspace? Good Wi-Fi is hands-down the most essential tool. If your connection is lacking, consider sitting close to your router or plugging your computer directly into an ethernet cord. If your budget allows, the following luxuries can help you emulate a space similar to a traditional office:
- Natural light: Studies show daylight can boost your energy levels, productivity, and health. If you don’t have a window nearby, consider working outdoors when you can.
- A second monitor: If you’re comparing documents, or need to multitask, consider adding a dual monitor. This is shown to increase productivity by 20 – 50%.
- Simple backdrop: Particularly for those working in small spaces, it may be hard to avoid clutter and distractions in the background. In a pinch, try hanging up a sheet behind you for a polished image while taking video calls.
- Noise-canceling headset: Block out the background sounds with a good pair of headphones. Bonus — if they have a microphone, your audio will come across clearer on calls.
- Standing desk and comfortable chair: Avoid spending eight hours hunched over a computer. A standing desk will allow you to move your body, and an ergonomic chair will protect your back.
- Decor that lifts your spirits: Sprinkle things that spark joy around you. A photo from your last vacation. A candle that makes you feel at ease. Make the space one that refreshes your heart and mind.
Remember: no gadget is more important than the brilliance you bring to your work.
2. Make a (realistic!) schedule
Working remotely can blur the lines between work and home. You may be posed with new challenges — like minimizing personal disruptions, or on the other end of the spectrum, temptation to work 16 hour days. You can mitigate these situations by creating a productive schedule.
Begin each morning by organizing a to-do list of things that must be completed. Not only does this foster a sense of accomplishment, but it also helps you to clearly see when you can call it a day.
Beyond meetings, carve out time for the following:
- Rituals that make you feel good — like making coffee, listening to a podcast, or chatting with a friend.
- Opportunities to move your body. Consider which calls you could take on a walk. Schedule time for yoga. And always eat your lunch in a different space from where you work.
- Blocked time for work. Otherwise, your calendar may become booked with others’ priorities.
Consider ending your day with another routine — such as walking your dog. This activity can signal to your body that you’re done for the day, and physically remove you from your workspace.
3. Show empathy
How can you build relationships virtually without a firm handshake or hallway chat? Luckily, the most important thing you can do to strengthen a bond in person still applies to remote work: be empathetic. Practice deep listening. People will remember how you made them feel, and now more than ever people want to be heard.
Is the person on the other end of your video chat struggling with working from home? This setup isn’t ideal for everyone, and some team members may have unique needs to recreate feelings of closeness. Consider starting each conversation by asking how they’re doing using the traffic light method. Responses of green indicate good, yellow represents they’ve had better days, and red signals they’re having a hard time. Adapt your conversation based on their needs, and end the call by checking in again to see if their mood has improved.
A note on empathy: it applies to you too. Show yourself the same kindness you demonstrate to others. It’s okay to step away and recharge if you’ve hit a wall. Remember that we’re all learning and adapting to the future of work together.
4. Tap into virtual communication best practices
We have many different communication channels at our disposal. And each has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, you might:
- Make a phone call when something’s urgent
- Send an instant message for something quick or casual
- Email when a message isn’t time-sensitive or you need to align a large group who can’t connect live
- Tap into social channels like Chatter for quick collaboration, or lighthearted connection
Your team or company may have nuances to how these channels are used. Ask your manager or team members about their preferences to establish a shared understanding.
Video conferencing use has expanded in recent years as more teams become global or remote. And today, they’re an essential way to conduct business. Here are a few tips to build a strong virtual presence and be mindful of others:
- Take a few minutes to connect on a personal level before diving into work.
- Be “camera on” — nonverbal cues are critical to understanding one another and building rapport, plus it’s inclusive for those with hearing impairments who may wish to lip read.
- Schedule breaks in long calls — people have a variety of needs from needing to take medicine, a restroom break, or step away and pray.
- Remember to use video calls for socialization, too. You can host virtual team activities like volunteering, cooking, or sharing a meal together.
When making the shift to working remotely, it’s important to communicate more. Ask for what you need — whether that’s team meeting accommodations, communication channels, or additional 1:1s. We’re all evolving the way we work together. It’s normal to have rough days or feel like something isn’t quite working. Be transparent about those experiences in order to uncover better solutions.
5. Be flexible
Just like any new life experience, as you begin to work from home you may find the realities are different than what you’d envisioned. Remain flexible and open to adjusting things as you go.
If you’re working from home with a child during these unprecedented times, consider setting up an out of office message that indicates the times you’re typically available for live calls, and to expect a delay in your reply given your situation. This will help others set realistic expectations and show empathy. You may also benefit from creating a caregiver schedule if you have the luxury of help at home.
Be flexible to the needs of others, as well. Each of us has different roles, situations, and environments to consider.
6. Practice wellbeing
It was mentioned briefly above in our scheduling tips, but it’s so important we have to say it twice! As the lines of home and work blur, prioritizing wellbeing is particularly essential. Schedule time for a workout, meditation, or whatever brings you joy! Honor that commitment to yourself the same way you would a meeting with someone else.
It’s also essential to monitor your mood throughout the day. Give yourself the freedom to recharge when you need to. Learn more about the neuroscience behind our emotions and proven ways to manage our brain’s responses to stimuli in this blog.
7. Lead with trust
Those managing remote teams must adjust the way they inspire teams, measure, and recognize work. Use the tools and tips outlined above to stay connected and aligned. When it’s time to praise work, you might try giving a team member kudos on an internal social channel, start a video chat by sharing gratitude, or pass around a virtual trophy.
Lead by example and you’ll find your team members extend this same trust to their colleagues.
Together, we can transform the future of work by telecommuting effectively.