There are many things I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on, but when it comes to working remotely, I have decades of practical experience. I’ve always considered it a privilege because many people don’t have that option. However, being a journalist means I can work anywhere with a computer and internet access.
I have edited copy in hospitals, in doctor’s offices, while waiting at school events, and anywhere else I can grab a few quiet minutes. That has allowed me to develop an amazing ability to ignore background noise and focus on a project (having three kids probably contributed to this ability), but it is a learned skill that has proven quite valuable.
If you’ve never worked from home before, there are some definite benefits. Many people are worried that they will feel isolated — that’s never been an issue for me. Technology allows us to IM, email, text and call someone anywhere at any time.
Here are some other tips that should make working remotely a little easier:
- Follow your regular office hours. You should still have a definite start and finish time even when you’re working from home. Let your colleagues, supervisor and coworkers know what those times will be if necessary.
- Have background music or the television on low for a little ambient noise. It should be something that won’t break your concentration too much. (Just don’t get caught up in watching a show and stop working!)
- Eat breakfast and lunch at the same times you would in the office. Take a break as you would in the office.
- Sometimes it’s easy to get glued to your computer. Give your eyes and your body a break. Roll your shoulders, get up and walk around for a few minutes. You can set an alarm if necessary to remind you to get up and move.
- Check your phone and social media, but again, limit that access. It can become a huge waste of time if you’re not careful.
- Set up a specific place to work in your home if possible — a desk, dining room table that isn’t used, a quiet corner away from the household craziness. I realize this will be a lot more difficult if your kids are home from school too. But because all of the schools are closed, it might be easier to find a high schooler who is bored and wouldn’t mind making some money playing with the kids.
- Try to let the kids know you’re working (yes, this can be much easier said than done, particularly with younger children) and ask them to respect times when you’re on the phone or trying to meet a specific deadline. Let them know when it’s okay to interrupt (e.g., for broken bones or injuries that can’t be fixed with a band-aid) and when it isn’t. Understand that you may need to adjust your work hours because of the kids being around. Let your manager know if that is the case and that you will still get your hours in for the week. This is a learning experience for everyone, so be patient and realistic.
- Yes — you can throw in a load of laundry. It will give you a reason to get up in an hour and stretch your legs again.
- If it’s nice out, take a short walk after lunch, walk the dog, or take the kids outside for a quick break. The fresh air will reinvigorate you and a little time in the sun can help lift a gloomy mood.
- Appreciate the time, gas, parking, subway and train fares you’re saving by not commuting to work. Save that money and use some of it to treat yourself at the end of the week or month. It will give you something positive to look forward to when you can go out again.
- If you supervise staff, check in with them once a day to make sure they’re adjusting okay, see if they have any questions, and let them know you’re there for them during this time. Working remotely can be difficult for staff if they haven’t done it before.
- If your supervisor contacts you, make sure to respond in a timely manner. If you have questions or need something, make sure to share that information too.
- If your company has a VPN, don’t forget to log into it. Hackers will be working overtime to access networks with open internet or poor password protection, and you want to protect any information going through the internet.
- Make sure your computer, internet and other technology will support working remotely. Work with your IT department if you have any questions or issues.
- Dress for work — not necessarily a suit or even business casual — but put on your makeup, brush your hair, get out of your pajamas, and at least look decent in case you need to have any webcam calls. This also helps to put you in a more “professional” mindset for your workday.
- Remember what you’re working on may be confidential, so be careful about leaving papers around the house where children or others can see them or holding conversations in a coffee shop (if they’re still open) so that client or project information isn’t inadvertently shared.
Working remotely provides numerous benefits — no commute in crummy weather; whatever coffee, tea or soda you want; multiple options for lunch without going anywhere; fewer interruptions (unless you have kids); time with your pets (a great stress reliever!) and just a more flexible workday. Embrace it and try to appreciate the opportunity.
If you have other tips to share with our readers, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature them in another article or through our social media sites.