I think we can all agree that the changes that COVID-19 has brought is making life interesting for employees and business owners everywhere.
With the tech world and other industries who are closely aligned, switching to either a mandatory or voluntary work from home (WFH) policy, our normal work environment has changed what we refer to as 'the office' overnight- well, over the weekend, at least.
And while remote work is growing ever more popular and accessible at both Mindbody and the world over, it's still not what we would consider the norm.
Let's not mince words; Remote work IS different than reporting to the office. It takes an adjustment period, good boundaries, and more effort when it comes to communication.
So, let's take two minutes to talk about how to be successful while you're WFH.
Setting up your space
Our homes are where we go to relax and be comfortable. We have to 'get ready' to go to the office every morning, but when we get to go home, no preparation is required. There's a mind-shift that's required in order to put on our professional hats. When you WFH, that switch has to take place as you walk across the living room, instead of during your morning commute.
Use these simple tips to make it easy to create a space that is meant for work.
- Set up in a quiet spot in your house that's clutter and distraction-free. TV's and mobile devices can be particularly insistent about being watched, like a kid constantly tapping your shoulder, if you're working in close proximity.
- If you can, try to set up at an actual table or dedicated desk. This helps you get into the mindset of 'this is my workspace'. That way, it's easy for your brain to correlate sitting at your desk area with work. This reduces distractions and allows you to focus easier.
- Position your webcam to at or just above eye level. A smallish or medium-sized box or a stack of books can help you raise your laptop, so it's easier to see while you're working and so you're not doing a video conference with the camera aimed up your nostrils. :)
- Connect to the VPN every time you work. This will keep your network safe from security risks.
- Make sure your hardware is working the way it should. Check to make sure all your cables are securely in the correct ports, and that you can connect to the internet off your home network.
The other difficult thing that sometimes comes with WFH is setting boundaries for yourself and your family/roommates (because they're probably 'sheltering in place' right along with you). When you work from home, it's easy to look around after a while and realize that your work/life balance is really out of whack.
Use these tips to set up some structure and set good expectations.
Whether your work schedule is flexible or not, set regular work hours. Then, work your shift and -so important- keep it consistent. The routine helps you focus and keeps you efficient.
- Laundry and other housework can wait until your lunch break or after work. And if you're anything like me, you'll probably have to repeat that to yourself a couple of times: Laundry and other housework can be done later. It really, REALLY can.
- That project you're working on cannot wait until later. Use your work hours to work, and try not to push it off with the idea that you'll make up the time later that evening or on the weekend. That way, when your shift is over, you can be truly off work.
- A regular work schedule helps your family and friends know when you're available (and when not to bother you). This is especially important when you have kids in the house.
Quick trick: It helps to put a sign on the door, the doorknob, or in plain sight to make sure everyone knows you're busy or in a meeting. See the links at the bottom of this article if you want an easy to print sign or doorknob hanger.
- Make sure you take breaks and are drinking water/eating at the appropriate times. Getting up from your desk and walking away for ten minutes and being hydrated and fed can help you be efficient in your work. Also, try to set a timer for your breaks. If your break goes too long, it can be harder to stay focused when you sit back down.
Communication as a remote employee
"Effective communication and staying connected with your team is critical for both our ability to perform, as well as keeping and strengthening our culture and connectedness to each other." -Brian Raboin, VP of Customer Services at Mindbody
Communication gets tricky when you're a remote employee. Often times, being connected to your team is pretty easy when you're at the office because you might all sit together, and you can turn around and ask them/answer a question. Also, collaborating in person only takes a few minutes by having a quick conversation. Meanwhile, WFH means that you aren't within earshot and a lot of context is taken out of your day because most of your conversations take place because you made a concerted effort to chat.
To communicate effectively when you're WFH, it really comes down to putting in extra time and effort.
- Don't be afraid to initiate conversations over Slack or other, workplace messaging apps.
- When you can, use Zoom or other video conferencing apps for a video, face-to-face in favor over messaging. If you're using Slack and Zoom together, you can start a Zoom conversation with the person you're chatting with by clicking this phone icon, located next to the search bar in the upper right corner.
- If you're not already, get in the habit of using your Slack or other messaging app statuses of 'active' and 'away'. It's a sign for your coworkers that lets them know when you're working and when you're away from your desk or unavailable.
- In speaking of being active on chat, I personally found that you can accidentally take that to an unwanted extreme. Quick story- When I first started remote work just under a year ago, I wanted to 'prove' that I was at my desk and working, so I would be on Slack A LOT. However, I was focusing my energies in the wrong place, and I started finding it hard to feel like I'd accomplished my normal workload during my day. So, these days, I'm available on Slack, but I'm not ON it. Instead, I prove that I'm working by, well, my work. And that's my personal recommendation for anyone else WFH too.
- Lastly, check-in with your supervisor based on the guidelines they've given you. If you're the boss, you can stay connected to your employees by letting them know you're available.
Dani Mahler is a Content Designer on the Customer Services' Knowledge Management Team for Mindbody. Dani moved to Northern California in May of 2019 and works at her dedicated desk space every day within seven feet of her bed. She spends her workdays writing articles, creating training tutorials, and ignoring her bed's constant beckoning for a mid-day nap.
What do you do when you WFH? We want to know! Log in and leave any pro remote working tips and tricks in the comments below.