Working in your pajamas.
Creating your own schedule.
No one looking over your shoulder.
A lot of companies are trending more towards remote positions whenever possible and some people are having a tough time adjusting.
One of the most common calls I get is from new “remote” employees who are struggling to stay on deadline and are finding it difficult to get things done. Here are some basic Do’s and Don’ts, in no particular order, that I’m sharing with some of my clients who need help becoming better remote, working-from-home, telecommuting, e-Worker, etc., employees:
- Keep a schedule. Everyone says they’re going to do this, but they never do – at first. Why? Because it’s hard! There’s a freedom to getting up, having your coffee, and not having to jump in your car and sit in traffic. So, maybe you flip on the TV. Something catches your ear – maybe a text, or it’s an old episode from a show you streamed, or you just get fixated on something on Twitter and all of a sudden what started with good intentions at 8am has now passed and it’s 3pm and you’ve done absolutely NOTHING.
The fix: Treat your workday just as if you were working in a brick and mortar office. Create a schedule and stick to it. If you’re going to work from 8am – 3pm Monday through Friday, then stick to that schedule no matter what – at least until you get the hang of this newfound freedom.
Do not stay in your pajamas. I know, people hate this one the most. But I’m telling you, if you roll over in bed, turn on your laptop to work, and stay in your pajamas, you will inevitably end up being distracted or worse, fall back asleep! If you don’t treat your work professionally as you did when you went INTO the office, then you won’t produce “professional” work because you won’t be in that “professional” state of mind. This is the same for creatives. You need to be in that head-space in order to create – and again, when starting out working from home, you should mimic some of those basic behaviors that you had working in a brick and mortar office to begin with…ease your way into working remotely efficiently by treating it professionally.
The fix: Get up, get dressed, keeping to your schedule. Change out of your pjs, brush your hair, brush your teeth, and throw on sweats or lounge wear or workout clothes if you want, but do something to transition yourself from one activity (sleeping) to another (working). This helps not only get you out of your slumber of sleep, but also gets you in the right frame of mind. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Do not share with your friends and family that you “work from home”. What you’ll notice when you start working remotely is that everyone will now contact you at all hours to talk about whatever drama is going on because they know you’re home. Your neighbors will knock on your door if they need help and you’ll be happy to help – you have the time, right? Since you work from home now. One neighbor asked me to watch her 6 year old for a few minutes and came back a few hours later!?!?! Well, with just a few haphazard moments like that, you’ll get behind in your workload and you’ll start to feel overwhelmed by everyone who is “bothering” you. It happens.
The fix: So, when it comes to your family and friends, tell them you work remotely, and you have “meetings” all day long, from 8am – 3pm or whatever your schedule is. But you’re happy to fit them in. Grab your calendar and schedule them in for AFTER your workday or project. Because you’re keeping a schedule now, remember?
Have a secondary place to work – Without fail there will always be a problem you can’t control in your regular workspace. Maybe the electricity goes out, or there’s street construction and you can’t hear yourself think. My neighbor once had about 15 people visiting – at least that’s what it sounded like and I couldn’t concentrate because it was just so noisey. So, make sure you always have a plan B so you never miss a deadline, a conference call, meeting, etc.
The fix: The local library, a coffee shop, a shared workspace rental like WeWork, etc. Be prepared to sit in your car and take a conference call or meeting if your plan A situation gets too loud and you can’t easily reschedule. Always have a plan B!
Schedule a “lunch” hour every day – I’ve already touched a bit on this earlier, but one of the other problems with people working from home is the other extreme: working too much and forgetting that you ONLY need to work 40 hours a week (or whatever your agreed upon part-time job is). Most people, once they get the hang of it, become so much more efficient that they actually get a lot more work done. But therein lies the problem. People forget to take breaks, to eat right, to take the weekends off — they easily make their lives all about work – which, by the way, defeats the whole purpose of working from home.
The fix: Schedule a lunch time every day into your calendar. And at the very least: GO. OUTSIDE. FOR. A. WALK. Honor your cut-off times too. When your work-day is done, it’s DONE. Period.
Keep track of your workday. If your company is not using a project management software program like Asana.com, Trello.com, Monday.com or Basecamp.com just to name a few, then make sure you’re keeping track of your work and what you’re doing. One problem I’ve encountered with companies making this transition is that management will ask what people are doing when they’re working from home. Some of this is also their new-ness to having an employee work from home, but it can also be a default reaction when a project goes badly. I’ve also experienced employees who were so stressed out that they don’t think their boss or supervisor believed they’d been working. As the employee, take control of this aspect. You know what you’re doing every day. So, be ready with answers of what you did for for that entire project in case someone asks. It will also help with a sense of accomplishment when you see how much you’ve done in a day, a week, etc. Keep track however it easily works for you.
The fix: Some of these project management tools can be used individually but could be costly and unnecessary. You can easily keep track of your calls and daily work in your calendar – when you finish a project for that day, just jot it down. How many hours you worked and remember to detail any calls you made and such. Remember this is also great just for YOU to keep track. It helps you with organization and keeping tracks of TO DO lists. Win-win. (Note to companies: if you have employees working from home, you should consider a project management tool or create a system in place to help employees and yourself feel good about the work you’ve accomplished).
Understand that you’ll need to socialize more on your own – When people go from working in an office environment to working remotely, what they realize rather quickly is that it can get a little lonely. You may have no distractions and are probably working more efficiently, but that one-on-one interaction with fellow co-workers, or that “meeting-up for a drink after work”, may no longer apply especially if you’re out-of-state. It can start to feel a bit isolating.
The Fix: Make sure you find other ways to socialize. Interacting with people at meet-up groups that may be work-related could be a great way to fill that gap. It’ll also allow you to continue generating new ideas, keep yourself fresh on all things going on in your industry and more importantly, keep you from being alone.
Be kind to yourself. If you’re new to working from home, know that it takes a little time to get used to it. Working remotely is a wonderful experience and can be a great benefit to both employees and business owners. But understanding that it does have its pitfalls is a good first step in getting it right. The data is still being calculated on all the pros and cons. It’s still a pretty new thing for a lot of folk – so yes, it can be devastatingly lonely and jarring when you realize you’ve been home all day working and no one stopped by to say “hello”. There’s no “water-cooler” or staff kitchen to hang out in. No ordering lunch together and no “grabbing a drink after this meeting” type of event. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are just NOT the same thing – and not what you’re used too. It takes time to adjust to a new way of working. So be kind to yourself.
The fix: If you need help, just ask. Any company working remotely is aware of what some newer employees may go through. You’re definitely NOT the only person who may need some tips during the adjustment period. So, if you have a question, just ask. Personally I’ve been helping companies make the transition and/or setting up new organizations and individuals into their new cloud-based remote lives for many years. It’s just one part of what I get paid to do. Happy to help.