Millions of workers have been instructed to work from home – a completely new concept to many of these employees. And while there are great benefits to working remotely, it is a huge adjustment and one that requires some organisation and motivation.
I have been working 100% remotely for the past year and in all honesty, it comes with some pros and some cons. With global and local offices all closing for the foreseeable, thousands of co-workers are now also in the same boat. Initially this made me feel less isolated - ironically! But there is also now more pressure on everyone to not only adjust to this new norm, but also 'make the most of it'. It's like there's a competition to see who can 'work from home' best. So can we please all pause for a moment - let's definitely try to make our new virtual offices one that we enjoy coming to every day but let's also remember that we are after all, only human - what works for your co-worker or friend may not work for you.
Right now my company's internal communication channels are full of tips and questions about Working From Home (WFH). And in light of recent global developments, I thought it might be helpful to share a compiled list of what has helped me WFH, and really enjoy it over the past 12 months: *Disclaimer - I work best when working to a schedule and a structure. The busier I am the more productive I am. But I know this is NOT the same for everyone so please take the following as a very loose guide and tailor it to what works best for you!
10 Tips To Help Enhance Your WFH Experience:
Create An Office Space
Start As You Mean To Go On
Establish A Routine
Have Regular Team Check-Ins
Upskill & Share This Knowledge
Move & Stay Hydrated
Choose Your Background Noise
Get Fresh Air & Exercise
Switch Off To Really Switch On
1. Create an office space
In order to be able to concentrate and avoid distractions you will need a quiet area with good natural sunlight, comfort and a strong internet connection. Set up your space with ergonomics in mind and enhance it with lighting, music and a decent chair that will support your back. Whatever makes this a friendly environment to stimulate your creativity and allow you to think without disruption. Keep your bedroom as a sacred space for sleeping & relaxing - and if you don't have any other private space available to you, make sure to turn off your laptop and put it away at the end of every day so subconsciously you don't revert to thinking about work when you retire to your bedroom at night.
2. Start as you mean to go on
Get ready to start your day just like you would if you were going into the office; aka don’t stay in your pj's all day long.
We know we can but it's not good for our mental health - our minds play tricks on us so if we dress like we are ready to slay the day then our attitude will reflect this!
And no - it doesn't count if you get dressed just from the waist up. Maybe your team can't see your pyjama bottoms on your conference call but you know you are only half dressed! It can also be a game changer to wear your runners if you are someone who wants to be active throughout the day!
3. Establish a daily routine & a structure
Once you are ready to start your day consider how to best structure it and stick to this structure. There will be many distractions and interruptions as you navigate your way through this new working environment. Creating a routine and identifying a structure to your day can help you stay focused and keep productivity high.
Your routine might be as simple as setting the same alarm every morning, making sure you are 'dressed for work' and at your computer by 9am with lunch thrown in at 1pm. However, I like to have a more detailed schedule to stick to:
Find out what works best for you and for your role. Spend some time thinking about this and create a structure that is realistic and compliments how you work.
4. Schedule regular check ins with your team
While everyone is transitioning to a WFH environment it can be a very unsettling time for your team. It is important to remain connected. Daily check in's via Zoom will help everyone to feel united. Ideally these check-in's will happen in the morning so that everyone begins their day feeling like they are collectively working together. It will allow any questions to be asked and can also be a good way to motivate each other - identify what each person is focusing on for that day and identify daily goals with results being discussed in the following morning's check-in.
Try to make this more of an informal and fun touch base rather than a structured approach as you do not want to turn this into a micro-managing session. Why not add it as a virtual 'coffee and catch-up' in everyone's diary and outline one or two objectives so everyone is loosely aware of the purpose of this daily meet.
We all like to start the day in a positive way so each meet up could begin with some humour or ice-breaker to get everyone laughing and feeling that bit more excited about starting into another WFH day.
5. Stay connected with your work friends Create internal message groups with the people that you normally sit with/ eat lunch with and continue your chats throughout the day, just like you would in the office. We are not robots and we can't be expected to fully isolate ourselves from the world just because we are no longer physically in the same room. Some of the most enjoyable parts of our day are interacting with others; learning by hearing other intelligent conversations around us, laughing at silly office pranks, toasting a successful week on a Friday evening. None of this should stop - we don't need to switch off from these invaluable interactions, we just need a new way of communicating. We use the internal messaging platform Slack and new group channels are being added daily. Groups are being created now that include #gymbunnies: a group of like-minded friends who normally gym together now using this channel to share home workouts - to motivate each other - and to hold each other accountable! #lunchtime: a group of friends who don't sit together but normally meet everyday at the office lunch area to catch up over food now using this channel to share updates, jokes, and sometimes arrange virtual zoom rooms so we can eat together but feel like we are still sharing that same table. #funfacts a group of co-workers who sit together on the same pod and share fun facts throughout the day to keep morale up and keep everyone engaged while learning now using this channel to continue the trend.
Think about those that you interact with on a daily basis, this may even include some interactions that you previously took for granted, and reach out with invites to your new channels. If you are missing these interactions no doubt others are - and this might just be the way to keep each other sane and motivated while you continue to perfect this new set-up of working apart.
Connections should extend outside of work hours too - just as they would in the office.
Why not set up a Virtual Friday Evening Drinks get together and keep the tradition going from the comfort of your home office. If your office has a Karma Team who manage office events why not suggest a fortnightly virtual lunch for everyone to join, or a virtual team quiz, or a virtual themed hour where people share non work-related updates.
If you don't have a Karma or culture team at present then why not become the founder - run it past your boss and no doubt they will be on board with this initiative to keep moral high and people connected throughout this time.
WFH can mean that you are also working with less distractions (in most cases - this is definitely not fair to say of parents who are now trying to juggle working from home while also entertaining children. Hats off to you & in honour of your amazingness we will be sharing a separate article soon with tips on how to structure your day with children at home -so stay tuned!). There are less interactions with co-workers; no more 15 minute unexpected chats on the way to the toilet, no more 'popping out for coffee' breaks that turn into 30 minutes escapades.
So use some much needed 'free time' to educate yourself further on a topic that will benefit you/ your team. There is an abundance of amazing online learning platforms out there so why don't you use this time to enhance your skills - not just to benefit yourself but to benefit your team and company.
7. Move & Stay Hydrated
When working in a more confined area with less distractions and interactions it can be much easier to sit in the same spot for hours. However, it is so important to ensure that you keep moving and stretching throughout the day. A good way to remember this is to set regular 'stretch time' alarms, or add these as calendar reminders so that every 30 minutes you get up and move. Another compliment to movement is hydration - why not add the purpose of walking to get a fresh glass of water and keep yourself hydrated too.
8. Background Noise Some people will work best in silence, however if you have transitioned from a busy office environment that normally has a lot of background noise then it is important to ensure that your new environment incorporates some noise too. There are moments in the office where I would put my headphones on as the constant chatter was distracting however, I was then tuning into music or podcasts - I was still listening to something but the difference is I was choosing what I listened to. When working from home you have the advantage of being able to introduce the background noise of your choice. Here are some recommendations but ultimately and thankfully, the choice is yours;
Play podcasts or music throughout the day for interaction and stimulation.
Create a 'feel good' playlist and share with co-workers, for example 'Have A Great Day' on Spotify has a long list of newbies and oldies to make you feel good throughout the day.
Listen to motivational and education talks such as TED Talks, to keep your spirits high and enable you to learn something new everyday.
Listen to the radio to brush up on your current affairs and what's happening in your community.
Play some classical music; it is said to reduce your stress levels, enhance your memory and spike your creativity - perfect aid to help you through that project work you've been putting off recently!
9. Fresh Air & Exercise
It's important to get up and get out throughout the day. When working in an office we each have a daily commute and will often leave the office a few times for coffee and food. When you work from home however, it can be easy to stay indoors for long periods of time - even full days - trust me I am speaking from experience.
Right now we are being asked to cocoon - which we should all fully support.
However we are still able to get fresh air, whether that be walking (at a distance), eating lunch in your garden or opening a few windows - fresh air is free and it is so good for you. A walk around your neighbourhood can strengthen your immune system, improve your heart rate, clean your lungs, give you a boost in energy and make you feel happier.
Same can be said of exercise. And although we can't visit our favourite gyms right now, there are an abundance of workout classes available online to help us stay fit and active from home. Why not perfect your downward dog with a yoga class, get the blood pumping with a HIIT session or dance the hour away. Whatever exercise you choose make sure it's one that you enjoy; that way you are more likely to do it regularly. And when WFH you will no longer have to queue for the showers at your gym before rushing back to sit at your desk like a sweaty tomato - so take advantage of this time at home and put your health first, you'll feel all the better for it.
10. Switch Off to Switch On Take some time during the day to turn off communication channels – and block this time off in your calendars so that your team knows. Work can be busy and overwhelming at times; and WFH is no different. You might have a lot more conference calls to join - team members to check in with - clients looking for reassurance. It is important that you also schedule time to allow yourself to be proactive rather than reactive. Get your creative juices flowing, finish that project you started, think outside the box and introduce some new and innovative concepts to benefit your business. You might find that moving to a different space will help with this - try it and see. Allow yourself to zone in on what you are working on and maybe you will look at things with a fresh perspective and even improve some current processes that are in place.
We hope that some if not all of the above has resonated with you and you feel more confident and motivated to make your own individual WFH period a success.
And when each day is over don't forget to sign out of your emails and turn off notifications for any work related communication channels, especially if these are on your personal devices.
Above all else, it is important to maintain a work life balance, to stay sane and to be happy.
Please let us know what WFH tips work for you? We would love to hear them! Love The Serenity Club x