As the world settles into its new (and hopefully temporary) normal, many of us are figuring out new ways to work, how to connect and collaborate from our socially distant home offices.
Here at Esparza, we’re made up of a handful of former telecommuters and freelancers combined with but-I’ve-always-gone-into-the-office types. For everyone, but especially the latter group, working remotely is full of new and unfamiliar challenges.
We figured that our clients and friends are likely feeling that too. That’s why, a week or so into our own virtual reality, we asked all Esparzans to share their best tips and tricks for working away from the traditional office, while staying productive, connected and healthy. Here are a few of the best.
Claim your space. When work life intersects with home life, that’s a tricky balance. One way to keep the two separate is to designate a space in your home (even a tiny home!) for your work. Then, make that workspace a zone where you feel comfortable, with the lighting situated to your preference and monitors perfectly positioned. For optimal productivity, eliminate as many distractions as possible — get rid of the bills on the desk, turn off the TV. And above all, avoid encroachment — keep the other areas of your home sacred and separate.
Maintain a schedule. Don’t sleep until 7:55, roll out of bed, stumble to the laptop and start your day. The waffle-weave imprint your blanket left on your face will show up on that web conference! And when we’re all back to SOP, it’ll make returning to your typical routine that much harder. On a similar note…
Set up a routine. It’s easier to fall into a relaxed mindset when working from home. Establishing and sticking to a morning routine will boost your productivity and keep you focused on the tasks for the day.
Put your pants on. Staying in PJs all day tells your noggin it’s time to chill. (Pajamas also lie about the effect of all those snacks you’ve been eating.) Put your brain in work mode by slipping on some pants. Plus, you can stand up during conference calls without being embarrassed.
Establish boundaries. Your people will be thrilled to have you at home, but there may be confusion about normal household management. Make sure boundaries have been explained to the kiddos… and the spouse.
Teamwork and Tools
Collaborate. Whether your team uses Slack, Hangouts or any other presence app — take advantage of it. Use it frequently. Keep your status (and your calendar) current. Set up a group chat for different teams. Let your teammates know if you plan to step away. And don’t forget to sync it with your phone so you can answer anything urgent while away from your desk.
Use that mute button! On a lot more conference calls these days? Nobody wants to hear you noshing on that early morning cereal. Mute thyself.
Prepare for video calls. You know they’re inevitable. Instead of dreading them, take a few steps to make them less painful. This is when that morning routine comes in handy — shower, get dressed, look comfy but not slovenly. Worried about a double chin? Yeah, we are too. Pro tip: set your webcam on your spare toilet paper (hopefully you’ve got some) to raise it up, giving you a better angle.
Invite the pets to the video conference. Everyone needs a little levity right now. (Here’s Gumbo, begging her mom to step away from the laptop.)
Remember that right now, small talk is big. Water-cooler conversations don’t naturally happen when you go remote. You can’t read subtle indications of stress, joy or sadness. You can’t say, “What’s up? You look a little down.” Remember to care with your teammates the way you did when you were face-to-face.
Remake your commute. Spend the time you would normally spend on a commute exercising or stretching. It’ll make a big difference!
Hydrate. Being indoors most of the time causes dehydration. Fight back with lots of water. Coffee, tea and sodas are okay in moderation, but too much caffeine defeats the purpose. Staying well hydrated helps with keeping your blood moving too.
Eat smart. Keep an eye on your snack intake. We know, we know… they’re right there. In the pantry. Down the hall. At arm’s length. So easy! If you’re going to snack (and of course you are), load your home up with bite-size nibbles and nutritious options like nuts and fruit.
Remember to move. It’s easy to become one with your desk chair, particularly when you’re not heading to conference rooms or popping by a colleague’s cube for a quick chat. Getting your blood moving is crucial for your health… and there’s nothing like a brisk walk to clear your mind.
Banish your headphones. Now that you’re at home, you can choose your own music — and play it as loud as you want. Find playlists to keep you motivated, happy and pumped — or relaxed, if that’s your jam. If you prefer non-musical background noise, find something that won’t distract you. One of our teammates likes to keep it topical, with Mad Men on during the workday. She claims it’s a little like being in the actual office, minus the debauchery and whiskey.
Share your favorite self-isolation playlists!
Breathe. Relax. Repeat. Working from home isn’t all fun and games. The first couple of days may feel new and exciting, but remote working can also cause stress and anxiety. Remember to take time for yourself to regain your focus. Blink your eyes, sit up straight and take several deep breaths, lift your eyebrows, unclench your jaw. Repeat as needed.
Meditate. Try setting aside five minutes after every call to meditate, clear your mind and fill your thoughts with the good things in your life.
Walk away. When working from home, it’s all too easy to work sunup to sundown. That’s a recipe for burnout… and your family may not appreciate it either. Set a daily time to shut down for the day — and stick to it. When something urgent comes up after that time (because it will), address what you need to, then get back to your own time.
Bonus: Surprising Realizations
When working from home you’ll likely discover a newfound respect for:
- IT when the internet goes down
- Housekeeping when you have to clean your workspace and empty trash cans
- The front desk when you have to screen your own calls
- And currently most important… the office manager when the bathroom is out of toilet paper!
We hope this challenging, anxious time in our lives comes to its end soon. Until then, for those of you working remotely (and especially those who aren’t), do your best to maintain your focus, be patient with one another and look after yourself. And always practice your social distancing!
What tricks have you found to make working remotely more efficient and less stressful? Let us know!