The first days of remote work? They are great! You don't have to get up at down and commute to work. You can eat nutritious breakfast and sit in your pyjamas until late. And yet, each subsequent day can have a terrible impact on your productivity.
How to prepare yourself for working from home? Our colleagues, who work remotely all the time, share their perspective. Even though it varies, as they work on different positions, a lot of their tips can be good for everyone, regardless of the role in the project.
Piotr, Team Leader
For the first few years, I worked solely from the office. However, at the end of 2017 things changed and I started to work remotely with periodic visits to the office (once every 1-2 months).
As you can see, my work with remote teams has been going on for several years already, so I’m going to share some tips that I hope will help you.
1. First and foremost – schedule your day
What time do you want to start? What time do you finish? What breaks you will take during the day and what will you use them for? Answering these three simple questions is very important. If you do not create such a schedule and allow your work to be interrupted by numerous random events every day, then your “time at work” will significantly increase. It will turn out that you start in the morning and finish late in the evening with the conviction that you still did not manage to complete the tasks that were on your TO DO list.
Even if you think that you will be able to catch up the next day but continue acting without a schedule – you will find yourself in the same place as the day before. After a week you will be in the same place you were in the first place.
How should such a schedule look like?
- Decide when you start.
- Decide when you finish.
- Set breaks and decide for what – probably coffee/tea (make sure you always have something to drink near you). Anything else? Add it to your daily schedule.
- Reduce other events – make sure they happen after work. In exceptional situations include this in the agenda but try not to make a rule. Otherwise, you will quickly find yourself in a situation where you are convinced that you work non-stop.
- Remember, you are at work, dress like it – do not sit in your pyjamas 🙂
2. Your household members
If you want to work effectively, you need to remember that you are still at work, even though it happens to be from home. It is not like you are at home and work “by the way”.
It will take a week, maybe two before your household members accept this situation (it may be especially tricky with children) and understand that you really need to work.
At the beginning, housemates will probably want to involve you in their activities or would ask for your help in various matters. You must clearly explain that you are at work and remind them that the fact that you work remotely does not change it.
3. Prepare the room and the necessary equipment
- A separate room
If you have such an opportunity, work in a separate room, not the one where you watch TV every day or meet with friends, etc. It would be ideal to choose a room with a lot of daylight and access to fresh air. Ventilate your working space as often as possible.
If you cannot have a room that will act uniquely as your office, find yourself a place in the apartment, which will function mainly as it.
A comfortable chair and desk are the basis. Avoid stools, chairs, armchairs without adjustment. Remember that you will be sitting at your desk and in your chair for 8 hours a day, so it’s worth investing in them. Take care of your spine. 🙂
Why so important? During remote work, you move less frequently. There are no meetings, you don’t go for breakfast or dinner with your colleagues, you don’t go for a walk around the company’s building.
Another important thing is the communication equipment. If you have a PC, a webcam is worth adding. Make sure your headphones/speakers, microphone and camcorders work flawlessly with the software you use. If you have any problems with the hardware or software, solve them as soon as possible – remember that starting each meeting with 5-10 min delay will negatively affect communication between you and the team.
An alternative communication route is worth setting. It’s a good idea to share your phone number with the team and agree to a phone call if, despite preparation, everything else fails.
4. Have online meetings with supportive tools
Meetings are an important aspect of remote work. It is not true that “virtual” meetings are less effective. Based on my experience I can say it is quite the opposite. It turns out that virtual meetings are shorter, you can go through the agenda faster and agree on actions. During such meetings, there are no side topics.
Two important things about meetings:
- The way they are held
Determine what communication means you use. Remember that it must be tailored to the requirements of the meetings. If you have a presentation or a document to show and you need to send some files, choose a solution that supports the content you want to share during the meeting.
Always ask the participants to turn on their cameras – this gives an impression of a face-to-face meeting (the ability to observe emotions, reactions) and forces the participants to focus on the meeting itself.
Give yourself 1 or 2 minutes to prepare before the meeting starts.
Make it easier for participants to join the meeting – provide a link, create a shared chat/group before the call. They will not have to wonder who calls and when.
- Control over the meeting
Make sure that the teleconference is not interrupted by events that may disturb it such as noises, or objects/people in the webcam.
Remember that if you are not talking, you should mute your microphone and remember to turn it on when you start talking. If you have such an option blur your background (e.g. if it is possible that someone may appear behind, you).
There is usually a need to present additional content at a meeting. Most tools allow joint editing of a document during a meeting, displaying presentations, sharing the screen and taking control over it or even presenting a drawing board. Familiarize yourself with these tools, see their options – don’t give them up only because they are harder to use at the beginning. It is only a matter of habit and experience. They are worth using as they make your meetings simpler and easier to pick up on. Encourage others to use these types of solutions as well.
5. And after work…
Try not to return to your “office” for as long as possible. Otherwise, you will be convinced that you spend all your days at work. 🙂
Piotr, IT Administrator
I’ve been working remotely for many years, but I drop by the office from time to time. How do I do it?
1. Work organisation
What do I consider important? A fixed day schedule is crucial. In my case it looks like this:
- Setting the alarm clock at 6.45 am.
- By 7:10 am I’m already at my desk, checking emails, checking our service monitoring system, verifying minor problems that happened at night, checking if someone wrote back on the notifications or if something urgent came up, checking the calendar etc.
- I have fixed mealtimes 8.00 am, 11.00 am and 2.00 pm and, in the meantime, I drink coffee/tea.
- I remember to spend at least one hour away from cell phones, laptops etc. every day.
What do I find extremely important while working from home? Above all, self-discipline.
The second important aspect is making the household members aware that I am at work and I am not available to them at that time. Sometimes children do not understand this. You should make them aware that you have to behave properly in the “office” 🙂
2. Room and equipment
I know that it’s good to have a separate room, but in my case, it’s not possible, so I work in the living room on the sofa. I managed to get used to it and it’s not a problem for me now.
When it comes to equipment, I think that you must have an alternative Internet connection configured (just in case) and communication tools configured not only on your PC / laptop but also on your phone.
3. Potential problems with remote work
Looking from the perspective of many years of remote work, I see some difficulties:
- Not every user is independent – if he/she has a problem with the computer it may not easy to help such a person through reports or messages.
- I cannot always count on the support of colleagues because they can’t always help me solve a local problem ad hoc.
- Virtual discussion may be tricky, especially via text messages because sometimes people may perceive your words differently from your intentions.
How can you overcome these challenges? Decide to call someone in case of communication problems.
In chats, some things are hard to understand and during a 2-minute call, you can solve problems that otherwise would take you 20 or 30 minutes.
Keep this in mind while working from home and I’m sure you will succeed and be satisfied with your work!