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New remote worker? 7 ways to set yourself up for success

By: Karen Wilson

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The recent spread of Covid-19 has led many companies to shift quite suddenly to remote work. While I personally love working from home, it can be an adjustment if you’re used to going into an office all the time. So, I put together some advice for remote work newbies.

But before we get into that, let’s talk about my favorite perks:

  • Short commute time
  • Control over coffee, snack, and beverage choices
  • Save money on gas or public transit

Tips for Remote Workers

  1. Commit to a schedule.
  2. Dedicate a space for work.
  3. Make sure you have the right equipment.
  4. Get the necessary software.
  5. Create an environment that helps you focus.
  6. Build relationships virtually.
  7. Make personal health a priority.

Not too shabby, is it?

Of course, if remote work is an unexpected new normal for you, these perks may not have been your first thought. Hopefully, these and other advantages you discover will help ease the transition.

1) Commit to a schedule as if you’re going to an office.

It would be really easy to roll out of bed five minutes before your first meeting each day, tidy your hair and put on a professional top to go with your pajamas. But you’ll quickly find that it’s hard to get into work mode mentally if you don’t get there physically, too. Get up, get dressed, have a good breakfast, and you’ll be more alert and focused when you sit down to work.

Schedule short breaks through the day so you don’t sit at your desk for hours on end. Grab a water, throw laundry in the wash, anything that lets your brain focus elsewhere for a few minutes. Set alarms and reminders so you don’t forget to notice the time. Block time for lunch daily so you have time to eat.

Finally, figure out a way to close out your workday. What’s the equivalent of packing your things and heading to the car that you can do at home? For me, I spend a few minutes to prioritize tasks for the next day before I “leave work.” Just like being in an office, you’ll have days when your work will demand more or less of you. Establish your routine as the rule and those days should be the exception.

2) Dedicate a space in your home for your work.

This can be tricky if you’re suddenly working from home while trying to limit store visits. Ideally, you’d have at least a functional desk and comfortable chair set up in a quiet space. But if you don’t have an office or space for a desk, the next best thing is a table with a chair that lets you put your feet flat on the ground.

The important thing is to designate the space yours. Communicate your needs with those who share your home so they understand when you’re working and when you aren’t. I’ve been known to post a sign in my office so co-workers know when I’m “in the zone.” The same could be done at home if you need quiet time for thinking or meetings.

3) Confirm you have the equipment you need on hand.

You probably have a laptop, and maybe a monitor. Confirm with your internet service provider (ISP) that your internet package has enough data and fast enough speed so you avoid overage fees or network quality issues. And if you’re relying on wifi, make sure your workspace has a strong signal to avoid dropped connections.

Here are a few other hardware items you might find useful:

  • Monitor – Easier than working on a tiny laptop screen.
  • Microphone/headphones – Gives you greater mobility on conference calls.
  • Printer – Ask for one if you need it for the work you do.
  • Tablet – Great for eliminating use of paper (and printers)!

4) Check to see if you have the software required to work from home.

Most likely, you do since you’ve been using it at work already. But if you don’t have a video conferencing account (WebEx, Zoom, Microsoft Teams), request one. Collaborative chat tools (Slack, Microsoft Teams) are also incredibly useful for quick messages wherever you work.

Going from working in an office to working at home can be a mental adjustment and sometimes you need a tool that helps you manage, organize and prioritize your tasks. In addition to handy maps that help you think comprehensively about any topic, MindManager can help you organize, prioritize and manage day-to-day tasks as well.

Here’s an example of what a project management dashboard might look like in MindManager. This map lets you centralize your to-do list, attach and link to relevant documents, web pages, or emails, and track task progress and due dates. Keep all of your relevant information in one place helps to eliminate waste time searching for documents, and lets you easily prioritize what you need to do in a given workday.

5) Create an environment that helps you focus.

Take a proactive approach that helps you avoid distractions and enhance your concentration. Add a browser extension that blocks access to any site you don’t need for work that grabs your attention.

If listening to music helps you concentrate, make sure it’s readily available for thinking times. Or maybe you need white noise to reduce distraction from other ambient noises.

Sometimes, I give myself incentives to get stuff done. I find this particularly useful when I have to eat a frog or two. I’ll commit to myself to work for a certain amount of time or to get a specific task done, then I get a treat: It could be an extra 15-minute break, or chocolate at lunch. If it helps you mark tasks complete, that’s brilliant!

6) Build relationships with your colleagues virtually.

Given the reason so many people are working from home, it’s more important than ever to stay connected. Be intentional about the relationships you have with colleagues. Not being in the same office means remote workers have to over-communicate about what’s going on and double-check that colleagues got the message and could respond.

These tools enable quick work check-ins with your boss, teammates and other colleagues, keeping the lines of communication open and maintaining rapport amongst the team.

And don’t forget to take time to be social. In the office, you’d chat about the latest episode of a show or the movie you saw on the weekend. Don’t skimp on the personal aspects of working together simply because you don’t see each other face to face.

7) Make your personal health a priority.

The time you save on commuting can be put into focusing on your health. There are lots of ways to improve concentration and energy levels at home:

  • Take a 5- to 10-minute walk
  • Grab a snack (prepped and ready to go for you)
  • Get moving for 30 minutes

If you packed lunches while working at the office, keep up the habit and prep them for home as well. When it’s ready to go, you’ll save time and have one less decision to make during your workday.

The golden rule of working remote (especially when it’s new to you)

No one is productive 100% of the time, regardless of where they work. You’ll get more done with fewer distractions (another great benefit), but you’ll also have days that aren’t so productive. Set realistic expectations of yourself and others. And be kind to yourself, especially as you figure out how to make it work best for you.

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