9 Tips for Working at Home Effectively
It’s been over two years since the world of work had its most significant disruption in decades. While working at home wasn’t unheard of prior to 2020, now it’s the norm for many. The remote work “test” has worked out for employees and employers. Most research supports the notion that workers are just as productive, if not more so, at home. And with the right communication tools, there doesn’t have to be a disconnect. So, I thought I’d refresh my working from home tips.
As someone who manages a remote team and works remotely myself, I admit there have been many adjustments. Those first months were challenging and required acclimation. Now, we feel like we’ve got this. The reality is that we’ll always be pivoting and adapting.
Whether you’re working from home permanently, in a hybrid model, or somewhere in between, you’ll appreciate these tips.
This remains my number one tip. Being visible means making your physical presence known in a virtual world. Add your picture to chat, email, or other internal communication platforms. It also means don’t rely solely on chat or email to communicate. Have video conferences and get on camera. Call people so they know your voice.
When you have these connections, you’re not just a name or a line on an org chart; you’re a real person with ideas, thoughts, and ways to contribute. This keeps you connected.
Create a Real Office
If you haven’t done this yet or move from room to room, you are likely distracted. That’s especially true if you have partners, kids, roommates, or others in your space. It also means that work is everywhere, and everywhere is work. When you have a dedicated workspace, you come in with a different mindset: this is where I work, and outside of here is where I’m at home. Having this separation keeps you focused and may ward off burnout.
Even if you work a hybrid schedule, it’s still critical to create this space for yourself.
Keep It Professional (from at least the waist up)
Years ago, a former colleague showed up to a video conference in a bathrobe, thinking it was audio-only. That misconception followed that person around for years. That’s not how you want to get noticed.
While you certainly don’t need to arrive to video meetings like you’re filming a blockbuster, you should dress professionally. Admittedly, we can usually only see you from the waist up, so it’s okay to keep your slippers on. Just think about how you want to present yourself on camera. Outside of wardrobe, be aware of what’s in your background. Is it appropriate? You can either clear it out or blur your background.
Manage Your Time Effectively
Time management is essential no matter where you’re working. You’ve now had time to adjust your routines to a shorter commute. Hopefully, you structure your workday just as you would if you were in an office. Block out time to do specific tasks like replying to an email or making calls.
It’s tempting to respond immediately to chats, emails, or texts. Unless it’s an emergency, hold off on doing that so it doesn’t throw your schedule off and cause you to fall behind on high-priority projects. Time management is about understanding what tasks you have before you, discerning how much time they’ll require, and prioritizing them.
Invest in Comfortable Furniture
As part of that dedicated office space, you should consider the function. If you’re still using any chair and table, that can cause neck, back, and arm pain. And that’s true for anybody, even those in their 20s. You need the appropriate space for your computer, screens, etc. An ergonomic chair will save you from waking up and feeling like you’ve been run over. Maybe even treat yourself — my family bought me a foot massager to put under my desk, and it’s a great little perk!
You aren’t chained to that chair and laptop. Taking breaks is something you do in the office if you’re a hybrid worker, so keep that same structure at home.
Take the time to get up and move around. Go for a walk, sit outside, enjoy the sun, stretch, do some yoga — whatever makes you feel good.
Also, take the time to eat a healthy lunch and have snacks. You can’t subsist on coffee alone. Doing these things helps you feel better physically and mentally.
Watch Out for a Hot Mic
So, there are memes and stories about what people have said when they thought they were on mute. These range from funny to cringeworthy. The best way to avoid this is to be aware when you are or aren’t on mute. That means you need to be engaged in the video call so you’re ready to speak (or not) during the conversation. Best to be unheard and have to repeat it than heard when you thought you weren’t.
Check in on Your Tech
If you’ve been working at home for the past two years, you’ve experimented with different headsets, mics, and webcams. You may have upgraded your Wi-Fi to ensure you’re not glitchy. Now’s a good time to reassess your tech and decide if you need to change anything for a better experience. Also, check and recheck everything for special meetings with clients or things like an all-hands where you’re a speaker.
Keep Connections Strong
Finally, it’s important to note that relationships are critical to working effectively. You don’t have to be physically beside someone to develop these. You may not have as many purely social chats with people, but you can see them regularly with video calls. Take the time to ask people how they are and what’s new in their life before you dive into the work. You can often find similar interests with colleagues, giving you something to build on and foster. Showing empathy and interest in your coworkers makes collaborating smoother and develops trust.
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