Many companies are switching to a remote-only working policy during the coronavirus outbreak. If you’re unaccustomed to the work-from-home life, this can prove challenging.
Here at SaneBox, our team is 100% remote, and we’ve learned some things over the years. For those new to remote working, don’t fret if the constant news cycle and social media updates about COVID-19 are causing you to be less productive then you’d like to be.
For those new to remote working, we’d love to share some tips on how to focus during this strange time. If you have tips to share, please let us know by tweeting at us @SaneBox.
Tech & Time Management Tips
- Instead of checking your inbox multiple times per day, which is highly distracting, batch process your email. This means:
- You only read, process, and respond to emails two or three times a day.
- You focus on responding to similar types of email at the same time.
- Once you’ve responded to the email, you clear it from your inbox.
- You get more done in less time.
- Try the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro method usually works like this: 25 minutes of work, then a 5-minute break for each 20-minute block. This allows you to break down bigger projects into smaller blocks to stay on task.
- Time block your calendar. Schedule different tasks to be completed in set times so you’re encouraged to focus on one thing at a time.
- Stick to a schedule and motivate yourself to work in a set shift. Start working at a set time, take a normal lunch break, and “leave work” by stopping work at a set time, just like you would do in a normal office.
- Try the MIT (Most Important Task) Technique. The idea of this method is that until the MIT tasks are completed, you don’t do anything else. Once the top tasks are decided, they are scheduled first in your day. This method works well when used in combination with the time-blocking method because you can save your early hours for the most essential tasks before getting bombarded by distractions.
- Use status updates in Slack. When you’re on the phone with a customer, in a meeting, or away for lunch, use emojis and status messages to inform your coworkers of your whereabouts. When using Slack, try to remember the platform is best for quick messages and conversations that need more context might be better as a phone or video call.
- Work in your home office (if you have one), but don’t be afraid to move around. Try working outside on a porch or deck, in the kitchen, or elsewhere. Find out where you feel most productive by trying out different locations.
- Raise up your laptop and create an ad-hoc standing desk. This will reduce sitting time and improve your posture.
- In this uncertain time, be sure that you’re cutting yourself some slack. You might feel a myriad of feelings – anxiety, stress, isolation, frustration, etc. It’s all okay, and even if you don’t feel as focused as usual, go easy on yourself – transitions take time.
- Take scheduled breaks once an hour if you can. Take a few minutes to read a chapter of a book, take your dog for a walk around the block, stretch, make some tea, or call a friend. Leave your work area and move to a different place in the house to invite some fresh energy into your day.
- Safeguard your time. Since your work is always right in front of you at home, it makes it harder to “leave” work. Set “in office” hours where you completely turn off your work computer and email and disconnect.
- Keep your workspace tidy and don’t distract yourself with a mess. Wherever you decide to work from home, it helps if it’s in an uncluttered area where you can actually think.
- Turn on a white noise machine or focus playlist. This will help you “get in the zone” and reduce distracting noise around your work area.
- Pay mind to ergonomics. Work in the most comfortable and supportive chair you own, ideally with back support. Pop in your earbuds while taking calls so you don’t have to hold a phone up to your ear for long periods of time.
- Get away from the screen. When you’re done working, try your best to avoid screen time for a few hours. Try going for a walk or read a book instead.
- Overcommunicate. When working remotely, there’s a higher chance for a tone to get misconstrued or for general misunderstanding to occur. It should be somewhat of a default principle, but it’s super important for remote working. If you think a colleague should know something, simply share it.
- Managers: give your employees a rundown on productivity and communication expectations for remote work. Tell your team specifically how they communicate with you and block out your calendar to connect and answer their questions during this period of transition. Be as present and available remotely as possible.
- Set up daily or weekly Slack or Zoom standups. This will help keep team members on the same page and help everyone understand what work is being completed and what expectations need to be met on a regular basis.
- Clarify expectations for your team. Connect with coworkers about success metrics, communication, priorities, and the like. Answer questions around expectations about working hours and any projects moving forward. Don’t assume people will know how to handle working remotely if they’re not used to it.
- Resolve issues as quickly as possible. If any problems arise, handle them quickly with a phone or video call, as a Slack message might not do the trick.
- Find a calm and quiet place to take video calls. Since videoconferences will be the norm, make sure to find a quiet spot in your home with a plain background and adequate lighting. Use your best headphones for increased focus.
- Keep up with company culture. Do whatever you can to keep morale up – some ideas include using emojis and GIFS, sharing uplifting articles, hosting a virtual happy hour on Zoom, and shifting “water-cooler chats” to a dedicated channel on Slack. This will help reduce feelings of isolation.
- Take a shower and get dressed every day. It may seem like a good idea to roll out of bed and immediately start working in your pajamas, but you’ll probably feel more productive if you dress a bit more professionally. Continue your usual morning routine to help shift you into work mode.
- Turn on your video during video meetings. Showing your face will help facilitate meaningful interactions between you and your coworkers. Slight discomfort will be worth the benefit of seeing your colleague’s faces, which will reduce feelings of isolation as well.
- Continue one-on-one meetings. Don’t cancel these check-ins just because they can’t be held in person. Even a few minutes of a video call will help team members feel more connected.
- Ask your coworkers for feedback. If you feel like you’re not getting the hang of remote work, ask your coworkers for tips, advice, and feedback on how you’re currently handling the situation. Learn from each other!
Remember – be kind to yourself and to your teammates during this challenging time. We’re all struggling with this new reality, and change is hard. Everyone’s specific working style is different, and it’s important to ease into the work-from-home life by supporting each other.
Whether you’re new to remote work or you’ve been doing it for years, we’d love to hear your tips – let us know by tweeting to us @SaneBox.
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