Last week we shared some tips related to the software and apps our team at Landscape Leadership uses on a daily basis in order to work remote. We've been set up to work remote for nearly a decade.
Today I wanted to share some strategies our staff uses to be productive and maintain our sanity while working remote. Hey, it's not easy- it can be very isolating. Working remote is not for everyone. If this is new to your company you will realize this yourself very quickly. Some people are not wired to work remotely outside a traditional office environment.
Everyone operates a bit differently. One strategy may work for me but may not necessarily work for you. And vice versa. This is why I wanted to include the insight from my staff in this article. You'll see that some of the advice is seemingly contradictory. That's okay.
We're also including some context related to each person's home work environment so you get a true picture of what each deals with. This makes a difference. A single person working from home is going to have a different experience compared to a family of four with two dogs. Chad has teenagers at home, Emmett has a newborn and toddler, and Carolyn has a puppy. This creates interesting dynamics.
Let's start with Carolyn Bowers, our Digital Marketing Specialist...
- Don’t stay in your pajamas. Get up and get ready as if you’re going to the office. Personally, I need a morning routine to get into “work-mode”. I find it hard to focus if I just roll out of bed and turn on my computer.
- Maintain a consistent schedule. Try to log on and off around the same time every day. This helps to stay productive, and also prevents working more than you should be and becoming burnt out. Sometimes people who work from home spend more time working than they should because they don’t have a separate work and free time/family schedule.
- Keep the blinds open. Don’t sit in a dark room all day staring at your screen. It’s bad for mentality and bad for your eyes. I open the blinds every morning before I start working. Sunlight can make a big difference in mood and productivity.
- Find the best way to communicate with your coworkers. Things that would be discussed in-person are sometimes missed when communicating through chat, email, or even video calls. It’s important to find the best way to keep communication open and consistent. As an introvert, this has been one of the bigger challenges for me.
- Keep your pets occupied. Many people deal with children at home while they are trying to work, but pets can also be a distraction. I have two cats and a one-year old dog. Keeping the cats off of my keyboard and keeping the puppy out of trouble has been a challenge. If you have pets, try to make sure they get the attention and exercise they need while you aren’t working and give them entertaining toys to occupy them while you are working. You can also use a daily dog walk as a way to get out of the house and away from your computer.
Here's Chad Diller, our Director of Client Success...
Currently, both my wife and I are working from home with a 15 and 19-year old in the house who are anxiously awaiting school and work to resume. Juno, our lazy jug (Jack Russel and pug), sleeps all day which isn't much of a distraction except for the excessive snoring.
I personally deal better with regular distractions than most people. In fact, I like jumping from one task to another and back into the initial one again. I'm also a grinder. Give me 15 tasks to do in a day and I love it. I'm up and working at 7 am and have to tell myself to quit at 5 pm. Here are some of my best tips for remote work:
- Fuel your body and mind. Drink good coffee. Don't snack all day. Meal plan with leftovers if you don't want to spend a lot of time cooking lunch.
- Wear whatever makes you feel the most productive. I'm fine with a t-shirt and sweats but some people insist they have to get up and dress the part.
- Schedule exercise and sunshine breaks. Look at the weather and deliberately plan them ahead.
- Take social breaks and schedule them in advance. Us extroverts need a 10-min video chat or a short walk with a neighbor/friend here and there.
- Bring the outdoors inside. Sit where you can easily see out a window and add some live, indoor plants. Open up the window and listen to the birds chirp.
- Complete your office set-up. Must-haves for me are an ergonomic chair, standing desk, Bluetooth headphones, a second monitor, wireless keyboard/mouse, and fun decoration.
- Use music or silence to your advantage. Sometimes it's distracting, sometimes it helps re-frame your mood.
Emmett Hughes, our Senior Project Manager says...
- Develop a "leaving the office" routine. This is a lesson from Cal Newport's book, Deep Work. The goal is to have a definitive end to your day. This can be any thing you want it to be. Mine includes creating a list for the following day, cleaning up my work area, and shutting down my computer. It sounds silly but it really does make it much more difficult to dive back in later in the evening when I should be spending time with family and clearing my head.
- Have dedicated meeting blocks on your company calendar. If flexibility allows, have dedicated meeting hours that cater to your household schedule. For me, it's from 12:30 pm - 3:00 pm — also known as nap time. :)
- Get dressed every morning (and brush your teeth). It's easy to lose track of the day when you're balancing breakfast, kids, the dog and diving into your inbox. Make sure you give yourself a few minutes to get ready for your workday — get dressed, brush your teeth and give your mind a bit of time to transition from home, to work.
- Turn off all notifications on your phone. You'll have enough distractions. Make sure your notifications are all turned off. As much as we love to see that Karen from next door liked our Instagram post, it's going to take a few minutes to get back on track.
- Eat lunch :) It's tempting to skip a meal — especially when you've found your flow and you're getting things done. But skipping a meal tends to catch up with you one way or another. For me, it's in the form of "hanger" and it usually shows up around 4 - 4:30 pm.
Finally, these are my personal tips...
For context, I rent a co-working space where I typically work the first half of my day but due to present circumstances I'm at home 100% of my work day. I have a ten-year-old son but he is not here during my work hours (typically 8:30 to 2:30 but that can vary). I pick him up after my work day is complete.
I agree with most of the advice my team shared above so I'll just add a few extras:
- Carve out time for tasks that require creativity when you'll be alone and can be uninterrupted. This includes tasks that require more thoughtfulness. Save mundane admin tasks for when other people are around because they don't take as much creative energy. For example, I can take care of our bookkeeping if my son is around but I can't write a blog post.
- Separate your work tasks from your personal responsibilities. It's tempting because you're at home, but laundry, groceries, cleaning up, binge watching Netflix, etc. shouldn't be on your to-do list during work hours.
- Take plenty of breaks throughout the day (not just for lunch!). Try the Pomodora technique to remind you to take breaks. Or work/break in "blocks". For instance, work for 90 mins then take a 15 minute break.
- Keep in touch with your team via Slack or other group messaging platforms. Working remote can lead to isolation so use technology to keep in touch.
Here are the most important points in my opinion:
- Create a morning routine
- Start (and stop!) work at the same time each day
- Take numerous breaks and get out of the house
- Keep in touch with your coworkers
- Create a comfortable workspace for yourself
If working remote is new for you it may take some time to build new habits and routines. That's okay. Experiment and try different approaches. Most importantly, be positive and embrace the opportunity. Best of luck to all of you.