Remote working has become the new normal – thanks to the novel Corona Virus. Though we are blessed to be in an age of technology where anything is possible, remote working still makes a lot of us feel uncomfortable. It did to me as well. Specifically, as a student where we have to work with multiple project groups, multiple student organizations, and the professors and faculty, getting comfortable with remote working became essential. I started learning more about remote working and formulating things that worked well for me. In this article, I share the top 5 things that made remote working easy for me!
This is probably the first step you have to take in order to successfully work from home. Knowing your organizations technology stack is like knowing the apps in your phone. If you want to send money to someone, you know you have CashApp or Venmo on your phone. If you want to text someone, you know you have instant messaging apps on your phone. This is exactly what you should be doing for your work as well. If I have to tell you an easy solution for this, think of all the scenarios that would happen regularly at your office. List them down. Let us look at an example list:
Once you have this list, figure out the tools that you have at your disposal to accomplish these tasks. More importantly, know the features in those tools that let you do that.
There you go. Once you know the functionalities of the tools that your organization provides and you have a way of doing anything that you would normally do in your office, you will feel much more confident to work remotely. Please note that it is convenient to stick to one tool like Teams that can perform all the above functionalities for you.
2. Define your home office
I understand, not all of us can afford to have a room exclusively for work and call it the Home Office. But let me tell you that a Home office is never about having a separate room, it is just about having a separate space. It could just be a desk in the corner of your bedroom. It is that place, where, when you sit, your mind automatically gets into work mode. I would strictly recommend not sitting on the bed or couch when you work. This will cause sleep issues. All these years you have trained your mind that a bed is meant for sleeping. If you sit there and start working, you are training your mind that the bed is your workplace and your mind will refuse to go to sleep in that bed. It will get into work mode when you sit on that bed instead. After a point in time, your mind will not know whether to work or to sleep in that bed – affecting both. So, have a desk which is only meant for work. Make sure that this home office of yours does not have many distractions.
3. Set expectations
When you work in an office, you tend to tap the shoulders of your co-worker for quick questions. Or your boss sometimes walks up to you and asks for a quick report and you would respond with “Yes sir, sending it in 15 minutes”. But in a virtual office, your boss has to send you an instant message or an email asking for something. You may not be at your desk when he does that. You might be having a snack or might have taken a break to relax for a while. This could put your boss at concern. It works the other way around too. Your buddy whose shoulders you usually tap may not be at his desk when you have an emergency, making you nervous. The best way to tackle this problem is to set clear expectations. Let your boss and your team members know which medium to use to communicate with you for different scenarios and your turn around time for each medium. For example, “Hey. You can email me for non-urgent issues, and I would respond to your email within 12 hours. If there is an emergency, reach out to me on my phone. If your issue can wait for an hour, reach out to me through instant messaging platform and I will respond within an hour”. This lets your team members know that they need not feel concerned for the next 12 hours after sending you an email. Do it the other way too, get the communication habits of your co-workers and most importantly, your boss. You should know how long to wait before following up with your boss. Another important thing is to know your colleagues’ calendars and let them know of yours too. If you have a birthday celebration to attend, add that to your calendar and let people know. Remember – successful remote working is a cake walk if people are transparent!
4. Take breaks
This is another major issue that could possibly end up in you burning out. Take defined coffee-breaks and lunch breaks on time. Make it a habit to take it during a certain time of the day so that your team members also don’t expect you to attend phone calls during that time. I sometimes have my fellow student organization officers buzz me in the middle of the night. Firstly, I would be fast asleep by then. Even if I see their texts, I do not reply until the next morning. This makes you feel, “Today’s work is done, and I am switching it off. It is my personal time now”. If you do not have a daily end time for your work, you would at some point feel that you “are always working”. Your productivity would diminish, you won’t have time for your friends and family, and you would eventually burn out!
5. Do not begin your day with work!
Even if you love your work, you know that work consumes your energy. So why wake up in the morning and just turn on your laptop and start working as the first thing? It is very similar to using your cellphone in the morning without even charging it – it won’t last long! Begin your day with something that gives you energy and makes you feel fresh. It could be hitting the gym for some people or listening to songs for others. Do what works for you. Your mind needs to be charged before you start putting it to work. When you work in a physical office this charging usually happens during your commute. You listen to songs, your favorite podcasts, or even the daily news during your commute to work. This freshens up your mind and prepares it for the workday ahead. When you work from home, you need to take that extra step to charge your mind.