More companies have been shifting from the office to home. As an all-remote company, we’d like to say welcome! We also understand that telecommuting is an adjustment for most people, but once you’re set-up, you’ll likely find you can be just as, if not even more, productive than you were in the office.
Here are some tips for employers and employees on setting up an effective remote working environment.
You wouldn’t dive into the deep-sea ocean for the first time without a lifejacket, would you? The same goes for remote working, except instead of a lifejacket, you need to provide your staff with reasonable expectations for their time at home. Examples:
- Set up realistic office hours. If you’re centered in one state, try a standard 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. shift. If you have employees across the nation, follow a similar guideline but recognize some of your staff will logon later or earlier, depending on where they live. Consider keeping a list of everyone’s time zone to make it easier.
- Create or utilize a time-tracking system. Several applications already exist to help you track time, like Basecamp, Toggl, JIRA + Tempo, Timesheets, and more. You can also have your team log their hours in an Excel spreadsheet for a more DIY approach.
- Make sure everyone’s calendar is updated and public. Block out times when you’re all available and times when you’re in a meeting, at lunch, or taking a break.
Provide Your Employees with The Necessary Tools
Companies that have never allowed their employees to telecommute may not realize what resources they need to offer. But the right tools make working from home more manageable. So, if someone asks to bring their keyboard home, let them. You should also:
- Supply digital copies of all your employee or employer documents. Keep them informed of your work-from-home policy and anything else they may need to know.
- Make sure all the software your company uses is up to date. Don’t send them home with an inferior software as it makes working more difficult.
- Use a secure password-sharing service, like LastPass, to give simple access to different systems. In your office, you may have one person who knows every password, but at home, you’ll need a better method in place.
- Allow employees to bring equipment home they need to perform their job functions. Anything from a monitor, mouse, keyboard, or extension home could help set up their offices.
- Onboard a video-conferencing system such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. Try and use the camera as much as you can to help with any feelings of seclusion.
- Get a VPN. Your employees will be using their Wi-Fi. Keep internal data safe by connecting your employees to a VPN.
Communicating as much as possible lowers the chance of any misunderstandings regarding expectations. It can also help boost morale if employees are suffering from isolation – a quick check-in can do wonders! Try the following to keep the lines of communication open:
- Utilize a chat system. Slack, Google Hangouts, Skype, Microsoft Teams are all messaging applications that help work collaboration.
- Gather everyone’s cellphone numbers. Collect your team’s numbers and document them so you can easily access them if you need to send an immediate message. Coworkers can also use it if they want to chat with their work friends.
- Check your email regularly. Some employees may opt to contact you through more traditional means like email. Be sure to check it often – but no need to overdo it!
More tips on communication:
“Stay connected with your colleagues that you would normally work together with daily. If your company doesn’t utilize an internal messaging tool, ask to implement one. Slack has a free plan, and it will help everyone within your organization stay engaged. As a manager, stay available so anyone who has a question or concern can feel heard.” – Stefan Lynton, Operations Manager
Just because you and your employees are “social distancing” doesn’t mean you have to ignore each other outright. What you do offline can easily translate to your screens, if you set it up correctly. Ideas you can try:
- A happy hour meeting. Destress and connect by inviting your team to a virtual bar. Encourage them to bring their favorite drinks or snacks. We have one at LyntonWeb on Fridays.
- Cooler talks or coffee breaks. Similar to a happy hour meeting, carve out 15-20 minutes and pretend you’re standing around a cooler. Talk about your weekends, favorite movies, books, or whatever else you’d generally chit chat about in an office!
Trust Your Employees
We understand it’s a nervous time for everyone, but not trusting your employees to do their jobs harms their productivity. While you’ll want to check in with your employees, you don’t want to micromanage them. Setting expectations, providing necessary resources, and being transparent are essential to trust. Additional advice:
“Accept the fact that you cannot thoroughly verify the working hours of your direct reports. Instead, rely more on the outcomes of their responsibilities to determine their productivity and focus. Consider KPIs and quantitative metrics that align with these outcomes, more than to their roles/responsibilities. Empower them to figure out “how to get there” and support them along the way, since you can’t verify what they are doing throughout the day anyways.” – Jennifer Lux, VP of Client Services
Stick to a Schedule
Working from home allows for some flexibility, but it can quickly turn to distraction. Sticking to the same schedule every day, whether it’s the one you followed at your office, or an adjusted one can help separate your home life from your work life. Tips:
- Wake up and go to bed at the same time. Just because you don’t have to commute anymore doesn’t mean you should derail your sleep schedule.
- Get dressed and shower. Staying at home may seem like the perfect excuse to not take off your PJs, but you should transition into usual attire. Or, at the very least, put on a pair of yoga pants.
- Follow your regular exercise routine or start one. If you typically worked out before you went into work or after, keep at it. Because exercise releases endorphins that can combat isolation, you may want to consider it.
Need more advice?
“I always shower and dress up in clothes that I would wear to an office even though I work from home. For me, it’s like putting on a daily uniform. It puts me in the proper work mindset.” – Roman Kniahynyckyj, Growth Strategist
“My biggest tip is keeping your routine as if you were going to work. Wake up, shower, put on clothes, have a virtual coffee meet up with your team, and try to get the day going as normal.” – Rob Bowles, Director of Integration Sales
Set a Dedicated Workspace
One of the hardest parts of remote work is not letting your home life bleed into your professional one. So, while working on the couch may seem like a great option, one hour of work can turn into three hours of Netflix. Imagine you’re in an office by:
- Using a desk. If you have one, work at a desk with a comfortable chair. If you don’t, try improvising by using your kitchen table or island – as long as you make a conscious effort to not work in bed or on the couch.
- Working in a different room. Having an office or guest room is ideal, but if your space is limited, section off a piece of your home to be a “work-only” zone.
- Decorating. Your office space has pictures of your family, coasters, and other tchotchkes, so why not put them on your desk at home?
Create a To-Do List
First-time remote workers may feel overwhelmed by the idea. Without the structure of an office, how do you get things done? The same way you would if you were at work! Make a list of things you want to accomplish every day. Make it easier by:
- Implementing a project management tool. If your company doesn’t have a system in place, there are free resources like Asana, Trello, ClickUp, and Teamwork Projects.
- Writing it down. More old-school? Simply write down your goals for your time at home and check them off as you go along. Keep them near your computer to stay on track.
- Following the 1-3-5 rule. If you don’t want to be too hard on yourself, follow the 1-3-5 rule where you outline one big thing, three little things, and five minor things.
Have pets? They’re going to jump on you. Kids? They’ll need attention. Are other family members staying in? Anymore working from home will have to deal with distractions from time to time, but you can combat them through:
- Posting your schedule in a visible place. Put your work schedule on your kitchen or another heavily trafficked area so your family can see when not to bother you. (Sorry, this does not work for pets!)
- Walking your dogs. Before work or during lunch, take your dogs out so they can unleash some energy. Getting out of the house and a little bit of exercise will help you be more productive as well!
- Wearing headphones. If you can listen to music and work at the same time, this is a reliable option to drown out any other sounds. You can also simply wear noise-canceling headphones for peace.
Real-life examples of dealing with distraction:
“After you carve out private office space to work in, ask anyone else who’s stuck at home to respect that space. For instance, have them knock before entering, use headphones for listening or watching stuff nearby, or go outside if they’re talking on the phone.” -Ian McNair, Senior Web Developer
“When you get stuck on a project, it can be so tempting to open your phone. My biggest recommendation is to set up downtime in your iPhone settings. Restrict the apps that you’re allowed to open during working hours to remove that temptation and be more productive during your workday.” – Kelly Groover, Brand Marketing Manager
When you’re telecommuting, you may look up from your laptop and suddenly see it’s 5 p.m. and you haven’t moved. Because your environment has changed, this could happen more frequently – but it’s not good for your health! Take a break by:
- Going for a walk. Getting outside and out of your house can clear your mind and help you refocus.
- Taking lunch. Block out a half-hour or hour like you would in your office, step away from your desk, and eat lunch.
- Just getting out of the house. Plenty of long-term remote workers have experienced extended periods of time indoors. Make it a point to leave the house, whether it’s an errand, jog, or simply to get a breath of fresh air.
End Your Day
Create an end-of-day ritual for yourself that helps you draw the line between work and home life, without having that physical barrier. Make it consistent, so you start associating it with the end of your workday. It can be several things, including:
- Signing out of your messaging app. Log out of Slack or Skype, so people know you’re no longer available for work questions.
- Making dinner. An easy way to separate work from home life is dinner prep. We just hope you weren’t eating dinner at your office!
- Doing yoga or something similar. Again, exercise can help recharge your brain from work and make you feel good.
- Taking a drive. Act like you’re leaving your “office” by hopping in your car and zooming around your neighborhood.
- Anything that works for you. Honestly, we’re all different, so whatever is best for your life, do it!