FP’s 5 Tips for New Remote Workers

March 25, 2020

Prior to the COVID-19 health crisis, much of the business world was already making the necessary moves to accommodate a remote working environment.

On the other side of the coin, other businesses are receiving a sudden crash course in remote work dynamics, forcing them to learn in real-time how to shift their ways of working. With the outbreak quickly spreading throughout the world, remote work is likely to be our new normal over the next several weeks, possibly even months.

In this challenging time, working remote may feel uncomfortable and lonely, especially if you’re typically someone who thrives in an office environment. And for those who have children, you might struggle to maintain the same level of productivity you have in the office.

ForwardPMX has several employees who are seasoned remote workers and have successfully navigated some of the many challenges that present themselves when working outside of the office. And right now, we’re all working together to ensure we can do our best work for our clients and for each other.

Below are some best practices we’ve compiled from the brilliant minds across ForwardPMX to help make remote work a more rewarding, less stressful experience for you.

1. Keep a routine: Try to start your day as you normally would. Shower and dress comfortably, but not too Try to avoid looking at your emails or starting any work in your pajamas. Although it might be tempting to do so, the way you dress impacts you psychologically. Even if you’re dressed casually, it will help maintain the feeling of going to work so you can keep up the same level of focus and confidence throughout the day.

To that end, prepare your space as it might be during your time at the office. Whether that’s quiet with minimal disturbance, or it’s a livelier setup with similar sounds you’re used to being around in the office – make sure that it works for you. If you can, try to recreate the atmosphere you have at your desk with things that inspire you, like plants, music playing or pictures. Make your workspace a place you can go to each day and do your best work.

2. Take breaks: I think we can all agree that when working remotely, time can sometimes seem to blur together, and we may end up feeling like we don’t know when to stop the work. However, it’s important to make time for frequent breaks – get up out of your seat, and take some time for stretching, going for a walk and eating regular meals. Make it a habit to move around and go to a different room for a minute. If you need a little socializing, use your break time to pick up the phone to call a friend or family, or jump on a quick virtual coffee break with a colleague who might also be needing a break. If fitness is important, go for a quick run or do an at-home workout. Mental and physical breaks give you the chance to recharge and refocus when you’re ready to get back to work.

3. Stay connected: With business being conducted virtually and over email, staying connected has never been more important. Although it may be tempting to keep yourself on mute when you’re not the one talking during a phone call, unmute your microphone and participate in the conversation as much as you can. This helps to show your colleagues that you’re engaged in the discussion, and actually helps to keep yourself focused and ready to jump in when necessary. If you’re finding colleagues are coming off mute, pause for a moment to see if they have something to add to the discussion before moving on. Since we don’t have the natural in-person cues available to us on the phone, learning conversation dynamics is important.

When you do have the opportunity to join video calls, take it! Face time is crucial during remote working, especially as it pertains to nurturing relationships with your colleagues. Keep your personal cell phone away during the meetings and visibly express reactions to show you’re paying attention. Try to use phone calls and video chat over instant messaging to stay more closely connected.

4. Be communicative: Make sure you have clear expectations with your housemates (kids, friends, partners, even your pets!) to set boundaries and so you can work in a productive environment. The fact that you’re working from home shouldn’t mean that you suddenly take on extra house duties or cook dinner when you’d normally be expected to be in a meeting (although taking a break to do these things isn’t a bad idea). Clearly explain your working hours and let your housemates know of your “focus” time.

On the flip side, if you need to take care of personal responsibilities such as entertaining a child or walking a dog, be sure to let your team know so they know how and when to get a hold of you. From a management perspective, organize frequent meetings to ensure everyone in your team knows what they are supposed to do, who is responsible and what deadlines to work towards. Regular updates and discussions in a group setting can ensure alignment.

In addition, be explicit about what the expectations are so your team is clear and understands the deliverables required. When in a remote setting, it’s easy to make assumptions or forget details in managing tasks. Being overly communicative is crucial to ensuring the balance between being a productive employee and a considerate housemate.

5. Avoid distractions: It is a “best practice” to set up a dedicated workspace ONLY for office work. With no colleagues or partners nearby, it’s easy to become distracted. There are always chores at home to do. Do your best to keep your working situation as stress-free as possible by doing laundry and dishes before you start working or do them once you’ve finished the working hours you have set yourself.

Stay focused on work throughout the day to maintain consistent productivity and limit the time spent on email, social media and websites unrelated to work. You can even set a timer to keep you tuned into activities that aren’t productive.

For parents with young children, it can be difficult to concentrate when you’re spending all day with your children nearby. Remember, kids are living their ‘new normal’ too, many learning from home and seeking guidance from their parents. In addition to the above advice, working in tandem with your partner is crucial for balancing your work and familial responsibilities. Make sure to let co-workers know if you have kids around so it’s not a surprise. They might even welcome the sight of your child during a meeting!

Working from home with children adds a unique challenge for many parents. Yet with proper planning in place, you can create a workable situation that is entertaining for your kids without losing productivity.

As much of the world adapts to a new normal, it’s crucial that employees and employers alike be kind towards one another and be as cooperative as possible. Although this is new territory, understanding and compassion goes a long way to making these times more pleasant and productive for all.

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