Whether your business is new to remote working due to the stay-at-home policies issued to fight the coronavirus or accustomed to it, it can be hard to be productive working from home while also staying sane. I can personally attest to that, having worked from home for more than a decade now. It is very easy to form bad work-at-home habits.
Here are some tips to help you and your employees work at home more effectively.
1. Create a space
You’ll be more productive if you can carve out a separate space in your home in which to work. That helps you separate your workspace from your personal space.
This is even more important if you don’t live alone and are sharing space with other adults and/or kids. If this is the case, you should establish some ground rules. Tell your kids when and how to interrupt you. If you’re in a meeting, let everyone know they need to be quiet. One business owner I know struggles with the possibility his dogs will start barking when he tapes his podcasts.
If you don’t have a spare room, can you commandeer a guest room, part of the basement, or a little-used dining room? You should work from an ergonomic chair (if possible). Experts will tell you not to work from the couch. They’re right, but in the spirit of full disclosure, even though I have a separate office, I sometimes work from my living room couch.
2. Establish a schedule
Set “office” hours and try to stick to them. If you’re the boss, it’s ok to tell your employees the times you expect them to be at work. But given the current situation, some may need flexibility.
3. Take breaks
Incorporate breaks into your schedule, even if it’s just a quick stretch or walk around your house or apartment. Try for a 5-minute break once an hour. If you can safely go outside for a short break, do so. If you can’t, check with your doctor to see if you need to add Vitamin D to your diet. And don’t forget to eat lunch.
4. Get equipped
Every business’s circumstances are going to be different here. What computers are your staff using? Work-issued secure machines or their personal computers? Whichever, you want to make sure your employees are keeping their work secure. You might want to investigate getting a VPN (virtual private network) service.
What equipment do you and your staff need to work from home productively? Will someone need a printer or copier? Will everyone be relying on their own cell phones? Do they have enough data? Ask your staff if they have what they need to get their jobs done? If not, can you order equipment or supplies online and send it to them?
5. Respond quickly
This is especially important if your company is new to remote working. Your staff is bound to have questions. Don’t keep them waiting too long. If you can’t respond immediately, a quick head’s up—“I’ll get back to you in 20 minutes” can be helpful.
6. Stay in touch with your team
There are a lot of tools that make it easy to stay connected, such as Slack, Skype, and Zoom. Not every communication needs to be about work. Many people are stressed these days, so be sure to check in with your staff, even if it’s just to find out how they’re doing, or if there’s something they need.
7. Conference calls
There will be times you need to meet with your team or even a client. Try to keep internal meetings to a minimum, prepare an agenda ahead of time and distribute it to your staff. Have everyone sign on five minutes before the meeting starts to make sure you can start on time. There are plenty of meeting tools to choose from.
8. Get happy
You don’t want to lose the social aspect of work. Consider holding virtual “happy hours” with your staff where you catch up on one another’s lives and let off some steam.
If you don’t already have a work-at-home policy, this is a good time to monitor how it’s working out. I already saw a tweet about a company that is so pleased with how their remote working plan is going, they’re considering going virtual and saving thousands of dollars on rent and other overhead costs.