5 tips for working from home — Do’s, don’ts and everything in between
With the availability of Wi-Fi on every corner, the physical space where work is done can be anywhere—but you’ll need more than a laptop and internet connection. As remote work becomes more common, tips for working from home efficiently are critical to ensuring team communication and productivity.
For many companies, working remotely provides an opportunity to keep employees if they encounter a life change or to offer more autonomy and flexibility. When I had to temporarily relocate I was incredibly relieved to have Lessing-Flynn‘s full support to work remotely. But careful attention was given to how we would do this well and maintain client deliverables and our own objectives.
The Lessing-Flynn team consists of out-of-the-box innovators, collaborative thinkers, and down-right hard workers. Because of this, I was given the freedom to not only work remotely but develop my own work from home best practices. I was able to explore tools to maintain communication with my co-workers and productivity. Here are our top five tips for working from home.
5 Tips for Working from Home
1. Maintaining communication is key for remote work
Before jetting off to Omaha, our team established expectations. We formulated a plan to help Lessing-Flynn and myself stay successful. This communication plan has primary focuses.
Make the plan
Your company must communicate to every remote worker via a formalized plan outlining travel commitments, workspace etiquette, how check-ins will happen, and how frequently. We both had clear expectations going into this work-scenario. This enabled us to figure out what processes worked well in the office and what needed improvement for those working remotely.
Collaboration and communication isn’t automatic
Communicating online is easy, but it takes skill to communicate well and keep everyone on the same page. Email has a knack of taking the humanity out of human conversations and extra care is warranted when quickly messaging colleagues. We’ve all received that email that sends shivers down our spine and turned out to be nothing to worry about. To avoid this, jump on a video chat or phone call, in scenarios where you would normally swing by a co-worker’s desk. (More on this below.)
Implement routine “stand-ups”
When collaborating on a project, it’s easy to feel a bit out of the loop on certain things. Your team members meet casually while stealing some snacks from the kitchen. This aspect of my job quickly became a challenge. To mitigate this, we established routine “stand-ups.” These stand-ups became a core part of our work from home best practices to keep everyone on the same page.
2. Remote work requires resourcefulness
Communication is key, but when you’re in the remote working world, sometimes it can feel as though you’re on your own especially when colleagues don’t answer their phone when you need them to. With no cubicle buddies sitting at arm’s reach, communication is surprisingly diminished and sometimes you have to fend for yourself.
When the communication-well is dry, bring your favorite search engine and start researching. Perhaps find a podcast, or if things get really bad, call your mom. You’ll be shocked by how not having an easy answer provides a better answer.
If something wasn’t my strong suit, I jotted down notes into my development plan to make it a priority to learn more. In many cases, the answer you will find in your own research will be more thorough and provide more depth than had you received the easy response.
Being independent is a must-have skill. It’s important to be able to figure out how to be a problem solver, especially when it comes to identifying tips for working from home.
3. Find the best tools
Online tools are your best friend when you’re working remotely. And because I did the research, you can save some time.
Video conference tools.
Try Appear.in. This handy (and free!) video conferencing site allows you to quickly set up chat rooms for anyone you’d like to meet with. By sending them the custom link, you are “in” with screen-sharing capabilities and high-quality video and audio. Google Hangouts, Go To Meeting and other tools like Slack are valuable too.
Lessing-Flynn began using the popular online messaging application Slack long before our work from home best practices were forged. It dramatically reduced email redundancy. It allowed team members to quickly share resource links and files or ask teams one-off questions. Plus, it’s a great way to integrate fun into the work from home culture with GIFs and other interactive features.
Before you take up valuable coffee shop table space with a scanner, let me save you time and embarrassment. Tap into your phone’s app store and you’ll find a plethora of apps to convert documents from your phone’s camera. I found Scannable by Evernote to be easy to use. Plus, you can create both color or black and white documents with a tap.
Tools to maintain culture.
At Lessing-Flynn, culture is one of the key reasons I wanted to stay. According to The Harvard Business Review, great culture is also crucial for productivity. Culture must be included in your work from home best practices—this doesn’t have to be overly complicated.
For my group, it was as simple as staying in touch with our ongoing Snapchat Group and other events like our murder mystery parties. I made it a priority to plan out my schedule to be in the office on days when fun events are happening.
4. Find a positive routine
A remote position, in some ways, is like transitioning to a new job. Developing a routine daily and weekly is the key to success when developing your company’s work from home best practices.
Just like anyone else, I established regular office hours and kept myself accountable to stick with them. It is tempting to finish a few emails late at night when your laptop is a few feet away from the couch (or maybe the couch is your desk, I’m not judging). But keep expectations realistic and stick to a specific routine that works for you. Both for yourself, and those you work with.
5. Establish actual office space
Even though working in your PJs, at the dinner table, or hanging out with your dog at home is great, establishing a clear separation between workspace and life-space is key in developing A+ work from home best practices. It’s not the same for everyone.
It’s wise to create a separate home office in a spare room, allowing you to literally close the door on your day’s conclusion. If space is an issue, this can be solved by getting out to a new coffee shop a few times a week, or if you crave the much-needed human contact and focus from an energetic office space away from home, coworking is the perfect option. I found a co–working space that offers a dedicated desk for me to work from daily.
Coworking spaces have emerged all over the country, offering an atmosphere filled with quick-growing startups, independent freelancers, and other like-minded remote employees. Most spaces include access to conference rooms, refreshments, and networking events. Coworking spaces allow you to meet folks you probably wouldn’t have invited over to your shabby-chic living room office.
Final tip for working from home pre-flight checklist.
As your company hammers out your own working from home best practices, employees have some additional things to consider before setting out on your new adventure.
Firstly, it’s definitely not for every industry, company or individual. Although you may believe it’s as simple as setting up a desk in your house, answer these questions to finalize your work from home best practices.
- Are you moving to a new state? If so, that means your income taxes and state withholdings change. In addition, coverage from your benefits may be altered. Make sure your HR department does their due diligence to get this squared away.
- What type of office needs do you need to succeed? Being away from the office means you’ll need to invest in (or have access to) adequate internet speed, a quality phone connection and other supplies. Consider what you use on a daily basis and talk with IT for their recommendation.
- Is your company able to adapt processes for those out of the office? Simply put, some tasks need to be done in-person. Take a look at your to-do list and identify what must be done face to face. Establish if those things to-dos can wait until you’re in the office or if another person needs to be assigned that duty.
Although it requires more planning, remote workers and work from home employees can maintain a collaborative, productive schedule and contribute to positive office culture.
Do you work remotely already or have you established your own work from home best practices? Don’t be a stranger, leave a comment below so others can enjoy remote-working success.
This was originally written May 22, 2018, but updated for 2020.
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