Has COVID-19 pushed your company to work from home? Welcome to the wonderful world of WORKING FROM HOME! Due to the high real estate costs of operating a business in NYC, I launched In The Lights as a remote company from my apartment. Six years later we are still operating a remote business and have learned a lot of checks and balances over time.
While a remote setup can feel disconnected and create distance—technology continues to make a remote environment easier to navigate. Here are some tips from me and the In The Lights team on how we stay engaged and connected as a remote company. We also share information on the tools we use and ideas for team building amid social distancing.
- Get Out of the PJ’s and Don’t Work in Bed: Setting your day up for success starts as soon as you wake up. Close the sleep chapter, make your bed, and get ready just like you would to go into the office. You don’t need to dress up in a suit, but getting dressed tells your body that it’s time to tackle the day.
- Set Up A Dedicated Space: Just like any office space, it’s so important to have a dedicated space for you to focus on work. Find a comfortable chair that promotes good posture, set up a monitor, put a photo and/or quote on your desk that motivates you. If possible move to a spot where you can stand up to give your body a break from sitting throughout the day. A sit/stand desk is a great investment, if possible. Change the pace for an hour or two with a cozy work-nest on the couch. Find what works best for you to stay focused, and pay attention to your body and what it needs.
- Create a Distraction-free Environment: Multitasking is a myth, and by minimizing distractions, you’ll be able to sink into “deep work” instead of jumping from task to task. Deep work is like getting a full REM cycle of restorative sleep. Jumping from task to task is like a bunch of smaller naps. Pay attention to the items that distract you, write them down on a list, and find ways to remove those distractions from your space or day.
- Turn off the TV! (yes, really): Streaming services and the 24-hour news cycle (especially during a national emergency) are tempting, but leave the television for breaks. Do yoga, treadmill, or exercise bike in the morning or during breaks throughout the day and watch the news or a short show at that time. Be honest with yourself about your ability to turn off in the middle of a show rather than binge.
- Set a Schedule: We encourage flexibility of our team–wake up and get a few hours of work in and then go workout, start the day later or end the day early–we want each team member to find the schedule that works best for them. We have a team unavailability google calendar so that we can easily schedule meetings around the teams personal schedules. However, it’s very easy to work longer days when you have the flexibility of the home office. Create boundaries by setting a schedule. Extra bonus if that schedule allows you to get the full balance of work, play, and health. At the end of your work day clean off your desk and shut down your computer which signals a close of work. If your desk is in your room or kitchen, not having to look at the mess of the workday will keep you focused on the other tasks at hand.
- Carve out a Real Lunch Break: It can be a temptation to work through lunch since you’re comfortable at home or on your couch. But taking a true break to step away from the computer, treat yourself to a nice meal from your kitchen, and maybe a walk can help you power through the mid-afternoon slump.
- Create a Running List of Household Tasks as they come up. It can be hard to focus on work when the laundry needs to be done, and the dishes from your at-home lunch are in the sink. Make a list of what you need to accomplish, and tackle them on designated breaks or after the work day is through.
- Utilize Work Management Tools to their Fullest: Chances are, your place of employment uses some kind of work-management software (Google Drive, Slack, Podio, etc.). It’s also possible that you aren’t using them to their full potential! Take the time to explore the tools you already have to see if they can serve you as you adjust to working as a remote team. We use a combination of Podio (for project management and tasks), Google’s G Suite (digital filing system and document storage – also gives the capability of sharing folders as needed to applicable staff) and Google Docs (work live on documents together, we also use Microsoft Office), Harvest (time tracker), and Quickbooks (invoices and finances). All of the tools we use allow for multiple uses and sharing capabilities to easily manage and collaborate remotely.
- Preserve the Digital Water Cooler. Working from home can be isolating, especially if you’re accustomed to socializing with coworkers. Consider starting a just-for-fun group chat of interesting industry articles, sharing photos of your four-legged coworkers, and setting the first 5-10 minutes of each phone meeting for catch up. Do video calls from time to time to connect visually. These things help maintain the social network of the office until you’re all back together again.
- Virtual Team Meetings. Be smart about the meetings you set. We hold a weekly rolling call where our entire team of 5 is present to discuss what is on their plate that week and in upcoming weeks. It offers time to request support, connect with others on their availability, and keep all on task. Other team meetings focus on themes so that we can review policy, challenges, and brainstorm solutions together. We also have monthly planning sessions to discuss clients and In The Lights tasks. Generally we use Google hangouts, but we also love Zoom.
- Get Up and Move. Movement of any kind at the beginning, end or throughout the day is important for your body. It helps release stress, promotes clarity of mind, and boosts energy and emotional health. Find what works for you and be kind to yourself in the process. If you only end up getting 1-2 workouts a week that is a start and you can build from there.
Still feeling lonely? We have cleared our schedule to be available for free consults to help our industry make smart communications solutions as we face this unprecedented crisis. Click here to schedule a complimentary 45-minute call with me. I’d love to hear how you’re handling the coronavirus within your company.