As a digital marketer, I’ve worked from home for almost eight years now. I have loved every minute of it. With so many people working from home because of the pandemic, I thought this would be the proper time to share a few thoughts on what I have learned over the years. Working from home can be rewarding. Below are my four steps to mastering the art of working remotely.
Technology makes working from home possible, so its no mistake that getting this aspect of your journey correct is essential to your new life as a remote worker.
- Wifi – Consistent Wifi is integral to their success, but there’s more to a successful setup than an internet connection. I will opt for the highest internet speed possible since Wifi is the lifeblood of your work. Make sure you have a good enough connection to support large amounts of data transferring, devices, and services active simultaneously. It is an absolute must to have a reliable, stable video connection when your attending video conferences. I have a hot spot plan on the phone, and I keep tabs on an on-demand wifi pass just in case I’m in a place in a wrong position on the run.
- Messaging Apps – I prefer to use a messaging app that allows you to be available both on your laptop and phone simultaneously. You never know when your team, clients, or managers need to have a situation that requires your prompt input. At the same time, you should keep strict boundaries when it comes to working after hours. Working from home is a privilege, so it is best to be as accessible as you are in an office.
- Video Conferences – Most people use Zoom. With that in mind, make sure you enter each call on mute with your video off. This helps prevent severely embarrassing situations. Your microphone should be operational at room volume, as well as your speakers.
- Laptop – Your laptop is your best friend. However, just as you don’t have only one best friend, it’s best, if possible, to have more than one laptop available with the same core applications ready to go at the drop of a dime. I like to use a large, heavy-duty laptop with plenty of RAM and storage and another sleek laptop used for presentation purposes when I’m meeting clients out in the field. Make sure both have an adequate amount of RAM and storage to service your file-sharing system. Keep backup chargers for your laptops. Also, make sure you save Wifi for frequently visited locations.
- Multi-Device Note Taking App – I swear by my note-taking apps, particularly Evernote, One Note, and Apple Notes. These apps are active on ALL of my devices (Except Apple Notes since there’s no equivalent on PCs) and are handly when I’m on the move, in a meeting, or have thoughts that need immediate documentation. I like these apps because your notes are automatically pushed to the cloud and accessible immediately on every device.
- Multi-Device File Sharing App – Dropbox and Google Drive are the best, tried, and real applications for file sharing across multiple platforms and devices. This is extremely helpful when it comes to being able to modify and send files on the go. The chances of losing a document or file are meager when you are consistently saving and sharing files directly within these apps.
Be careful when downloading these folders to your laptops and phones. If you work for a large company, downloading your company’s entire Dropbox onto your computer will nuke your laptop’s storage. Only download folders you use regularly. (You can choose which folders to sync to your device by going to preferences) You will be able to access all of your files online if needed. However, I do have the full dropbox stored on my heavy-duty laptop.
- Accessories – Other items you’re going to need are headphones, a wireless mouse, portable laptop batteries, and maybe a mobile wifi device. These are essential for moving around your place, a cafe, or out of the country. I find that Apple headphones or earpods do quite well. Outside of Apple products, I advise noise-canceling headphones.
Communication comes in many forms, including messaging, video conferencing, texts, emails, and phone calls. You need to make sure everyone who works with you know:
- What is your schedule & availability
- How to reach you
- What you’re working on
- What you completed
- What you plan to work on
Overcommunicate – Working remotely, to an extent, requires overcommunication. Be sure to communicate your wins, and when you need help, be eager to ask for help or collaborate. You don’t have to write long, obnoxious emails, but this requires you to almost always follow-up, repeat, and check-in. People forget things, but they especially forget when you are not physically present. Don’t be bashful about using your public calendar and project management tool to share seemingly insignificant tasks such as research and vacation time.
The point of overcommunication is to reduce misunderstanding. Our brains aren’t naturally wired to communicate in the absence of any type of physical presence. (which includes our voices) We have gotten used to this over the years, but we still need to remind ourselves that thoughts, intentions, and actions just don’t transfer as quickly via text on a page as they do in real life. In real life, there are essential context clues that add meaning to each of our interactions. That brings me to my next point.
Say precisely what you mean – Sure, shop talk and office jargon are apart of the most company cultures. Online, this kind of conversation can lead to many misunderstandings. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Irony, sarcasm, and other forms of intellectual humor are best avoided if you aren’t extremely familiar with your team or coworkers. This can make for some very awkward moments at best and crucial misunderstandings at worst. This doesn’t mean you have to write over the top messages. It does mean that you have to get to the point.
Write complete sentences and use proper nouns. Be specific, especially with your verbs and modifiers. The more specific you are with your expectations, the less back and forth you have to endure. Strive always to send readily coherent messages that don’t have to be read twice. You might get it all out now, instead of later after 10 minutes and 30 messages.
See the example below.
- Good: We need to get her on the phone now.
- Better: Call Sarah before or meeting at 10 am. After you get off the phone, message me to let me know how it went.
- Best: Call Sarah before or meeting at 10 am. If she doesn’t answer, leave her a message. After you get off the phone, message me to let me know if it’s good to go or if we need to make changes. we need to know if she will approve the presentation I sent her around 8 am this morning. The presentation is due EOD, so we need her input ASAP.
Lastly, with every interaction with people online practice empathy. Learn to think about how your messages are coming across, and when they are coming across. Your coworker could be in the middle of a meeting and not be able to answer immediately.
- Keep a routine. Having a routine will significantly reduce the anxiety of working from home for the first time. I usually like to do at least five things every morning before I get into work. Those things are meditation, music, exercise, personal hygiene, and water. I’m a sunshine person, so I always open every possible window every morning as well. There’s just something about natural light that boosts my mood.
Whatever your routine, make sure it places you in the best possible atmosphere to start the day. If it helps, block out some time on your calendar for these activities. Don’t forget about lunch. You need breaks, trust me. I take my lunch break around the same time every day. Taking breaks helps to give your brain a rest. Even if I’m fasting, taking a walk around the neighborhood helps clear my mind. A routine can be more potent than a clock at helping you get started each day, primarily since our brains work on environmental cues.
- Protect your time. Working from home can produce distractions such as household chores, kids, or your spouse. Make sure you make it clear to your family that you are working, even if you seem to be staring off in the distance. Interacting with family can be a grey area, so only you know how much is too much. I’m naturally an introvert, so a break in my laser-focused work can be welcomed at times, and I have no problem letting friends or family that I’m back to work. It may be different from you. I know the more social types find it hard to resist constant socialization. Look to your collaboration with coworkers for that interaction.
Since there is no water cooler, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone. This not only builds rapport. It makes it easier to communicate online when you aren’t on the phone or in the office. When the workday is done, it’s done. This is an easy rule to break, so be easy on yourself. The vital thing to remember here is that even if you have additional work that flows into the evening, do not set the president for coworkers to reach out to you about work matters after hours.
- Set up your workspace. My workspace is sacred. No seriously. I hate clutter, so my workspace usually consists of a few items such as my phone, chargers, notebooks, pens, and plants. I always choose spaces near large windows to take in as much natural light as possible. Think about what gives you positive vibes or motivates you when you need a pick me up. It could be a picture of your family, your favorite quote, or your favorite book. Be intentional with your space.
Think ergonomics. Find a comfortable chair that gives you strong back support. I’m a pacer, so I love my standup desk. Studies show that stand up desks can be healthier for you, so don’t be shy about asking your employer to help you pay for a standup desk if it’s right for you. If you go with a standup desk, some find that an anti-fatigue mat helps them throughout the day.
- Curate your video. Don’t be afraid to show your face on video. It helps to make sure the physical space seen in the video communicates who you are. For the most part, plain, professional walls with adequate lighting will be enough. Make sure people can see your face without unnecessary or weird light. It’s also worth mentioning that handling conference calls in your pajamas may seem cool in theory, but in practice, but it doesn’t set the proper tone for your day.
I know I sound like a boomer right now, but you have to act and dress the part a lot of times. This is the personal hygiene portion of my morning routine. People on Zoom may not be able to smile your breath, but you can. Your mental state and clarity permeate the decisions you make, how you communicate, and what you communicate. It’s best to put your best foot forward, mainly because you are physically separated from people you are doing business with.