Are you new to working from home or working remote? Have you considered the challenges and special needs of your remote employees? With the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, there are many people, new to telecommuting, who could use some tips and best practices.
I’m the author of, “Paradigm Flip: Leading People, Teams, and Organizations Beyond the Social Media Revolution”. I’ve spent 20 years leading global teams, comprised of many telecommuters and regularly work from home myself. This is a small contribution to help those new to this environment – and reminder to the rest – of best practices…
9 Tips for Working Remotely
1. Designate Space
You need a working space. Don’t sit in the middle of the living room, kitchen or anywhere else the rest of the family congregates. Whether you have roommates or live alone, choose a space with the fewest possible distractions. It may be a spare bedroom, dining room, or even a large closet – as long as it has power and ideally a door to close (see tip 2). If you don’t live alone, make sure your family or roommates know that when you are in your work space, you are working and interruptions should be avoided.
2. Close Doors
If you have roommates, the door is a great reminder you are busy. If you live alone, the door also keeps out background noises from appliances and neighbors. If you have kids, lock the door, otherwise you may end up like poor Professor Robert Kelly, who conducted a TV Interview when his kids burst into the room.
3. Use Headsets
Headsets are the best option for keeping your hands free to type. Most consumer grade speaker phones have major limitations that make it difficult for two-way conversations. This is especially true for the speaker feature on most mobile phones. The microphone often picks up your voice or background noise and disables the speaker, to avoid feedback. Therefore, you won’t hear others as they try to speak. As a result, other participants could perceive you as ignoring them. Professional speakerphones, like those you may have at the office, are fine.
4. Pause Often
If you are on a conference call, pause your speaking often and listen for comments from others. With in-person meetings, body language signals when someone has a thought to interject. You lose this signal when meeting over the phone.Therefore, don’t go on long monologues without pausing often and asking for feedback and insights from others.
5. Use Video
A major component of our communication is non-verbal. A sense of agreement or disagreement is easily seen in the posture and facial expressions when meeting in the same room. Over the phone, we lose this feedback. If you have the benefit of easily accessible video devices and bandwidth, as most knowledge workers in the US do, leverage that when working remotely. This has the additional benefit of creating a more team-like atmosphere.
6. Make Eye Contact
It amazes me this is not done more often. Try this with a friend: on a video call, have them speak to you while looking at your image on the screen. See how you feel and how you perceive their message. Next, have them speak to you while looking directly at the camera on their end. Now, see how you perceive the message. When the speaker looks into the camera, the recipients of the message see them looking into their eyes. When the speaker does not do this, they appear distracted and disinterested. It makes a huge difference. Look into the camera when speaking.
7. Work Online
There are many great tools for synchronizing your work online, so you can access it from any location with internet access. Some of the most popular tools today are Microsoft’s OneNote / Office 365 or Google’s G Suite and Google Drive. Slack is also a very popular tool for chatting and keeping notes in a shared repository.
8. Make Backups
Most employers automate backups of your computer while connected to the network. If you’re working from home, this probably is not happening automatically. Therefore, be sure to manually backup your work by using services like Office 365, Google Drive or your corporate office network, by logging into your Virtual Private Network (VPN). Contact your IT support team for assistance.
9. Focus Time
When you are working, work. When you are with your family, be with your family. Wherever you are, be present. The lines blur easily when working from home. Studies prove that humans do not truly multi-task. Your family and friends, seeing you distracted by work, could perceive you as disinterested. So follow the tips above, have a space, close the door, and focus your energy based on where you are.
I hope these tips help anyone new to working remotely. If you have any questions or struggle with any of these ideas, email me. Stay healthy and make the best of this change in your work / life alignment.