This guest post was written by business phone service provider VirtualPBX whose employees work from home across the US – from Florida to Washington state.
The global stress of the coronavirus pandemic has forced the hands of many businesses. It’s causing them to re-think their daily workplace procedures and, for many, having them begin work from home policies.
Although working from home can help keep people safe, the demands of a position that’s entirely remote can place additional stressors on employees who have never done this sort of thing before. We wanted to share a few tips and tricks for finding success in your home office. Whether you have a dedicated room to yourself or just a space at the kitchen table, you will find some helpful advice borne from years of remote work experience.
1. Maintaining mental health
Our interest in remote work extends beyond our own virtual workplace. We polled the broader community and asked them how they’re coping with changes in business procedures.
One response, from Sunny Ashley at Autoshopinvoice, addressed the ever-present reality of trying to maintain a balance between work and home life.
“Working from home blurs the line between your professional and personal life”, Ashley said. “It doesn’t allow your mind to have a clean break between working hours and after-work hours”.
Ashley continued by saying that developing a mental space for your workplace is essential for keeping balance in your life. You can dedicate a single chair and table, or entire room if you have it, to be your workplace.
You have to work somewhere, so if it’s available, find that space where you want to complete your work. When you get up from that place, you’ll be back home. Then during breaks and when you’re off the clock, work can stay at work, and you can more easily get into the positive head-space of living your personal life outside of the new “office”.
2. Mirror workplace practices at home
What do you do when you’re on the clock? Another of our community respondents, Tyler Brooks of JAM Paper & Envelope suggested bringing some of your brick-and-mortar workplace practices into your home. This can be as easy as listening to some familiar music:
“Put on some music or a podcast, whatever you normally listen to while at work at the office”, Brooks told us.
What you do when you replicate office practices is make your home feel more like a place where work will be completed. Instead of feeling like your house, it feels like your office. You’re used to completing tasks at the office, so simulating that atmosphere will tell your brain that now is the time to work.
This is also easy to turn on and off as necessary. Considering Ashley’s advice from earlier, working from home can be made easier by making a clean break. Save your workplace podcasts for the time you’re in your office chair and at your desk.
3. Work in short bursts to stay productive
We also recently spoke to two of our employees about remote work who are mothers of young children. The advice of our marketing team member Jennifer Merrigan should resonate with anyone who has to remain productive in a noisy, busy, or distracting atmosphere.
“I use hyper-focused bursts of work and energy to accomplish my tasks”, Merrigan revealed. “Often, I only have 10 or 20 minutes to finish something small, so within those spaces, I do everything I can to complete as much work in as short amount of time as possible”.
Not all of us are able to have uninterrupted peace and quiet throughout the day. Merrigan, a mother of a one-and-a-half year old manages having her daughter at home by finding short spaces in which to complete tasks.
She said this type of working from home can require scheduling – such as planning around a nap time or playtime. Longer periods of work are accessible throughout the day and may be revealed in the schedule. The short bursts of activity, though, can give you a boost of energy by keeping you motivated for the tasks to come.
4. Take advantage of your breaks
Despite all the planning in the world, working from home can be stressful. Another of our employees, Services team member Kathy Melendez who is the mother of a three year old, said she deals with stress by seeking peace within short breaks from work.
No one can be productive for every minute of the day. Taking breaks from work can be the most helpful part of your daily schedule. They’re rejuvenating and can even help you connect with other family members.
“I like to take my child for walks”, Melendez said of her time away from the desk. “We’ll go around the block during my breaks at work”.
She also noted that after-work decompression can do wonders for keeping your work and personal life in balance. Both Melendez and Merrigan said they like to complete workouts when the 9-5 is over.
5. Get your technology in order
We would be careless not to mention the need for various networking and communications technologies in your remote work setup.
Of course it’s essential for your business to have some type of communications system in place. Whether you use online chat like Slack, a VoIP phone system like VirtualPBX offers, or a combination of platforms is up to you. What matters most is that the tech works well for everyone involved.
As an individual employee, you can check your network capability with a Speed Test that will show your upload and download speeds. These measures will show whether or not your laptop will properly handle the demands of the communications services you choose. Even with low bandwidth available, VoIP services can often be adjusted to eliminate jitter and latency gaps.
Your to-do list
No matter how your day takes shape, everyone who works from home will have to take responsibility for how their day is scheduled. Keeping your entire to-do list in your head will only lead to mistakes and missed assignments.
Task management software can help you stay organised. Here are a few popular software options used around the VirtualPBX office:
By no means are these your only options. A quick web search for “task management software” will reveal a host of other programs you can use on your laptop and phone. And of course it doesn’t take much to get started with just a pen and piece of paper.
Make working from home work for you
There’s no single method of working from home that is best for everyone. We hope that the bits of advice shared here will help you begin to make your home workplace a bit more familiar and productive.
Try out a few of these approaches to remote working. Eventually, your own personality will fill in the gaps and your at-home workplace will be as effective a station as your desk in the office ever was.