Many of you are about two months into what may be the first time you’re working remotely. If you’re like me, you love it! But lots of people miss the camaraderie of office work. I doubt workers will be returning to offices anytime soon, because there are so many logistics involved in how to have hundreds of people occupy an indoor space safely that many companies will simply stay remote for the rest of the year. Some have decided to close their offices forever.
The coronavirus has accelerated the future of work. Remote work cuts out the time-wasting commute and allows you to be more flexible and efficient with your time. Also, can we all finally agree that pants are the worst? Thanks to endless Zoom calls, blazers over sweatpants are the look of the season.
If what you thought would be a few weeks of remote work is turning into something more permanent, I have some tips to make it work for you for the long term.
Recognize that this isn’t what remote work normally looks like
I really want to emphasize that the current lack of reliable child care makes working almost impossible for many parents. Closed schools, daycares, and summer camps have created an absolute scheduling nightmare for working parents. I’m sure many managers used to think that remote work equaled slacking off, and now they feel validated because their direct reports aren’t as productive. But no one can be a productive worker when they’re also parenting and homeschooling around the clock, and their kids’ social outlets are all canceled.
My point is this: one day, your kids will be back in school and you’ll have time to focus entirely on your job every day. Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re half-assing everything right now. Just take things one step at a time to get through each day. (Then considering ordering this COVID inspired wine for yourself (or a friend) like I did for Mary Beth’s birthday.)
Also, usually you can go work in a coffee shop or coworking space for a change of scenery, or even meet a friend to work together. (Remember meeting friends in public places? Those were the days.) So you won’t have to feel as stuck at home as you likely do now once it’s safe to hang out at coffee shops again. I desperately miss working from a coffee shop a few days a week. This all brings me to my next point…
Take breaks and actually leave the house
Even if you can’t really go anywhere, break up your day and get some fresh air. Do a short yoga video on YouTube in your backyard, or go for a quick walk. (Some days I feel like I’m living for my step goal because it’s one of the few things I have control over.) In an office, you get up and move around to go to meetings, grab lunch, swing by someone’s desk, or get a cup of coffee in the break room. You don’t have to be glued to your laptop now to prove that you’re dedicated — take breaks away from your laptop just like you’d do in an office.
Get to know your colleagues as humans
Cubicle chit-chat makes weekdays go by faster. You can still bond with your coworkers, you’ll just have to schedule it since you can’t see if they’re at their desks. Obviously, Slack is a great way to start conversations, and you can also schedule one-on-one video calls over Zoom. If new employees start on your team while you’re remote, make a point to meet with them on a video call to help make them feel welcome. If you’re a manager, encourage your direct reports to work some social stuff into their days. Teams work better together when they actually get along, so a bit of bonding is good for productivity.
Make your workspace comfortable
Hunching over a laptop in a dimly lit room isn’t doing your body any favors. Your company may offer a stipend that you can apply toward home office supplies, so take advantage! External monitors, laptop stands, standing desks, ergonomic chairs, and other items will allow you to work pain-free. I just bought this half-yoga ball for my desk chair and I love it! My fiance, Bryan, bought a standing desk and it’s helped free him of back pain.
If you share your home with others who are also working or attending school, try to carve out a space that gives you privacy and quiet so you can focus. I know some people who hang a “do not disturb” sign on their door when they’re in a meeting or deep in work, but will keep their door open when they welcome interruptions from others in their home.
Turn work off at the end of the day
A big issue when you work and live in the same space is that it feels like you work around the clock. It’s way too easy to peek at your Slack app or email, or hop on your computer to fix something at 9 pm.
Set a time that work stops for you (depending on the nature of your job, this doesn’t have to be at the same time every day). Block off your calendar and start an end-of-day ritual. Maybe that’s when you work out, walk your dog, head outside to chat with a neighbor, or begin cooking dinner. Leave your phone in another room, or at home, for your end-of-day ritual if you can. Turn off email alerts on your phone so it’s not pinging at all hours of the evening.
We’re all so attached to our phones that it can feel oddly freeing to not have it nearby, so you don’t default to checking it every few minutes. I also highly recommend turning off social media notifications or taking social media apps off your phone completely, so if you want to see what’s happening online, you set a dedicated time and do it from your computer. (I haven’t had FB or Twitter apps on my phone for over a year now and it’s glorious! I spend a lot more time reading my Kindle.)
Recognize what remote work can do for you
I hope that one day, we can safely return to a new normal (whatever that might look like), and people can return to work and school. Maybe you’ll be skipping into the office on your first day back, delighted to have a reason to wear makeup again! But if you found that you really enjoyed working from home, I think that more companies than ever are going to be hiring remote employees. So even if you plan to leave your current company in the future, work-from-home opportunities will be much easier to find.