New to homeworking? Don’t panic; it isn’t that bad. The need for social distancing may actually help you discover how cool it can be. Flexibility helps with work/life balance. No one’s breathing down your neck and you can set your own pace and schedule according to a deadline. But if you are coping with how to manage isolation or distractions, here are a few tips from our network of experts.
From Paris to Sao Paulo, from Moscow to LA, all around the world, our team has been working remotely for years to ensure the content we produce is 100% in phase with the local audience you target. Here’s how they handle remote work:
1. Dedicated Place
Yes, there is the temptation of lingering longer in bed or giving in to the call of your sunlounger. But freelancers and full-time employees still have deadlines to meet. So go ahead, give in to those little pleasures in life: fully enjoy the minutes you spend on “you” time, then go to work with a smile on your face. The boost of happiness and energy is better than frustration, and you’ll learn all about moderation. Remote work brings you back to the real roots of balance so that you can enjoy today without endangering tomorrow.
To help your mind clearly draw a line between being at work and not being at work anymore, you need to place barriers in time and space. Space means you have – depending on whether you live in a mansion or one-room apartment – a room, a desk, a corner of the table, or somewhere that is just about work. You sit there to work, and that’s where your work material remains. This space dedication helps you avoid having to set up your workstation every day at the family table and helps your mind to forget about everything else while you’re working. This also means you can forget all about your work when you leave your workspace.
Try also to set up a time routine, preferably matching your best concentration hours in the day – often the morning our experts say – and time what you do in order to replicate some kind of per-day organization. For example:
- 8:30 am-9 am: catching up on emails and setting up priorities for the day.
- 9 am-10 am: team meeting to debrief on what’s been done, what’s to do, bringing up any pain points and trying to find collective solutions.
- 10 am: coffee break in that lounger that’s been calling your name in the garden.
- 10:15 am-12 pm: starting to kill that to-do list of the day.
- 12:30 pm: Skype lunch with a friend and so on.
What do our experts mean with these examples? You can be at a home, set your pace, and still achieve your goals while not feeling alone.
3. Teamwork, For Real
Who said working from home means isolation? With the quality of video calls and online chats, it’s up to you to keep the team spirit going. You’ve just received a surprising email from a client and want to express your reaction to your close colleague copied on it, as you would have done over the cubicle divider? Just leave a chat window open on the side, so you can all interact individually.
You want to share good news with your group of colleagues and have a view on other discussions going on the side? There are many tools for that too. You want to show your boss the proposal you are working on? Online repositories will actually help you do that, letting your boss put precise notes directly in the document rather than some quick, vague feedback while walking through the corridor to the meeting room.
Here are the collaborative tools our experts use frequently:
- Chat: Google HangOut, Skype, What’s App, Slack
- Group news: Google Groups, Microsoft Teams, Slack, What’s App
- Video meeting: Google Meet, Skype, Zoom, What’s App
- Online repositories: Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, DropBox
If you have been working with someone for a while but have not yet met that person, our experts strongly recommend a video call. Putting a face and a voice on a name is an amazing facilitator, and relations quickly become more casual when you’re relaxed at home, as your personal universe tends to bring up stories and such.
You still need to be professional, though. Having a client call in your pajamas with the underwear laundry basket in the background is not respectful! It’s your choice to get dressed or not at other times of the day – despite what some may advise – but remain professional in video calls! For this type of long-distance communication, quality is important. Also, investing in a headphone with a decent microphone is a small cost you will not regret.
You may actually find that teamwork is more efficient remotely, with fewer interruptions. That colleague who finds it so easy to pop into your office every time he has a question may start looking for answers on his side first or at least group several questions in one email, allowing you to answer at your own preferred pace. Social distancing may have a few advantages in terms of taking control of your own work organization and pace.
4. Touchable Tools and Creative Breaks
Working online means a lot of screen time and little exercise. You may want to vary positions and work tools. First make sure your workstation is adapted, even if it simply means placing a dictionary under your laptop so that your screen is at eye level, or adding an external keyboard, closer to wrist level. Choose different postures according to what you’re doing. For example, you can do video calls standing up once in a while.
You may also leave your laptop aside and opt for old-school tools for some tasks. A simple notepad and pen can totally work for an ideation session. Build the draft structure of your next presentation on paper before getting started to spare your eyes from the screen.
There is also a lot of creative work that can be done without being at your desk, and you’ve probably been doing it already, even with an office job. How many management situations did you solve in your head while doing the dishes? How many great ideas popped up while you were having a shower? How many solutions did you arrive at while cycling or running? That obsessive lounge chair in my sunny garden has always been an inspirational place to find storytelling angles, I must confess.
When it comes to getting work done at home, think out of the box. Work should never involve just sitting in frustration in front of your computer.
5. Educating Your Close Ones, and Yourself
With so many people discovering the delights of the home office right now due to confinement, this point will be obsolete soon. But it’s an issue our experts struggled with, and you may still need to explain this to your kids, parents, or anyone who has never worked from home.
In the past, I’ve struggled to explain my work situation to relatives who would stop by for a coffee anytime during the day even though I was working. For real. Somehow a lot of people still think that homework is not real work and, sadly, your flexibility is an asset other people may try to take advantage of. Setting boundaries on this was a sore spot at times, but I had to do it.
People are generally more aware of this way of life these days. But it might still be something you need to educate your kids, husband, wife, roommate, dog or partner in confinement of any kind, during this time of lockdown. Yes, you’re home, but you’re not available right now. Our first point about setting a place and time is crucial to their understanding. When you’re sitting there, you’re not to be disturbed, and your kids need to occupy themselves until your next break. If they are too young to cater to their own activities, setting fixed time slots matching yours, with tasks for them to perform like schoolwork, painting, Lego project, or even a movie will help.
But you also need to educate yourself about one aspect: you have lost your “decompression chamber.” Whether it was a 30-minute drive from work, a 10-min walk, or a quick ride on the subway, your daily commute has been reduced to Bedroom-to-Kitchen-to-Desk. The savings are great, of course, but that transition journey also helped turn the page on your day of work. As you left the office reading that last email or item on your to-do list, you gave some thought to how you’d handle it the next day and put it aside in a box in your head, leaving space to focus on what’s to eat that night and that funny story you can’t wait to tell your family. You’d arrive with a smile on your face, ready to start your “home” life and be available to your loved ones. Now imagine your loved ones are right there, in the office, behind your chair, as you finish your day. You’re still in work mode, trying to figure out how to handle some case, and your little one immediately asks, “Mummy, when’s dinner? Did you see my drawing? Where’s my favorite toy?” Will you respond as you would have after arriving home from your old office commute? Do your best to be as patient and kind with others (and yourself, as well) while everybody adjusts to this new way of life!
With these few tips, you’ll soon figure out how to get the most out of your home office while overcoming the drawbacks. And if there is any issue you have not found an answer to here, let us know in the comments. Our experienced freelancers worldwide may have a suggestion or two that you’ll find helpful.
Emilie Lefeuvre – Projects Director