So how do you stay on track as a remote team? It basically comes down to self-care and firm boundaries. You have to abide by a few best practices to be successful. Your workspace, time management, and communication are key to killing it while working from home.
How to Set the Stage for WFH
Start Your Day
To set the stage for focus and productivity whilst working remotely have an activity that marks the start of your workday. Mine is taking a shower, get dressed, make coffee, unfurl my computer.
I live in a small apartment, but still, I prefer to work from my home rather than a public place. I save money, can listen to music, mix in-house chores on breaks, and it’s quiet if I need to take a call. Wifi connections at cafes and other public places are often unreliable, and I hate nothing more than crawling around looking for an outlet to charge my computer.
Take Breaks and Move
Frequent short breaks will make you more productive. One thing that I noticed immediately when I started working from home is that I became far less physically active, and honestly became a bit of a hermit. This ultimately impacted my mood and the comfort of my jeans… Find an activity outside of your home that works for you, like a walk around the block. If nothing else, there are heaps of exercise apps you can use at home if you’re feeling like a hermit. Try a seven minute exercise break or find a local class to attend on apps like Mindbody.
End Your Day
No matter your space, it’s important to unplug and remove traces of your workday from your living areas. Set clear work/life boundaries by putting away your computer to reset for evening relaxation. If you are lucky enough to have a home office, leave that room and close the door. Do not check Slack or work emails while you’re off the clock. In my home, we never use computers off the clock, after all, that’s what iPads are for, right? 🙂
Set Time Boundaries
Set a timer when you start working. At Crowned, we use Harvest or Toggl. Even if you aren’t working on an hourly contract, it’s important to know how much time you spend working. This helps to create healthy boundaries and achieve the ever-fleeting work-life balance. Make sure you have office hours and put them on your calendar along with a lunch break every day.
Make a List
An easy way to stay on track and feel accomplished is to get into the habit of making a daily or weekly list. I know for me, if I don’t have a list, I’ll feel like I forgot something and then the anxiety kicks in.
There are heaps of apps that can help you with this, like Asana, Google Tasks, Apple Reminders, or a notebook and a pen! I love the feeling of crossing tasks off of a list I write out on paper. Oh, the satisfaction!
Take Time Off
WFH doesn’t mean you work through the pain of sickness or injury. It’s very easy to get sucked into feeling like since you work from home, you can work regardless of how you feel. Working while sick isn’t a good precedent to set for yourself or your team, and it can contribute to the dreaded burnout, which is now recognized by the World Health Organization as a disease. Try not to fall into the habit of “being well enough to take a call.” Give yourself a break and let your body rest and heal.
Lots of remote teams in the US have the “unlimited PTO” benefit. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen folks not take PTO unless reminded. Take at least 3-4 weeks off per year to recharge and relax. If you’re not one for big trips, take several long weekends each quarter.
Set Clear Expectations
Communicate clearly and directly with your colleagues, use shared project management tools for collaboration, and if you have a meeting set, try your best to keep it. Tell your team that clear and direct communication is expected of them as well. This will help to quell the uncertainty, frustrations, and potential saltiness that can spring up as a remote team. Your colleagues need to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, just like in any office.
Use the Right Tools
If you’re not using apps for project management and communication, you’re missing the boat. I recently worked at an office where they failed to implement web-based project management tools and modern communication apps and it wasn’t pretty. The number one thing that those colleagues reported struggling with at that office was poor communication, and it led to a revolving door of talented people, myself included!
As a manager, if you don’t have skills with modern project management and communication tools, delegate this or hire someone who does. Consultants with know-how in this area, like Crowned, can set up the infrastructure for these tools and train both you and your staff on how to use them effectively. Using modern project management and communication software will make for a more productive and happier team!
Most remote teams I’ve worked on exclusively communicate via Slack, with weekly meetings on Zoom. I’ve worked at startups that inspired different levels of team socializing. I’ve found that a little fun builds trust, and also alleviates the strain of our busy lives. Having human connections with your colleagues will make work more enjoyable.
In practice, this can look different on every team. When I started at Crowned, I was delighted when I was asked to describe my weekend in only gifs or emojis. It breaks the ice, adds a little whimsy, and laughter increases productivity!
Bonus Points for WFH
In any industry you might work in, you have to keep learning all the time. Read blogs, listen to podcasts, follow topics of your industry in your news feed, join online groups, follow industry leaders on social media, and share what you learn with your team. Have discussions and learn what your colleagues are doing to stay ahead in your field.
Written by: Betty Bair