We're in an unprecedented time right now where more employees and students than ever before are being asked to work remotely to slow the novel COVID-19 outbreak. It's important we all remain flexible and open to this new way of doing things for the time being, especially since we don't know how long the pandemic will last.
Since we’re a company that specializes in virtual learning, and since working and educating remotely is the "new normal," we thought we’d share some tips on working from home. While we'll be referencing "working remotely" throughout this piece, this can absolutely apply to students learning remotely; learning is their job after all.
- Communicate Expectations- The first thing you want to do is to communicate with your manager, teacher, teammates, or classmates. What is the expectation now that you won't be meeting at a set time in an office or a classroom? Does your manager want you to be sitting at the computer ready to communicate at specific hours? Will you have daily check-in meetings? Do you still have set work hours or is your schedule flexible as long as you get your work done? You'll also want to communicate expectations to the people you live with, whether that be a partner, roommate, children, etc. Let them know that even though you’ll be present, that doesn’t mean long lunches, unscheduled conversations, or more downtime. Those activities can certainly be built into your day but communicate that just like when you’re in the office, there will be certain times you can be reached, and other times when you need to work without interruptions. Work together to create a plan that makes everyone successful.
- Create a Schedule- One benefit of working remotely is the flexibility, but we've found creating a schedule of what needs to be done ensures those tasks are completed. It's up to you how this is done, and it might take a few tries to see what works, but developing at least a basic routine takes out the guesswork.
- Prioritize- Figure out what tasks are more important. Identify what distracts you. Figure out which tasks take you a long time, and what you can do quickly. Figure out the order and importance of what needs to be done when.
- Rid Yourself of Distractions- This will take some self-assessing. Create a space for yourself that will allow you to get the work done you need. Maybe this means keeping your phone in another room. Maybe it means logging out of all your social media accounts. Maybe it just means scheduling a break every few hours when you could take a walk or indulge in your distractions, and return with a renewed focus.
- Communicate Clearly- Let your team, students, teacher, or coworkers know what's going on. We'd suggest over communicating to start, while everyone is still figuring out a schedule and structure that works best. You need to build that trust and rapport. Setting expectations early is a great way to set a precedent of what communication should look like during this time. Communicating via email or instant message doesn't include nuances like body language, facial expression, or tone, which can make miscommunication more likely. Humor and sarcasm can also be easily misconstrued. Be aware of this when you both read and write correspondences.
- Create a Community- Some people fear the isolation that comes with working from home, but the good news is that the technology that allows you to work that way, also allows you to connect with others. Utilize company message boards and communication channels like Slack or Microsoft TEAMS, or social media groups and hashtags to maintain a dialogue with your coworkers/co-learners. There's also an entire online community full of professional groups on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Reddit.
- Create Boundaries- Not everyone has the luxury of a home office. You might end up working from your bedroom or living room, blurring the lines between personal and professional. It's easy to stay too plugged in, so much like you need to self-assess and rid yourself of distractions, it's also smart to build times to take walks, make lunch, or get in that mid-day workout if that's what it takes to keep you productive and not tied to the computer 24-7.
- Understand Your Obstacles- Self-reflection is key to any good worker. It's always beneficial to identify what give you the most trouble. Figure that out so you can overcome it.
- Be Patient- Working remotely may be an easy transition for you, but it won't be for everyone. Even though we live in a technologically driven world, different people possess different levels of technological literacy. In other words: just because you can pick up remote habits quickly, doesn't mean everyone will. Keep that in mind.
- Be Adaptable- Be adaptable. Be flexible. Be open to pivots, changes, and conversations about what works and what doesn't. It's important anytime we start a new venture to realize that the first thing you try may not be the best. A wireless connection may go down, a message you sent may not be taken the way you intended, or a collaboration may not be as seamless as you wanted. Learn from it, communicate about it, and set new expectations, goals, and practices. Be patient, be flexible, and take things one day at a time.