With more and more companies allowing work from home (WFH) during this time, I wanted to share my tips for working from home. As someone who has a full time career in finance, I’ve find the majority of posts on Instagram leave me scratching my head. Well intended, I’m sure, but largely impractical and inapplicable for the corporate world. Here is what I have found helpful outside accepting that things are going to be a little wild as we adapt.
1. Define a work space.
I can’t tell you how critical this is to my productivity and my mental state. While you’re trying to adapt to a new way of working, make a “home” for your work. Doesn’t matter where it is but I’d recommend a table and where possible, a dedicated office. Have your stuff there (notebook, pen, chargers, cup for water, etc.) and keep it there just like your desk at work. If you’re using your kitchen table as double duty, stack everything up at the end of the night in a pile and shift it off the table for dinner. Set it back up after dinner to use first thing in the morning.
Note that working out of the living room is not recommended. Being in front of the TV kills productivity and makes you work even longer! It’s also likely not great for your posture.
2. Keep the same work hours.
Things will be chaotic so continue to make sure you are working normal work hours. Without being about to see each other in the office, it’s important to know you can rely or reach someone during those hours. It also serves to create structure and a sense of familiarity for you. Note that I work the same hours as my Chicago team for this reason. Setting a schedule with your team also helps manage work-life balance in a time where some of us are likely working overtime.
If possible, extend this schedule to your outside of work activities: workouts, child care, etc.
3. Status calls.
My team has been doing weekly status calls every Monday for years. I’ve found them incredibly helpful to set the tone, connect, and align on dependencies. Figure out the cadence that works for your team and your industry. You may find that 15 minute status calls at the beginning and end of your day make more sense with your immediate team. If you work in supply chain, you may need more frequent status calls than another field. If you work in a client service industry, you may need a status call externally with the client 2x a week.
4. Use video.
Whether your company uses Webex, Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams, leverage it. You are likely used to using physical cues (body language, facial expressions, etc.) to guide your conversations in the office. While you hone your audio skills to be as adept during this time, take advantage of the ease of using one of these services. It also makes people feel more connected and meetings are more efficient.
5. Check in with your team.
Outside of status calls and coordinating deliverables, check in on the mental health of your team. Ask them how they are doing and if they have any concerns on a broader scale. Listen. Empathize. Take action or escalate where needed. Think about planning a virtual happy hour at the end of the week to get everyone through. The first 15 minutes of my team’s Monday status meetings is to catch up on everyone’s weekend. No business. Just an open forum to share anything people feel comfortable sharing.
6. Overcommunicate and chat.
If your team is new to WFH, it may be challenging to stay connected. Don’t be afraid to overcommunicate to make sure everyone is in sync. Let your boss know you received an urgent email with a “confirming receipt”. Tell someone an anticipated delivery time if you know they’re waiting on something you’re working on. Chat people for quick questions or to check in on timing. On a similar note, be responsive and available.
A best practice (I’m learning) is to check in with your team in the morning to let everyone know you’ve “arrived” at work and check out when you’re leaving for the day. If your team is open to it, do the same for lunch. We have been using Microsoft Teams to do this with our extended Finance team.
Also make sure that everyone on your team has each other’s emergency contact numbers. Try to only use in the case of an emergency though! Store this in a SharePoint so you can access without VPN.
7. Take breaks.
Schedule 15 minutes (or whatever your work policy is) in your calendar to remind yourself to get up and move around. Even if it’s just to put in a load of laundry.
8. Set ground rules at home.
This one is relevant if you are sharing your living space with others. Sync with those around you for when you need silence on conference calls (this is where a dedicated office space helps!), figure out how to co-care for kids with your significant other if your kids are out of school, divide up chores, and set rules. Almost all of the tips in this post can be applied to home life too now that I think of it!
Things are going to be a bit bumpy as we adjust. Remind yourself of that to keep your stress levels down and team morale up. Put a post it note on your computer screen with a reminder to be patient or even take a deep breath. You can also do this for other mental health tasks throughout the day.
10. Routine, routine, routine.
My morning routine is one of my favorite parts of the day. I drink my debloat tea and take Airborne while I read emails and plan which I’m going to tackle first. If I have an early call, I still drink my tea while on that call. It makes me so happy! Some people really like to have an end of the day routine too. The end of my day is to prep my Instagram post so I doubt that is much help for anyone!
11. Get ready for work.
I may be in the minority but I feel more productive when I’ve gotten ready for the day (i.e. I’m not still in my pajamas). Even if it means I switch into a clean sweatshirt and leggings. Maybe putting sneakers on helps you feel more put together than a pair of slippers. It depends on what is most comfortable to you. Getting ready means something different for everyone but psychologically, it tells my body it’s time to do something other than remaining in that sleepy state. It also prevents awkward situations should you be on video calls…
12. Get out.
Go outside for fresh air and walk around if possible before or after your work day. Stretching your legs will help with that cabin fever feeling and boost your endorphins. If you can’t get out of the house, do a quick stretch session or walk around the house like you would the office.
If there’s something that you need to meet optimum efficiency or even to be more comfortable, consider investing in this – especially if this is an indefinite or permanent arrangement for you. This could be as small as getting a mouse, mouse pad, or keyboard to work off of if you have a laptop. You can find these relatively cheaply. This may also mean double monitors (we just purchased these off Amazon). It might also be a great time to invest in headphones – I use my AirPods all day long! Or maybe even a comfortable office chair. Again, buy these things responsibly and only if they are low cost or you’ve been considering an at home office anyway.
You can also check with your company to see if they have a policy on this if what you need is outside of your means right now (i.e. if they will let you take your docking station and monitors home from the office during this time). Don’t just take though – that is an IT nightmare!
14. Task lists.
Whether this is using the tasks/flag function in outlook or writing your to do list down on a piece of paper, do it. Stay organized. Create a new list for every day and try to prioritize which ones you need to work on first. If you can’t prioritize, as your boss for which ones are most critical.
15. End your day.
It’s really easy to suffer from work creep and spend your entire night working. Force yourself to shut your laptop at a reasonable hour depending on what is happening with your job. If you really have anxiety about this, step away for an hour or two to eat dinner and relax. Come back and read the rest of your emails or anything new. Flag the ones you need to tackle first in the morning. Don’t respond late at night unless absolutely necessary.
Personally, I always check my emails on my phone using the Outlook app. I’m one of those zero red notification people on my phone. I’d prefer to know what I’m walking into in the morning versus be surprised. This is completely personal preference and is something I’ve been doing for years. If this doesn’t work for you, totally fine!
Is there something you have found helpful when you WFH? Please share below so we can all benefit!