12 Tips To Effectively Manage Working From Home
Covid showed us that many jobs can be performed remotely without sacrificing quality. Now that Covid fears have eased, many prefer to continue working from home in either Hybrid or Fully Remote roles. People love the flexibility, and reporting shows many people are more productive without having to commute, or the social distractions in an office.
Here are 12 tips to effectively manage working from home:
- Create a Schedule
When you or your partner are working from home, create daily and weekly schedules in advance for who will be working where and when, and who will be in charge of childcare activities and other responsibilities. Writing it down makes it easier for everyone to follow. There are many shared apps like Google Calendar, though writing it down on a piece of paper and hanging it on the fridge will do too.
Having a schedule so family members know when they can and can’t come to you is helpful for maintaining focus. I have a dedicated office at home. My kids know that when the door is closed, they should not come in without texting first to make sure I’m not having a meeting.
I like to tackle important tasks in the mornings after my kids leave for school. The house is quiet and I can concentrate. Once my kids get home, it’s harder to stay focused on tasks that require my attention.
Some companies are OK with a flexible work schedule, as long as productivity doesn’t suffer. Instead of a traditional 9-5 schedule, some firms allow people to block windows of time throughout the day to accomplish their work tasks. This is especially helpful if you have to drop off/pick up kids during the day and supervise homework. Some people are effective working in early morning hours, or later in the evening when it’s less hectic to make up the time when kids need attention. In this type of arrangement, it’s important to have clearly defined productivity expectations and not to feel like you need to work all night to justify the 2-hour break in the middle of the day.
- Designate Spaces
Create specific places to work, and only use them for that purpose if possible. For example, the space you set up in the guest room as an office is only an office (unless you need it for a guest). By designating a space to focus on working in, it will help create boundaries. This allows you to focus, in a similar way commuting to an office gives you mental time to focus on your way there in the am, and to decompress on your way home. Try to be consistent about separating where your work life, and your personal life exist.
- Dress for Work
Resist the temptation to live in sweats. Having a routine will help get you focused for work. Getting up at the same time, sticking to your exercise routine (whether it’s before or after work), showering and dressing as you would normally when going to the office, will help keep you focused. When you’re focused and have a set schedule, you’ll be more productive.
- Embrace the Flexibility
People love working from home, but often fear utilizing the flexibility. In years past I would have to choose which school events I could attend because it meant leaving work early and asking my supervisor for that flexibility, which would be held over my head later on. Now I go to every game, every meeting, everything. As long as you’re meeting your goals, embrace the flexibility!
- Schedule Breaks
It’s important to take breaks as you normally would in the office, though when you’re home it’s easy to lose track of time. Schedule breaks on your calendar like you would any other meeting, and then stick to them. Even if it’s just a 15-minute break to stand up and stretch. Scheduling it on your calendar creates a block so colleagues know you’re busy. A quick break allows you to return to your tasks refreshed and productive.
- Don’t Spot Check People Using Zoom
I hear stories of managers who start impromptu video meetings to see if team members are there. This is the same as the pre-covid manager who shows up behind a cubicle unannounced to look at the screen and see who’s working. Resist that urge. It’s micromanagement and anyone who has experienced it hates it. Instead, send a quick Slack message asking if the person is available. If you feel you need to use video meetings to see if someone is working, there’s a larger reason you don’t trust that employee. If you’ve properly hired and trained your team, they will be doing their job without you having to look over their shoulder.
- Make a To Do List
When I started my career, my mentor told me to take the last 30 minutes of the day to plan tomorrow. This helps me jump in to the important tasks, or wherever I left off, without trying to remember what I was doing at the end of yesterday.
There’s a variety of free productivity apps designed to help people manage their time. There are apps to manage whole projects, and others to simply help you stick to a schedule by giving alerts when it’s time to switch tasks. Outlook can accomplish this, or you can find a variety of different apps to assist you. Whatever system you choose, make sure you stick to it and resist the urge (or feeling of obligation) to work all night and skip family time.
- Communicate Honestly with Your Team
With kids at home, a 9-5 workday may not be realistic. You may need to pick up or drop off kids at specific times. You may notice that you are more productive working earlier in the am (when you were previously commuting) or possibly even before people are awake. Maybe you’re more productive after dinner, or if you have young kids, once they go to sleep. Whatever approach best accomplishes your daily work tasks, discuss them and work out a schedule. It’s best if everyone on the team is on the same page about availability and productivity expectations.
- Don’t let social media distract you
Unless you work in Digital Marketing, don’t allow yourself to be distracted by social media. Log out of those accounts while you’re working to reduce the temptation. When you are on social media, it often seems like friends or colleagues have everything more organized and figured out, they don’t.
- Interact With People Face to Face
Working remotely can lead to feeling isolated. It’s a good idea to have video chats with colleagues to stay connected. Ask a colleague if they’re free for a Zoom, every interaction doesn’t have to be Slack. Meet a colleague for coffee, lunch, or some drinks from time to time. You can still have the social dynamic of the office when working remotely.
- Use a VPN
If you are connected to a Wi-Fi network you do not control, use a VPN. This includes co-working spaces, coffee shops, hotels, etc. This is a good security measure to protect your personal data, as well as your employers. An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.
- Create Boundaries
When commuting means walking from your bedroom to the next room (or across the same room), it can be a challenge to know when to end your day. Set a reminder so you know when it’s time to shut down. Turn your computer off and store it so you’re not tempted to jump back in for one more work email. Though you may be living in your office, don’t allow yourself to live at work.
Remote and Flexible work arrangements are highly desirable; they will help retain existing as well as attract new employees. Remote programs require a different management approach, as well as time management strategies for both managers and employees. Especially in a tight labor market, this will make your firm stand out from the pack and fuel growth!