At 729 Solutions, we’ve been working remotely for years and learned to adapt to the work from home lifestyle. The great news is you can learn from our mistakes. Here are the top 10 mistakes we’ve made, so you don’t have to.
1. Get up and Get Moving!
Take a 5-10 minute break every hour. Working away from the office means your body isn’t taking the smaller breaks it was used to getting up until now…. walking to a meeting room, a break room, or chatting with someone a few cubicles down the aisle was a chance to get up and move. When working remotely, it’s easy to forget about taking the essential breaks your body needs. By the end of the day your back and shoulders can be stiff or painful. So, if your dog is looking at you longingly as if to say, “I thought you would be walking me now that you’re home all day;” take the hint and go out for a walk around the corner. Every 20 minutes, look away from your computer, re-check your posture, stretch and move around.
2. Get Changed to Get Productive!
At 729, one major benefit from working from home is the ability to dress comfortably. Avoiding those high dry cleaning bills and all that extra time in the morning getting ready is golden. For most of us though, we feel differently depending upon the way we’re dressed. Our behavior tends to align with our wardrobe. In no way are we suggesting that you throw out that favorite pair of leggings and fuzzy socks in favor of a 3 piece suit or heels. However, if you’re finding that you’re working all day in the same pajamas you slept in, consider adopting a comfortable business casual attire. We love loose, wrinkle-free pants, comfy sweaters, polos, and spending at least a few minutes getting ready at the start of your work shift. These actions go a long way towards getting into that ready to work mindset. A good rule of thumb: if your attire will pass the casual Friday office test, it may go a long way toward putting you in work mode. And, you definitely don’t want to be that employee that wears the work shirt and boxers on a video conference and gets up to get something in the middle of the call (real example).
3. Location, Location, Location!
Location is everything in real estate and home workspace. Set up a place that is conducive to the work environment. It is important to have a space that feels separate from living space or eating space. We recommend a workstation far away from the kitchen or tv. At 729, we’ve been known to eat WAY more when the computer is also close to the kitchen. Not only is it helpful to avoid continuous grazing, but it’s also nice to avoid continuous disruptions from other members of the household interrupting meetings and grabbing snacks from the fridge while you’re on conference calls. We don’t recommend you work from your bed either. Associate your bed and sleep with relaxation and not work. Don’t mix the two environments or you just may find yourself sleeping when you’re supposed to be working and visa versa.
4. Find a Good Pillow to Punch When Communication Breaks Down With Co-Workers … you’ll understand shortly…
Communication by email, IM, phone, and conferencing platforms are amazing tools for collaboration….and also they are definitely not the same as sitting across from someone face-to-face in a meeting or dropping by their cubicle for a discussion. Inevitably, at some point, communication will go awry. It will cause stress…lots of stress. Understand that this will happen as you, and others, get used to this new virtual communication-only model. Take a break, breathe, and have a punching bag or pillow handy to let off some steam.
5. Healthy Habits Help Productivity
Healthy habits can keep you energized as well as elevate your mood. Remember to stay hydrated by keeping a bottle of water handy at all times. Fuel yourself with snacks like fruit, veggies, and lean proteins to feel full and refueled.
6. If You Start Talking to Yourself More Often Than Not…It’s Time to Call a Friend and Get Some Human Contact!
If you start talking to yourself as much as Tom Hanks’ character spoke to Wilson the ball in Castaway, it’s time to call a friend and take a break. Working remotely can be felt by many as lonely, to say the least. Gone are the walks around the office building, chats with your neighbor in the next workstation, birthday pot-lucks, and seasonal office parties. Now the only contact is with the occasional postal worker or UPS driver. At 729, we found that calling on Facetime, or video conference with a friend during lunch or breaks can have a big impact in feeling connected.
7. Continue to Treat Working From Home as Work!
Imagine you’re getting up to work in the office. Set the alarm, get ready, be at your workstation on time and ready to be productive. Create a work schedule and let others in your home environment know your schedule – and stick to it. Let others on your work team know your hours by communicating through IM, meeting calendars, and away notifications. Every morning, write down 5 work goals that you want or need to accomplish. Review the list at the end of the day and carry over any unfinished items on the list to the next business day. Communicate right away with your leadership team if you’re having challenges with assigned tasks because of technical problems, or other work from home issues.
8. Ready Set, Fun!
Just because you’re working hard and maintaining a professional remote work environment, doesn’t mean you have to throw fun out the window. Keeping in mind the unique work culture and allowances is the primary importance, however, consider adding in some fun. At 729, one of our team set his video conference background with a roaring fire and fancy stage set location. Another 729 team member creates our weekly newsletter in a video format. Bringing team building exercises to some of your weekly meetings can add some fun camaraderie, and an opportunity to get to know your co-workers better. Most importantly, it can be a great motivator and add fun. We all need more of that!
9. Remote Work and Life Balance!
Be mindful of working time and non-work time. Just because we are working from home does not mean that work never ends. It’s easy to forget to stop working. Be mindful of the time you spend working by utilizing effective timekeeping methods. When your work is done, shut off that computer and put it away. Again, this is why a dedicated workspace, located away from your living space, is important. Otherwise, the tendency can be that you never relax and work never feels over. Consider turning your IM and email notifications off when you’re finished for the day. Remember to be mindful of and take your lunches and breaks. Also, avoid taking lunch and breaks in the same spot you work. This way, your break areas can be associated with relaxation. Add lunch and breaks to your calendar as a reminder. Set a phone alarm to remind you when it’s time to resume work.
10. Ten Minutes on Reddit is Never Just Ten Minutes on Reddit…or Other Social Media!
You decide to check your Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, or Tik Tok, etc. Since no one is working in the same office next to you, there is no one there to notice. Minutes have gone by, then more minutes. A chunk of the work time and productivity is lost, never to be regained. Social media is fun, social media keeps you engaged…. and engaged….and engaged. Save the social media for your breaks and after hours.
A Note From Our Creative Director, Nikki
If you’re like me, then you’re reading this list thinking… I’ve broken every single one of our own rules! I’m in my pajamas with unbrushed hair, on my sofa, with the TV on for background noise. The dog is staring at me longingly for a walk, and I’m aimlessly scanning my to-do list – trying to give myself direction for the day.
The list above that Justine has gathered for you is chock full of awesome tips that really will make your work from home experience more productive – but I wanted to leave one more bonus tip here for you — Give yourself a break! Literally! Some days you’re going to hop out of bed, get a run, a shower, breakfast and coffee in all before your first video conference of the day – And some days you’re not! Let yourself wear the sweat pants every now and then. Move to the sofa when you’re reading that boring 30-page report. You’ll find a flow and figure out what works for you in this new, unprecedented time. And when you don’t – don’t be so hard on yourself.
We sincerely hope this post has been helpful for you all – and wish you good health and happiness as you find the new “normal” in your work from home experience.