I started working from home over a decade ago. At the time, I was the only remote worker at CGI Interactive, which meant I needed to find my own path. And the most important thing I’ve learned is how crucial it is to look critically (and frequently) at what’s working, and what isn’t.
Right now, there are a lot of you who are new to this same journey, who have been working remote for a week or two. There are tons of tools and tips out there, but all that information can be overwhelming, especially when you’re probably navigating a lot of other changes as well. So, I want to focus on helping you put together a plan of action to craft your own approach and figure out what will work best for you, and for your company.
First, make a plan
There’s a good chance you may dive right into working remote without thinking a lot about what successful remote work looks like for you. Try to answer the following questions, and actually write the answers down so that you can revisit later:
- Where will I work from?
- What hours will I work, and how will I maintain work/life balance?
- What technology tools will I use to collaborate?
- Do I want to use my former commute time for my professional development (learning a new skill, listening to an industry podcast), or would that time be better spent doing something else for my mental health (taking a walk, playing with my kids, reading, sketching)?
- Important side note: There isn’t a wrong answer — your situation is unique to you. You may be working from home with young kids also home, or you may just need to maintain your sanity by taking a walk, etc. Just make an intentional plan for what will work best for you, otherwise it tends to disappear like a sock in the dryer!
- What obstacles do I anticipate in working from home (boredom, loneliness, distraction) and how do I plan to overcome these?
- How can I maintain clear communication with my co-workers?
Try to paint a picture of your expectations. If there are things you know you need to do for your own sanity/productivity, schedule them on your calendar, and make sure that your co-workers know if there are times you’re unavailable. If there are things that you want to make into new daily habits, either set up reminders on your phone or make a list that’s clearly displayed on your wall.
Then, reassess for success
The reality is that because business is continually evolving, how you connect with your team may need to evolve as well. Make a recurring appointment on your calendar to assess how things are going. When you’re first starting, make it frequently, and lower the frequency over time. But even if you’ve been at it a long time, keep a quarterly reassessment appointment with yourself.
When you reassess:
- Make it an actual calendar appointment and hold yourself to it. Reschedule it if something comes up in that time frame. If thoughts occur between these scheduled check-ins, you can add them as a note on the appointment.
- Examine your mindset, your communication (tips here, here, and here!), how you’re using your time, and your workspace.
- Be honest with yourself about what’s working and what isn’t.
- Take the opportunity to ask one or two colleagues for their thoughts.
- Be open to adjusting your process to make the most of working anywhere.
- Look to see if there are any new tools or apps that may improve the way you work.
- Keep a document for these check-ins and note any actions you want to take.
The culture of work has changed drastically, with people doing work from anywhere, anytime. As you prepare to work from home, be honest with yourself, your colleagues, and your bosses. Engage in a dialogue that encourages honesty in return. As a mom, I hear the term survive versus thrive a lot. I think it applies to work as well. The goal shouldn’t be how to survive remote work; the goal should be how to thrive as a company and employee in a remote work environment.