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The 6 Pillars of Working from Home
Creating your own schedule? Answering emails in your pajamas? Working from home can seem like the pinnacle of employment success. However, those already working from home know that reality paints a different picture. Many of us have recently transitioned into working from home and are navigating the challenges that come along with it. To help you embrace this business trend, we’ve put together a guide on the 6 pillars of working from home.
01. Set Expectations
As an employee, remember that working from home is a privilege, not a right.
If you have a job that allows you to work from home, cherish it, but be realistic about the limitations. Do you have any challenges you’ll encounter while working from home? By anticipating issues ahead of time, you can develop tools and strategies to stay on track. Consider establishing more frequent check-ins via video call. Or re-prioritize your workflow to better support upcoming challenges.
Set expectations with yourself and your employer early on. Forming a clear idea of what you plan to accomplish each week will help keep you and your team happy. Consider booking time in a local co-working space to hash out new roles and responsibilities.
While productivity may wax and wane as you start working from home, it’s crucial that you and your employer are aligned on your overall goals and responsibilities. Remember, some days will be more productive than others. Cut yourself slack and be flexible as you develop your new routine.
02. Create Boundaries
Draw clear definitions between your work and home life.
When working from home, it’s easy for your personal and work life to blend into one. Without the physical act of commuting to the office, it’s hard to tell the difference between “being at work” and “being at home”. Try keeping a schedule or developing a routine to get into “work mode” each morning. While wearing pajamas and watching Netflix is tempting, it may not support your productivity or an overall sense of well-being. Try experimenting with a new breakfast routine, taking a walk, or exercising at the end of your workday.
Create a separate space for work
Having a designated workspace sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to start work. It also sends a “Do Not Disturb” message to your family or anyone you live with. Investing in a new chair, desk, or monitor can help you get your space established. A new plant, mug, or coffee machine can also liven up your work-from-home sanctuary. At the end of the day, make sure to separate from your physical workspace by putting away your computer, closing the office door, or turning off email notifications on your phone. Creating a division of space enables you to maintain the balance between your personal and work life.
Set expectations in your household
It’s hard for kids, pets, and even spouses to wrap their heads around this one. Start by communicating with your household on why you need uninterrupted time to work. Signals like a closed door, Post-it note sign, or headphones can all help reinforce the fact that you are in “work-mode”. If you have small children, you may need to invest in childcare, or schedule parenting responsibilities with a partner. A well-stocked snack drawer, pre-planned school assignments, and strategic toys can also keep younger family members occupied while you get the job done. If your finances allow, a house cleaner or nanny can handle the household chores that surface while you’re working at home.
03. Communication is key
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to communicate expectations to your employer, family, and even yourself. The need for frequent, clear, and honest communication is amplified when you are working from home. Like other skills, good communication takes practice and hard work. When you’re collaborating in-person, you have the benefit of reading body language and facial expressions. When working remotely, you lack the full context of the words exchanged and risk coming off short or creating confusion.
A few communication tips & ideas to try:
Take your time to formulate your ideas when communicating with your team. There is room for misunderstanding, so proof-read messages before hitting “Send”.
When there is doubt, ask for clarification rather than making assumptions.
Anticipate the questions you’ll receive from your audience and team. Be prepared with answers.
Use attachments, links, and visuals to show your idea.
Use bullets, italics, and bold font to make messages easier to read.
Take notes and send a list of action items after every call.
Add an agenda to every meeting invite, including materials that should be reviewed before the call.
Use your video. It helps convey emotion and keeps your audience engaged.
Start with an ice-breaker. Dad jokes (keep it appropriate) and dog pictures are usually a safe bet.
Book a conference room on a weekly or monthly basis.
What happens when you lack communication?
Working from home can lead to isolation. Frequent project updates, roundtable discussions, and progress reports help ensure your team stays in alignment. Without constant communication, you risk inefficiency, missed opportunities, and conflict. Progress updates give everyone a chance to stay in touch and ensure that their work is supporting your teams’ overall goals.
There are many useful tools teams can use to stay in touch: Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Asana, Basecamp, and more. Whatever tool you choose, make sure that everyone is using it.
Why you need to be vocal during meetings.
In day-to-day life, you may consider yourself shy or reserved. But when working from home, team meetings are not the time to hold back. Merely being present does not count for participation in a roundtable discussion. It's important to express your concerns and to communicate what you need to get your tasks done. It might be uncomfortable but in the long run it will help you stay successful while working from home.
Tips for sharing during meetings:
Get comfortable with the “Mute” and “Un-Mute” buttons on your conferencing software.
Awkward fumbles will occur; don’t panic. Pause, invite the other person to start speaking, then respond to their comment appropriately.
If you plan on sharing your screen, have your documents and browser tabs prepared.
Invest in a good headset, monitor, and webcam.
04. Invest in Technology & Office Furniture
The right tools for the job
The right technology makes your work more productive, and dare we say, fun. While working from home, you may require a different set of tools to support your efficiency. A good tech stack is key to a smooth workday. Access support from your IT department if possible, or schedule time with colleagues to learn about the tools they are using.
Headset: Depending on your workflow, a good headset may be helpful. Gaming headsets with a dedicated earphone and microphone are usually a good bet. A headset with a noise-canceling microphone is key for chaotic households. If you’re unable to find a quiet area in your home, this feature can reduce the noise on the other end of your conference call. Noise-canceling headphones are also a favorite of designers and programmers. By reducing the ambient distractions around you, you may find it easier to focus on tasks and projects.
Monitors: Some people opt for one monitor while others rely on two or three screens to support their working style. In either case, it’s essential that your monitors are set to eye level to avoid neck strain.
Desk: Make sure that you have enough surface area to comfortably access your computer, mouse, and monitor. A sit-stand desk is a great option to keep your lower back and neck from getting stiff.
Chair: Opt for a chair that’s designed to support long periods of sitting. Newer models allow for greater freedom of movement, variation, and natural sitting positions. There are several stylish and comfortable models on the market. Make sure to adjust the hand rest and back support as needed.
Internet Speeds (ISP): Check with your internet provider to verify your current bandwidth. You can also check your internet bandwidth for free online. A fast, robust bandwidth is essential for anyone working from home. If possible, connect directly to the router.
Wifi Repeater: If your router or access point is far away from your computer, try to get an ethernet over power connector. If that’s not possible, get a wifi repeater.
Technology to improve your workflow
Project Management Software: The right software is essential for keeping you and your team organized. While most teams manage their projects from their inbox, a robust project management tool can improve the efficiency and quality of your work. There are countless free and low-cost solutions available on the market. Our favorite tool is Asana. Asana allows us to bring our team into one central "workroom." We use it to assign tasks, keep track of documents, and foster good communication. With a range of project templates to choose from, it’s easy to learn as you go.
Instant Messaging: While the majority of important communication occurs within an email, instant messaging has an important role in working from home. When communication happens in emails, it removes other people in the team from the knowledge store. Slack is a popular messaging platform that seeks to replace email. The idea is that you communicate with your team on specific channels or rooms, and the data lives with the organization. When a new person is onboarding to the company, all they have to do is review the conversations, and they are up-to-speed on the latest projects.
Video Conferencing: By now, everyone is familiar with platforms like Zoom, Webex, and Skype. With ever-advancing features like polls, reactions, and breakout rooms, video conferencing has evolved to become more interactive. Encourage your team to use their web camera during meetings, and utilize security protocols to ensure your data is safe
05. Self Care While Working from Home
Why should you get dressed in the morning?
When you are working from home, it’s easy to lose track of time. Over the day, the line between work and life begins to blur. Showering and getting dressed for work sets a tone and gives your mind a kickstart into “work mode”. While staying in bed and working in your pajamas is appealing, it’s not necessarily the best choice for your physical or mental well-being. You may want to purchase some new casual work clothes to wear around the house. Cotton button-downs, jeans, and simple, clean tee-shirts are all great options. If you wear makeup or style your hair, considering adopting a new “working from home look” that’s easy but makes you feel put together.
Take breaks away from work.
When working from home, you might find yourself logged in from sunup to sundown. Making a schedule with regular breaks can help you avoid burnout and fatigue. In fact, many people find that their best ideas come after a walk around the neighborhood, afternoon yoga session, or coffee with a friend. It’s essential to give your mind and your eyes a break from your devices. When you give yourself a chance to rest, you come back refreshed and energized to take on a challenge. Just make sure to mark your calendar and update your instant messaging status so colleagues are clear on your availability.
Establish a ritual for winding down.
Rituals help you to establish a rhythm for the day. You may develop a morning routine involving coffee, stretching, and reading. Or you might find that evenings are a prime time to initiate a workout routine. Something as simple as lighting a candle or putting on music can be a helpful transition tool. Think about what you can do to end your workday and transition to relaxation time.
Create new ways to do familiar things.
When working from home, it's easy for things to get monotonous. Keep it fresh by getting creative with your tasks. Try standing up at your workspace (a sit-stand desk helps). If you have access to an outdoor space, take the day’s work outside. Buy a new mug to keep at your workspace. Sample a new tea or juice. Mix up your schedule. Experiment with a different workout. Whatever you do, remember that variety is the spice of life when it comes to working from home.
Don’t neglect your physical health.
For some, working from home lends itself to poor health habits. Issues with stress, posture, snacking, and a lack of physical activity can all be compounded when you switch to working from home. These habits can cause your health to deteriorate, and ultimately make it harder to focus and be productive. Make time for exercise in your routine. Get proper rest, eat well. It all helps!
06. How do I find a job working from home?
Before the 2020 pandemic, finding reliable work-from-home positions was a challenge. Now, working from home has become commonplace for many large organizations. If you are searching for a job that you can take while working from home, it’s important to be discerning. There are dozens of scams advertising high-paying, entry-level work from home positions. A simple rule of thumb: if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not! Always use reputable sources when starting your job search. Below is a list of the top work resources to check out:
Remote.co brands itself as a resource for companies to view remote work as an opportunity, not as a challenge. They market their platform as a source of expert insight, best practices, and valuable support for “organizations exploring a remote team as a significant portion of their workforce.” This website is more than a job search engine, it offers detailed advice. The community board currently has 36 members, and over seven hundred questions answered. One thread entitled "What is the best way to find a remote job?" has some great information.
Lauren Antonian says this: "Look for jobs at Fortune 50 companies. Large companies with a nationwide footprint tend to be in the top 50 of Fortune's list and, due to their national presence, are more likely to have remote working options."
Remote.co has several categories to search by. Check out the footer text of the website with links to jobs by different industries:
Indeed is one of the “go-to” search engines for anyone looking for work. At the time this article was written, they had 116,432 remote jobs listed on their site. Some of these are listed as fully remote, while some are temporarily remote due to COVID-19. Indeed has a clean interface that focuses on just one thing: finding jobs! Many posts also include salary or hourly pay upfront. Indeed uses this data to create a salary guide for most positions.
Flexjobs.com is another resource to explore. Keep in mind that this is a paid service. You can only see the pricing table if you create an account. They’re currently offering discounted services at $49 per year. Flexjobs does provide several free articles for anyone looking for remote work: we like this article on how to manage job search burnout.
Ziprecruiter boasts 596,064 remote or “work from home” positions on its website.
Similar to Indeed, Ziprecruiter has a clean design with a focus on finding jobs. Their search engine includes several ways to drill down to the right opportunity. You can filter by salary, location, and even job title. Once you find a position that you like, Ziprecruiter does an excellent job of recommending similar postings to limit distraction. They also have a mobile app available for anyone searching on the go.
We work remotely is one of our favorite remote job boards. With a good design and high-quality listings, this site claims to be trusted by the world's top companies, like Amazon and GitHub. When browsing jobs, you may find opportunities with unlimited vacation, professional development packages, and hardware provided. Employers pay $299 to post their positions on the website, but the content is free to job seekers.
Another site worth mentioning is upwork.com. Upwork is a global market for freelancer positions and projects. While the site has plenty of listings, it does require patience and grit to find the right opportunities. It takes time to build your profile, get reviews, and find the right gig.
It’s also important to remember that since you are competing in a global market, negotiating compensation can feel like a race to the bottom. Use the filter “available to freelancers in the United States” to keep prices in line with your market value. By verifying that your bank is in the US, you will have access to higher-paid opportunities.
There are lots of resources out there for you to find remote work and work from home positions. Try to stay patient, keep a detailed list, and stay positive until you find the right job for you.