5 Tips for Working Remotely
Working from home or remotely isn’t for everyone. With the recent Corona Virus Pandemic, more organizations are executing their business continuity plan with remote work and telecommuting. I’ve been working remotely for over 5 years. I often get the question: How do you do it?
Here are 5 tips to deliver results, collaborate and protect your personal brand.
First, write a daily to do list
Second, interact with co-workers
Third, schedule breaks throughout the day
Fourth, drown out the noise (or silence)
Finally, check in with your boss (or customer)
More details for each step are next.
1. Write a to-do list
Every day start by jotting down a to do list. I have a white board in my home office, and I write my list there. I write urgent tasks first, like the previous days e-mails or past due invoices. Next, I write down projects with approaching deadlines. Weekly and monthly tasks round up my to do list, so I won’t lose sight of them.
Here’s an example of a to-do list:
· Call Big Box Customer back
· Track down receipt from Nationwide Material Handling
· Retrieve the spreadsheets from last quarters financial analysis for customer
· Answer John’s question about the new software
· Work on the warehouse space utilization report for the Nebraska facility
· Review the inventory stocking request for Nashville
· Complete the South Carolina Greenfield Initiation Tollgate
· Call into I.T.’s “How to run Business Intelligence Reports” at 2:30
· E-mail or call Susan to discuss sales request for new products in South Carolina
· Run inventory accuracy reports for month end
· Review the dead & obsolete inventory reports
· Complete expense reports
2. Schedule meetings/calls
I actually got this tip from someone else when I first started working remotely. When working remotely, you still need to talk to people. Just because you’re physically not in the office, doesn’t mean you ask a co-worker if they caught the latest episode of Game of Thrones or how’s their new baby? At a minimum schedule 5 calls a week that are literally just to talk to people. When someone gave me the advice, they recommended the morning to start your day. For me, I’m a morning person, and that’s when I’m most productive. I try to schedule calls during my midday slump. When I felt like taking a nap (when you’re working remote, that’s a real option!) I get on the horn with another co-worker. It is the equivalent to a coffee or walk break if you were in the office. I know these tips are making it seem like working remotely is just as rigid as the office, but that’s whole point! You are still working! On a serious note, as people are working remotely don’t schedule a meeting or a call Friday afternoon. Seriously, people have 1 foot out of office, ready for the weekend. Use this time for urgent requests or finish open items.
3. Schedule breaks
When working remote, I noticed 2 phenomena can occur. First you can be so engrossed in your work, you don’t look up and the whole day has gone. Or you become distracted with every minute thing and cannot complete any tasks. I take the time to carve out breaks based on completing tasks, rather than set times. With my sample to do list, I allow my first break after completing all urgent tasks. It may take 20 minutes or 2 hours, but I won’t leave my desk until I checked those off. I schedule 3 breaks throughout the day, and the 1st one is the shortest. I use my first break to refill on coffee, grab a snack and check social media. After my first break, I start chugging away until lunch. Most of the time, I eat through lunch, but it will still take time to prepare. It’s personal preference, on whether you should actually stop working during lunch. For me, I prefer to cross off my to do list, so I won’t have to work later in the day. My last break is my outside break. I take 10-15 minutes to step outside and smell the roses… No literally, I go in the backyard to play with the dog or hit some putts. I take the time to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, I only have 2-3 tasks left for the day.
4. Listen to music, no T.V.
People often comment: “I couldn’t work from home…I would just sit down and watch T.V. all day.”
I agree 100%. If you turn on the T.V., you can get sucked into an episode where you can’t get away. It doesn’t matter if it’s Ellen, Dr. Phil or America’s Newsroom. If you turn on the T.V. it’s a slippery slope that you may slide into. What’s my recommendation to drown out the silence of working remotely?
Seriously, I prefer instrumental music like smooth jazz or post-rock songs. I like to play music where I won’t get lost in the lyrics. There are several outlets to play tunes without watching them like Pandora or Spotify. Trust me, outside of work I prefer Drake or Chance the rapper. What you don’t want to happen is someone for the office calls and you have “Nice for what…. You got 100 bands” blaring in the background. Trust me, I’ve been there. Remember, you’re still at work.
5. Contact your boss at the end of the day
Here’s my last tip. Contact your boss daily before signing off. When working remotely, I was able to earn a few promotions and protect my personal brand. One key is I keep constant contact with my boss. Every afternoon, I send my boss an IM, e-mail or call to just check in. The adage, “out of sight, out of mind” is true. Even though my boss couldn’t see me, I wanted him to know I was available. If someone asked my boss, “What is Brandon working on?” I wanted them to know what I was working on. Also, if I wasn’t working on the right thing, they had an opportunity to tell me. Out of the office, it’s easy to get blindsided, and regular contact with your boss is important.
Brandon Ashby is the managing partner for Warehouse Engineers and is a certified project management professional. If you are interested in a virtual project management office or improving collaboration, feel free to contact Brandon. He loves working with people, even remotely.