Working from home is relatively new to many organizations, though the positive impacts for companies and employees are vast and include: increased productivity, a happier and more balanced workforce, access to a global workforce, lower costs for office space, improved employee retainment, lower requiting costs, zero relocation costs, zero commute, healthier employees, lower insurance costs for the organization and lower absenteeism.
Even with the tremendous benefits of working from home, some managers and employees may struggle with adjusting to the change in environment. Here are a few strategies that will help ensure you and your teams are successful with the transition from office working to working from home. Share these tips with your co-workers and your manager. Have a team chat to discuss what other strategies you can implement together to ensure success for the entire team.
1. Set Clear Expectations
Establishing clear expectations is important in any relationship, and even more so during working from home situations. Clearly outline what hours remote workers are expected to be online, which meetings must be attended, timing for when reports or updates are expected to be submitted and the format required. Detail any KPI’s or quotas and the time frame for completion. When team members have the freedom to establish reporting criteria or project details, give them an established time and the space to develop before reporting back to you to ensure your expectations are aligned. Have a process for how time away during a standard workday should be handled.
2. Trust Who You Hired
When expectations are clearly outlined and adequate tools and training have been provided, trust the professionals you have hired to do what they are best at. It is likely that you do not know anyone over the age of two who enjoys being micro-managed, and while you are ultimately responsible for the results of your team, trust in yourself first and foremost. Trust that you have vetted out the bad eggs during the hiring process and have hired candidates who are great at what they do. Encourage, support and guide your team to excellence. Should a team member not be meeting expectations, discuss directly with the person promptly via phone or video conference.
3. Weekly Update
Have each team member submit a weekly update to the manager identifying what went well this week, what did not go as well as it could have, and what support or guidance they need from their manager. Managers should read, acknowledge and follow up on each update within 24 hours. In addition to aiding the communication flow with working form home employees, this also allows management to remain up to speed with anything that may need to be escalated up to the next level. Weekly updates should encourage reporting of positive progress, completed projects, and any potential obstacles, along with improvement suggestions.
4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communication is always important and is a critical component to any successful relationship, going hand in hand with establishing clear expectations. Communication is even more important when workers are remote and not receiving face time with their managers and co-workers. Managers should ensure that they are keeping the team informed, encouraged and supported, and should also check in with individuals, even if via text or instant message. A quick line of “Thanks” or to ask how everything is going can be quite impactful to help the individual be engaged and know they are supported.
5. Set and Keep a Schedule
When your home space becomes your office, the hours of work time and home time can get blurred. To help combat this, set your schedule as though you were working in the office. Wake up at the same day each day, get some morning movement in, meditate, take a shower, and put on real clothes. Yes, workout clothes count as real clothes, assuming you did not sleep in them the night before, and you do not have a video conference scheduled. The point is to start your days and end your days in a manner as though you were working outside of the home.
6. Schedule Breaks
Get up and move around at least once an hour, even if you are on calls. Stand up, move your legs, stretch your arms, rotate your neck. Block time out on your calendar for a few minutes every couple of hours to walk away from the computer and phone. Spend a few minutes in silence. Meditate. Pet your dog.
7. Maintain Family and Self-Care Time
When you are creating your schedule for the week and the day, your family time and self-care time should be included, and perhaps even be scheduled first. It is important to maintain life balance. Do not take calls or look at your phone during family dinner time. Make time to take care of yourself. Meditate. Engage in a fulfilling hobby. Read a book. Play with your kids.
8. Schedule Bedtime
Sleep quantity and quality are vitality important to your health, your cognitive ability and your overall performance. The majority of American’s do not get enough sleep and are far below the recommended 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep that an adult needs each night. Forget the old saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. Your brain and your body need sleep to live now.
For a full article on how to get your best sleep every night, email the word, “Sleep” in the subject line to email@example.com.
If workouts have not been a part of your daily routine, now is a fantastic time to start. Daily movement helps improve performance and cognitive ability, along with all of the tremendous health and physical aspects of exercise. Start small, go for a walk around the neighborhood, do some wall squats or air squats, wall push-ups or regular push-ups, and sit-ups, just to get the blood flowing and the body moving. 30-minutes of daily movement is recommended, and yes, every single day. Working out in the morning is a great way to ensure that the stress and tasks of the day do not take over, while getting your blood flowing and your endorphins kicking improves your cognition, mental focus, clarity and creativity that will last throughout the day. Workouts improve overall performance in all areas of life.
10. Consume Nutritious Foods
The food you eat has a direct impact not just on your waistline and health, but also on your ability to think clearly. Consume whole, clean, unprocessed foods. Avoid grains and sugars. Eating healthy is really that simple. If clean eating is a challenge for you, hire a health coach to assist you with education and with the behavior modifications to get you on track. I work with clients using a 12-week program to help align what they thought they knew about nutrition and assist with overcoming the obstacles that have gotten in their way. By eating clean you will improve your health, your cognition, your performance at work and at home, the way you feel and of course the way you look.
11. Drink Plenty of Water
Many people do not consume enough water throughout the day and are unaware of the challenges caused from dehydration. Water helps overall body function, cognition, focus and even sleep. Target consuming at least eight 8oz glasses of flat water each day, preferably filtered water. If you do not love the taste of water, add lemon, lime, mint, cucumber or another fresh flavor to each glass.
12. Create a Solid Morning Routine
As mentioned above, wake up at the same time each workday, engage in morning movement, shower and get dressed, and be ready to rock your day. Your plans for the day should be outlined before completing work the night before. Know what tasks are “must get done” tasks and what your timelines are to complete each.
13. Most Important Work During Most Productive Times
Most of us have a clear time of the day when we are most productive. Schedule your most important work for those times. Consider blocking that time on your calendar as dedicated focus time. My best hours are first thing in the morning immediately post workout. Around noon my focus tapers off and then comes back around 5pm for another hour or two. I complete the most important tasks during my peak performance times and save the administrative work such as emails and phone calls for noon-5pm hours. For others, they may be most productive later in the day and chose to complete administrative tasks first thing in the morning while their brains are warming up. Know how you work best and structure your day around your peak performance times.
14. Create a Dedicated Workspace
Set aside a space in your home that is dedicated for you to work. Have an extra computer monitor or two if desired, purchase yourself if your company does not supply for home offices. When I first started working from home one day a week in 2015, my tiny laptop was not going to cut it. I invested under $120 in a monitor and external keypad and am still using today. Keep your workspace clear and free of clutter. While you may choose to move your space throughout the day, avoid having your main work area in a common place such as your bedroom or living room. If you live in a smaller apartment, set up your dedicated workspace in a corner. Consider the background that will be viewed in video conferencing.
15. Set Agreements with Housemates
Discuss home working arrangements with all members of the household including roommates, partners and children so the expectations of when you are working and where you will be working are clear. Communicate any times that you should not be disturbed and be clear on when you are scheduled to be done working for the day.
16. Get Outside
It is joyous to not have to commute to an office each day, however it is important to get outside. Take a walk, sit in the sun for 10 minutes, feel the fresh air and take in the wonders of the sites around you. Use a scheduled break time to sit on your porch or balcony. Stroll around the block at the end of the day. Find a way to be outdoors daily.
17. Use Video “Fun” Connection Time
Have a fun team video conferencing call every couple of weeks to connect in a social way with your teammates, even if only a short 15-minute call. Avoid talking shop during this time. Consider having themes for the calls to get to know each other better such as Best Vacation, Dream Vacation, Meet the Pets, Cribs (display home or home office like the MTV show Cribs), Most Recently Used Emojis, Trivia, or use various icebreaker techniques.
18. Schedule Team Trainings
On a more serious note, continuous team trainings are important, even more so for remote workers. Trainings can be conducted by a team member, manager, another internal department, or by a hired professional trainer. While tactical refresher trainings are always a safe bet, consider thinking outside of the norm and holding trainings on mindset, meditation, healthy living, organization skills, balancing work & family, how to get your best sleep, goal setting & achievement, or how to own your day.
19. Adjust Meeting Schedule
When remote workers require solid blocks of time for creativity or productivity, consider adjusting the meeting schedule to allow for meeting free mornings, meeting free afternoons, or a meeting free day. For most remote or office workers their entire days and weeks can be absorbed by meetings leaving zero time and energy to put into the tasks that they need to complete. In most organizations the actual effort and work progress leads to a more productive workforce and a stronger bottom line than one that is occupied in meetings all day.
20. Develop Mentor Connections
To further aid the development and connections of remote teams, set up a mentor program, even if there is not one organized by your Human Resources or Talent Management teams. Mentor programs need not be complex or formal, but a contact for networking, brain storming, socializing and guidance. Mentorships are helpful to both parties and to management, it is always a bonus to have an extra cheerleader on your side.
21. Resist Social Media Distractions and Television
It can be tempting to spend your time working at home scrolling through the latest social media posts or watching television all day, though your productivity will plummet. Resist the urge to have the television on or to waste hours on your phone apps. If you do not feel you can get through the day without checking in, save the scrolls for break time and set a timer, or check in to social media after the workday is complete. What starts of as, “I’ll just check really quickly” turns in to hours wasted from your day.
22. Plan Tomorrow’s Tasks as Last Action Done Each Day
Prior to shutting down for the day, take a moment to reflect on what went well for you today, what did you not complete that you had planned to and why, and how you can prevent the distraction tomorrow. Then plan out the next day. What tasks are required, how much time will they take, and when are they required to be submitted. Consider what support or tools you might need, reach out to secure that support. Finally, pat yourself on the back for another successful day, close the laptop, and enjoy your evening.
In summary, virtual teams can be extremely successful. The benefits to having a remote work force are tremendous including increased productivity, a happier and more balanced workforce, access to a global workforce, lower costs for office space, improved employee retainment, lower requiting costs, zero relocation costs, zero commute, healthier employees, lower insurance costs and lower absenteeism.