While many mobile teams and managers are well-accustomed to working from home with the help of technology, you may be one of the thousands of remote workers transitioning to this new way of working, necessitated by pandemic illness or business needs.
This mode of working independently without the benefit of face-to-face communication and regular feedback can be challenging for many. Still, there are remote work best practices for small businesses that can ease the transition and make working from home more productive for you.
Remote work environment
Temptation may cause you to curl up on the couch with your laptop, turn on the television, get comfortable in your robe and soft slippers, with the best intentions of being productive. Fight that temptation. It’s important to treat work-at-home as professionally as being in your traditional office environment.
Set up an area specifically for working, preferably away from as many distractions as possible. This separation may be a corner of a bedroom or any area with less traffic from other family members. You need to provide yourself with an environment that is conducive to focusing on work tasks just as if you were in the office.
Remote working – tools of the trade
Working remotely requires all the essential elements of an office workplace – usually more. You still need all the basics:
- Work surface or desk to support your computer, laptop, or other devices securely and ergonomically
- Utilize a chair that is comfortable and properly aligns with the desktop surface to help you maintain proper posture
- Monitor, if using a separate unit from your laptop or tablet
- Printer, if needed for your work tasks
- A reliable and secure internet connection or WiFi network
- Working from home may mean you’re less secure than a typical office that provides secure networks, firewalls, regularly patched operating systems, antivirus protection, and more. As a remote worker, you need to exercise the same vigilance in keeping software up to date, including antivirus software and OS updates.
- Implement VPN software to provide secure communications between your remote office and business systems
It’s easy when you’re working from home with no one stopping by your desk to chat, to get absorbed in the tasks at hand. This can lead to burnout or health issues from staying seated for prolonged periods. Be sure to take breaks, enjoy your lunch hour, and maybe even get outside for a walk.
Establish a routine
It’s just as necessary for home workers to have a routine as you would in the office. Adopt a morning routine for returning emails, making important calls, scheduling appointments, and other regular office processes.
The same is true for an end-of-day routine. Review your accomplishments, set goals for the next day or the rest of the week, and check your calendar for upcoming activities.
Maintaining a routine and keeping on a schedule will ease the transition to your virtual work pattern. A benefit of working from home is flexibility. Your process does not need to be the same as working from the office, but consistency will help you gain efficiency and reduce stress levels.
Connect regularly with your teammates. Virtual work environments call for the use of technology, such as instant messaging, conference calls, and video conferencing. Using tools such as Microsoft Teams can enable efficient communications between coworkers and managers. This includes face-to-face meetings that promote personal participation and help break down the feeling of isolation experienced by many employees working from home.
When participating in teleconferencing sessions, keep meeting etiquette in mind:
- Be mindful of your appearance, background, and any distractions such as noise or technical problems
- Remain muted unless you are presenting or speaking
- If you’re presenting, send an agenda to invited participants so everyone can plan for the topics in discussion. Informing the parties involved will make the meeting more productive and will help in accomplishing the goals of the session.
- Participate – make sure all parties know you’re engaged in the meeting by being involved in the discussions and asking relevant questions.
- If schedules or time zones make it infeasible to join in a conference, be sure to follow up with leaders to gain information on topics and any decisions made during the meeting – it may be possible to view a recording of a video conference that you missed.
When you work from home or other remote locations, be sure to keep security in mind. Protect your home WiFi network by changing the default password set by your equipment manufacturer. Using a VPN service will encrypt your traffic so that no one can observe your video conferences or team meetings.
Putting best practices to work for you
Whether your virtual work environment is temporary or for the long term, utilizing these best practices offered by experienced remote work teams can help you be productive and avoid feelings of isolation.
When working remotely, count on easy-to-use applications such as Microsoft Teams, which keep teams in close communication and working collaboratively.