Effective Remote Work Tips and Best Practices During Quarantine
In the weeks since COVID-19 began its rapid spread throughout India, more and more companies have made the decision to protect their employees with an emergency work-from-home policy.
To help you keep operations running smoothly as you and your team navigate this "new normal," here are some expert insights on how to maintain engagement and productivity while you're all working from home.
HAVE A SEPARATE WORKSPACE
A separate workspace doesn’t have to be a dedicated office with a door that closes (which is often not an option in smaller living spaces). It should be an area that mentally prepares you for work mode, whether it’s a separate room, a small desk set up in a corner of the living room, or a laptop at the end of the kitchen table. Ideally, it would be a place you don’t go to relax, like your bedroom or your sofa, and a place that other members of your household know is designated for work.
If you find you’re most productive with a laptop on the sofa, then by all means, set up shop there. It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out what area of your home is most conducive to getting work done.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE, INCLUDING NON-WORK HOURS
This might be the hardest part to adapt to when working from home: with devices that allow clients to reach us constantly, you can end up working 24/7. Try to start work around the same time every day if you can, and schedule breaks (including meals) around the same time if possible.
Ideally, you should try to get some outdoor time once a day, to get coffee or walk the dog, so you don’t go too stir crazy.
Working remotely can feel isolating at times, so as part of your routine, try to interact with your co-workers regularly (yes, introverts, even you).
Finally — and this is the rule we tend to violate most often — try to end work at the same time every day. Obviously, there will be times when a late deadline or project needs after-hours attention. But in most situations, a 11PM work email can wait until the following morning for a response.
DRESS THE PART
Look, one of the biggest selling points of working from home is that you can wear what you want. This is true, and some days, especially if it’s miserable weather or you’re not feeling 100 percent, indulge a little and wear sweats and comfy socks. But to keep a sense of routine, try to get dressed and do it around the same time every day. This might sound a little odd, but I find that in addition to jeans and a comfortable shirt, wearing shoes (instead of slippers or just socks) helps me keep that sense of work vs. relaxation. I’m not talking about the most expensive shoes in your closet; sneakers, flip flops, or other comfortable footwear are just fine.
KNOW YOUR BODY
Try to work on a good desk chair while working from home; it’s hard to work if your back is bothering you or you’re not comfortable. Definitely make time to get up and walk away from your desk at regular intervals to stretch your legs and make sure your work area is well-lit so you don’t strain your eyes.
WFH WITH A JOINT FAMILY
In all seriousness, if you live in a joint family (as most people do in India) make sure everyone in your family (kids, parents, spouses, and anyone else with a key to the premises) knows that when you’re working you’re not available to help settle minor juice-box-related spats or engage in idle chitchat. Shared living spaces can get noisy, so if your workspace isn’t isolated from common areas, it is strongly recommended getting some noise-canceling headphones to signal to others that you’re not to be disturbed and to avoid getting drawn into conversations that are going to distract you (shout out to well-meaning husbands out there who have a knack for this) while you’re on deadline.
If you’re going to try to do chores while you’re working from home, be realistic about what you can get done. Taking out the garbage or checking the mail are two ways to get away from your desk for a quick break, but it’s probably not practical to try to conquer that mountain of laundry all at once while you’re on the clock.
Another suggestion: don’t offer to be the on-call person for friends and neighbors. Of course you should help in emergencies, but if you’re always the go-to for package deliveries or to feed people’s pets “because you’re home anyway,” this can quickly become more time-consuming than is fair. Establish — and stick to — clear boundaries about when you are and aren’t available.