Tips for Remote Working

As companies across higher ed, and the country, are moving their operations online, including the Sonarians, we thought we’d gather and share some of our best tips for remote working. Typically, one third of our team works remotely. Some of them have spent years doing it and others jumped into it more recently for the first time. 

Nicole, a Sonarian, is working at an organized desk with a calendar behind her.Staying Focused and Motivated

  • Stick to a fairly regular schedule as much as you can. It not only helps your “going to work” mindset, it also helps your fellow team members know when they can expect to connect with you.
  • Have a dedicated work space, and make it a space you want to spend time in. Think about ergonomics, and get a good chair! Also consider lighting, smells, sounds, decoration, etc. Candles, plants, a radio—whatever works for you.
  • Be comfortable, but also dressed and ready for the day. The stereotype of working in your jammies is fun, but in all seriousness, dressing for your work day (even if that day will be spent entirely at home) often helps tap into that working mindset.
  • If you have a morning routine, there’s likely power in keeping it. It can help you stay grounded and provide extra space to enter your work day feeling refreshed, mindful, and focused. And on the flip side, suddenly losing that routine could have domino effects on other routines you’re used to throughout your day.
  • Have a backup plan for your internet connectivity. Should your home internet ever go out, know where you might be able to go as an alternative. Or know how to use your cell phone as a hotspot; even if you don’t use it for long, it can help you get offline access to things you can work on without connectivity.

Finding a Balance in Your Day

  • Find a schedule that works for you and your colleagues. If you’re a morning person, embrace your power hour and get a head start on your day. If you’re a night owl, own the night. Working from home allows you to embrace your own internal clock; just make sure your colleagues know how to find you and that you’re making yourself generally available. 
  • Have a clear stop time for breaks, lunch, and the work day. It’s easy to tell yourself you’re just going to work 15 more minutes, and find yourself still working an hour later. Consider setting an alarm, calendar reminder, or having an accountability buddy who’s willing to send you a friendly (or stern, if needed) reminder.
  • Set boundaries for nights and weekends, and respect them. While it can be convenient (and sometimes necessary) to catch up on work outside of regular business hours, it’s important to take time to step away from “the office” to avoid burnout.
  • On the flip side, you may have to coach yourself to let house projects go while you’re working. The dishes or laundry can become a distraction if you let them. While working from home can offer a lot of benefits in the realm of work/life balance, there are things you do need to compartmentalize.
  • Set clear boundaries with family members (and pets, if needed) during work hours. Even if you’re home all day, you can’t spend all of your time talking with a spouse or giving your doggo belly scratches (even if they beg with those big, beautiful doggo eyes).
  • Give yourself a reason to leave your house once a day. Even if it’s to go to the mailbox or just to take a short walk. That break, no matter how short, can often help you refocus your mind and reset to get back into your environment.

Michelle and Bri, two Sonarians, hold a conversation over Slack, a group chat applicationStaying Connected to Your Teams

  • Having access to an instant messaging app is invaluable for your organization’s teams to communicate, whether you have a formal process for professional communications and/or a space for teams to connect and engage to stay in touch, collaborate, and share their days with each other (e.g., Slack, GChat, Teams, etc.).
  • Video, video, and more video! Video chatting helps team members feel connected no matter where they’re located. And you don’t only have to use it for work meetings. Sonarians have regular meetings where we all get together on video to talk about big picture ideas (things like what we’re reading, podcasts we’re into, documentaries or shows we’re watching). We also have virtual lunches together. Yep, chowin’ down on food and all. Those times we’re able to connect without being “on” are some of our favorites together.
  • Have a system, with whatever sort of collaboration tools you use, to make it easy to indicate to others when you’re available. And respect that system for others.
  • Share things. It’ll likely feel weird at first to talk about your day, thoughts, things on Twitter that made you laugh over technology instead of in person, but make room to do it, and engage with others (when you can). It’ll soften the feeling of missing those in person interactions.

Connecting One-on-One with Your Team Members

These tips are for managers in particular, but might also be good reminders for peers, folks you work with regularly on other teams, etc. 

  • It can be helpful for managers to hold a daily, 30-minute standup meeting at the end of each day with their teams as they’re transitioning from a traditional office culture to a remote one for at least the first week or so. That way, team members can ask pressing questions and everyone can regroup virtually. It’s a time to reflect on what was accomplished that day and what tomorrow holds. You can also make this sort of meeting optional so those who want more interaction or direction can join while others who don’t need it (e.g., if you have some folks already working remotely) can decline and stay focused.
  • Be intentional about building relationships. You can’t rely on running into someone at the water cooler, so you have to make time to say hi and check in via the tools you have.
  • When something is too complicated to sort out via email/Slack/chat, don’t be afraid to hop on a video call. Initially, it may feel intrusive, but if you wouldn’t hesitate to walk over to someone’s desk to talk through something, you can get used to having a similar conversation via video.
  • If the stars align for whatever situation you’re in, having a few times a year where you team meets in person goes a long way to feeling connected to coworkers while working remotely.

There are many nuances to working from home, especially if you find yourself doing it with little warning. Our biggest takeaway is pretty simple. Be kind to yourself and others. It’s an adjustment, and it’s okay if you struggle at first. Keep tabs on what works and what doesn’t, and do your best. We’re rooting for you.

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Subscribe to the NewsletterThe post Tips for Remote Working originally appeared on Campus Sonar's Brain Waves blog.