Many organizations, companies, and institutions are transitioning to working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis and face new challenges managing this while remaining productive and successful. As a virtual team since Diversity Abroad’s founding 14 years ago, being remote is in our DNA. We asked our team to share their tips on how to thrive in a remote environment.
Everyone has their own methods for working from home. Many people suggest following a morning routine, getting dressed for the day, and setting aside a dedicated work area. This advice comes down to being intentional about how you organize your work-life balance. We are mindful that as many people are navigating working from home for the first time, there may be additional responsibilities to balance such as children, partners, or other family members at home.
Developing a successful routine for working from home can take some time and will look different for everyone. Set intentions about what remote work will look like for you, being realistic about what your situation allows and the unique challenges of this moment. This could be setting a time you want to be online by, how you’ll communicate needs with your family for peace and quiet, where you’ll work, whether you’ll wear full-on business casual with shoes or be more comfortable, or what time you’ll sign off. Switching to remote work is a major lifestyle change that will require some trial and error. Being intentional about your workday and routine will help take some of the guesswork out of what each day looks like.
...but be flexible
As you adjust to this new reality, be flexible and try out new habits or techniques to see what works best for you, your team, and your organization as a whole. Try out different environments or settings to see where you are most comfortable at home. You don’t just have to be at a desk or your home office, one of the advantages of working remotely many of us have found is being able to change your location during the day. While this used to mean going to a coffee shop or a library, now it might mean moving to a deck if the day is nice or standing up at a kitchen counter for a while.
Additionally, be open to new systems for organizing work. Whether it’s an online system like Trello or Google Keep, or utilizing video chat or a messaging platform like Slack in a new way. Working remotely necessitates communicating and collaborating differently with each other. Your team will have to set new expectations and intentions about what success looks like in this work environment. How will you manage projects, track progress, and work together?
This is a time of great change for everyone, whether or not you have worked remotely before. Be open to your work habits changing - it’s all part of the new reality. And look at this as an opportunity to re-evaluate how you work best and discover new habits or techniques that can help you in the future.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Working remotely means communication happens differently than in a traditional office. You’re expected to do the same work, but in a new environment where you can’t just stick your head in a colleague’s office or have a face to face discussion.
On a very practical level, you need to make sure everyone knows the best way to stay in touch and collaborate. At Diversity Abroad we have outlined which purposes or situations a communication tool should be used for. Generally, we message each other through Slack to coordinate projects, ask for help, and check-in. Email is reserved primarily for in depth project instructions or external communications and we also have standing organization-wide and smaller team calls to plan for the week, brainstorm, and provide project updates. Setting these expectations requires intentional communication, as well as discussion and re-evaluation.
It’s also important to work as a team to discuss what everyone’s needs are during this time. Do you need to run errands or walk the dog during the day? Or will you be starting work extra early in order to spend a few hours later in the morning with your kids or family? People’s hours may change now that they are working from home. Remote work can offer much more freedom and flexibility so people can make their schedules work to their needs. At Diversity Abroad, we keep our calendars up to date with meeting times and focused project times (Quiet Hours) clearly marked or mark off OOO (Out Of Office) so our colleagues know whether we have time to talk or if we won’t be quick to reply to a message.
While working from home is a highly individual experience, it doesn’t have to be a lonely or isolating one. This is a challenging time for many people, and seeking support or expressing how you are doing is important. You miss out on a lot of casual interactions and conversations when working remotely, so set aside time for checking in with each other. Many of our team members have standing one on one meetings with each other to review projects and set goals, but also to catch up and see how each other is doing. Take time to connect with and support your colleagues, while also checking-in with yourself. Go on a walk, do exercises, or just get up and walk around the house every couple hours. Make an effort to disconnect from email or Slack during lunchtime or breaks by reading a book or turning off notifications.
We hope these tips inspire you, as you adapt to working full-time from home and make it a successful transition in which your team can support each other.