While the recent COVID-19 public health crisis means many more people are working from home, for the Warrior-Scholar Project team, working from home is just business as usual. Our team is 100% remote, so we thought we could share some of what works for us. Here are a few tips from our staff!
Don’t work from your bed. To the extent that it’s possible, have a specific workspace set up. Make this a fun space by adding in your personality: decorate it with pictures, maybe a plant, a fun pencil holder, or a cute lamp. Bonus points if you can make this a dedicated work-only space and not a space you use for leisure time or other activities. This will signal to your brain that this is the space where work happens, and will help you transition to the work day.
Get up and get dressed in the morning. When you get dressed as if you're going into an office, it gets you into the mindset of working. We have the rule that if we’re meeting with our internal team, a neat appearance is required and casual clothes are okay, whereas we prefer our team to wear business casual for any external calls.
Keep water with you at all times so it’s easy to stay hydrated and healthy. Getting your daily water intake doesn’t have to be boring—our team loves flavored seltzer waters in addition to the pure stuff.
Build an environment where you’re able to focus. If the TV is on and you know you will be tempted to watch it and won’t be able to focus, remove yourself from that temptation. Listening to podcasts and music with headphones can be a helpful way to drown out background noise and provide a little enjoyment to your work day without throwing off your focus.
Be intentional about your day. Working from home allows you the accessibility of being at home and near your family, but your time is only as effective as your intentions with it. Cal Newport has a quote that our CEO loves: “Work Accomplished = Intensity of Focus x Time.” He says, “if you find yourself ‘pseudo working’ by just sitting at a desk and staring at a screen without actually accomplishing anything, do something about it.” His recommendations? “Get up, switch gears, exercise, take a break...do something! Time is a precious resource. Make the most of it by getting into the right headspace and bringing intense focus to your work.”
Stick to a schedule, and make sure to add break times. Add time for snacks, lunch, breaks, including time to step away from your desk to stretch your legs. In an office setting, there are times where you're socializing with a coworker, visiting the break room, or walking to a coworker’s desk to ask them a question. Since you won’t have this at home, scheduling your breaks gives you the chance to move around.
Schedule breaks between meetings. If possible, don’t go more than an hour without a break where you can use the bathroom if you need to and stretch your legs.
Communicate with your household about your schedule. If you are home with other people in the house, talk to them about your meeting schedules or the time you need to focus without interruptions. One of our team members has a traffic light on his door with “red, yellow, or green” to let his children know if it’s okay to enter the room where he has his workspace, or if he’s in a meeting. Communication about your schedule can help you balance work and home.
Opt for video meetings instead of calls where possible. While it’s easy to turn off your camera or schedule only conference calls, seeing your coworker’s faces on video can help you feel more connected when you’re virtual. Seeing the person you’re meeting with can also spark more conversation to help you bond with them. Conversations like “Did you get a new haircut? Looking good!” and “Are those new bookshelves?” aren’t possible unless you can see your coworkers.
Make an effort to connect with your team. Because you can’t see your team and bond with them over small talk in the office kitchen, reach out and connect with them virtually to maintain the bonds. One way we do this is by having an optional team video chat hangout every Friday. No agenda required, and often our coworkers’ children say hello or part of the team is showing off their latest craft projects.
Always assume positive intent. We live by this one at Warrior-Scholar Project. Because you only interact with your colleagues digitally, there is a lot of room to interpret a tone or intention with a written communication that just might not be there. Especially now with high levels of anxiety due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to assume your coworker isn’t being intentionally mean to you, but that another extenuating circumstance could be at play.
Have an end of day ritual. Because your work and your home are at the same address, it can be hard to figure out how to transition from one to the other at the end of the day. For some of us, this means shutting down our laptops so we are less likely to hop on and check for emails after hours. It might mean putting your laptop in a drawer or cabinet out of sight until the next work day, or doing something physical like shutting your office door or taking your dog for a walk to signal that the day is over and you are now at “home” again.
We hope these tips were helpful to those of you transitioning to a work-from-home environment!