The workplace has changed dramatically in recent months, with most of the world learning how to juggle work and home life together. Even for the most organized people, isolation and lockdowns can play havoc with a normal work routine.
At Biteable, we’re a remote-first company, so we’ve had years of experience learning how to keep everyone on our team motivated, healthy, and most importantly – sane! Here are some of our top tips on how to survive working from home.
Set up your “office”
If working remotely from home is new to you, it’s important that you get your setup dialed in properly. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time at your new workstation, it’s worth having the right equipment on hand.
Even if you don’t have a desk and you’re working at the dining room table, make sure you have (at minimum) a comfortable, supportive chair that lets you concentrate on your work — and not your aching back.
To avoid neck and posture problems, ensure your screen is at eye-level when you’re sitting straight up, and that your feet are flat on the ground. Take regular breaks, do some simple desk exercises, and switch between standing and sitting to help stretch your muscles during the day.
Good natural light is important, if possible, to avoid eye strain and help you stay more alert during your work hours.
While the idea of working from home seems like a dream come true, the reality for many people is that productivity and motivation can go downhill pretty fast when you’re not in an office environment.
Sleeping in, playing with the kids, and eating your way through all the snacks in the house can play havoc with getting any work done.
If you’re struggling to stay productive, it’s helpful to:
- Create and stick to a scheduled daily routine
- Set priorities for your daily workload to ensure urgent tasks get finished
- Ensure your family knows when you’re “at work” to avoid constant interruptions
- Use an app blocker like Freedom, or other types of productivity tools if your social and internet use is getting out of control.
Use the right tools
Remote teams are on the rise, and with this global shift has come numerous software tools that help everyone stay connected, efficient, and productive.
Here are some of our favorites:
A communication app that’s perfectly suited for remote work. You can talk together in the main channel, or create team channels and individual chats to keep everyone on track. Slack lets you exchange files, bookmark messages, and pin documents within the app. It also cuts down on emails and video calls, making communication between people faster and more efficient.
It’s also a great place for water-cooler chit chat. If you’re using Slack, we recommend creating a separate #water-cooler channel to keep non-work related-banter in one place.
Currently the most popular choice of video conference tools, Zoom offers HD video, plus screen sharing, chat, content sharing, and localized recording. It’s the perfect choice for teams of all sizes. Plus, you can use it after hours to catch up with friends and family.
When you’re working from home, it can be difficult to set and complete tasks. To avoid the risk of missing assignments and deadlines, these three project management tools can help you and your team prioritize and manage your workload.
These tools all have varying features and layouts, so choose the one that you’re most likely to use.
Time tracking tools can be especially useful to manage your day and monitor the hours that you’re at your desk.
When you work from home (especially if you live alone) it can be all too easy to work too much or too little, so time trackers can show you exactly how much time you’re spending at “work” during the day.
If you’re brand new to working from home, you might be facing the awkwardness of letting your boss and colleagues catch a glimpse into your private life on live video calls.
If you don’t have time to clean, or your house is a little more “maximalist” than it should be, Zoom’s video call software lets you add custom backgrounds to discreetly hide the mess that might be lurking in the frame.
You can create your own custom background, or download a free professional background image to use on your next calls. Breathe a sigh of relief as those piles of laundry behind you disappear like magic.
If your workplace is on the weird side – or you’re all sick of endless video meetings and need to liven things up a little, Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet let you add Snapchat-style filters to your meetings and team calls. Turn your boss into a potato, or let Brian from accounts get in touch with his inner disco avocado. Filters can be a great way to lighten the mood of yet another long work call.
Learn to over-communicate
When you’re working remotely, meaning and intent can get lost in translation – or disappear completely.
Erring on the side of over-communicating with your colleagues can ensure your messages get heard, understood, and acted on instead of passed over and forgotten. We’re all distracted and busy now — not only with work tasks, but family, schooling, housework, and a million other things that aren’t usually a problem when we leave for the office.
Extra levels of communication make sure that nobody drops the ball, and that productivity and alignment are kept up so work projects stay on target.
Tools like Slack ensure you can tag your entire workplace at once if needed, or selected individuals, to make sure nothing important gets missed.
While there are some things you’d rather your colleagues don’t see in your home, kids and pets can be welcome additions to team calls. They can also be fun icebreakers if you’re dealing with new clients.
With most of the world being stuck inside with pets and families, being human and relatable on calls is something we’ve come to appreciate and enjoy, rather than keep locked behind closed doors.
We’re seeing a lot more kids and animals on video, and it can create stronger, more humanized working relationships as a result.
Fix annoying things around your home
Nothing is more distracting and annoying when you’re working from home than being surrounded by squeaky, broken, or leaky things that you’ve been saying you’ll get around to fixing “when you have time”.
Well, now you have all the time in the world. This is the perfect time to get these little odd jobs out of the way so they don’t eat into your sanity while you’re trying to work. Nothing wears your productivity and concentration down faster than those tiny, everyday annoyances that might only take a few minutes to fix.
If you’re stuck on how to fix something, check out YouTube. 65% of people use YouTube to help them solve a problem, and no matter what you need help with, you’re bound to find the answer hidden in their video vaults.
Make the most of your time working from home
As unusual as life is right now, we all need to take this time to appreciate the opportunity to work from home.
It’s a welcome break from long commutes, office meetings, and wondering if it’s 5 pm yet. With the right set up, the right tools, and the right mindset, you can stay sane and truly enjoy the work from home experience.
About the Author: Tommy Fotak Co-Founder at Biteable. Tommy is one of the three Biteable founders and a keen supporter of remote working (so much so that Biteable is a remote-first company). When he’s not working from home, Tommy enjoys gardening and cooking at home.