Hello! This is Wilfried Aubron, Director of People Engagement at Elevate, writing from my kitchen in Grenoble, French Alps, France. Over the last ten days, you've undoubtedly read a lot of advice about working from home. At Elevate, we've had a 40% remote workforce for the past eight years, and this experience enables us to provide some not-so-obvious tips and recommendations for making remote work productive, enriching, and not overwhelming.
Find a Special Object: When setting up a home office, there are the necessary items: a desk, chair, computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. Beyond the practical accoutrements, make sure to add a personal touch: a photo of your family, a small and aesthetically pleasing object, a cherished keepsake. This touchstone can help keep you grounded in life beyond work. You'll likely find yourself taking a break to look at this object as a way of stepping back and collecting your thoughts when it's necessary to regain perspective.
Establish an "Un-Office": People talk about having a home office, but few people ever mention the need for a home "un-office" space, free from equipment and reminders of work. A bedroom or other room, as long as it serves as a refuge from your professional existence. Don't bring your laptop, work papers, or phone (I know, easier said than done!) into this "personal zone". Setting a physical boundary between your work existence and personal life is necessary. It allows you to be either in a work mindset or, conversely, taking a break from work weighing on your mind.
Create a Morning Routine: The lack of transition time from being at home to arriving at work can be disorienting. It's important to identify a few things as a pre-work routine that will bring you to your desk–things you enjoy that will set the tone for the day. A run? A walk with your dog? The morning news with a cup of coffee? Doing those things every workday will help you shift from "home mode" to "work mode".
… a Work Routine: Try to start your workday at the same time each day. Once you "arrive" at work, a consistent routine provides a structure that helps you focus–spending the first hour on the same tasks, such as organizing your daily to-do list or checking emails. Something to get you 'in the zone'. Make sure to schedule breaks, including for meals. Try to take these breaks at the same time each day; this will help prevent work from becoming overwhelming.
… and a Back-to-Home Routine: Finally, create a "commute" back "home"–a transition time to switch back into home mode. It can be as simple as taking the time to stand by and gaze out of your favorite window, or going into your un-office to unwind. This evening routine will help you wind down and enable you to focus on family and social connections.
Stay in (Virtual) Touch: Until everyone is comfortable with the distributed work routine, don't be concerned about over-communicating. Send updates on your priorities, your progress, any potential roadblocks. It is an excellent practice to be proactive in asking your manager, colleagues, and customers their preferences (i.e., frequency, content, and format for those updates).
Do your best to acknowledge emails or messages promptly (within one business day/24 hours). This is key to remote working! No one likes to feel ignored. If you need a few days before you can give something your attention, it goes a long way to send an email saying exactly that: "I received your email but likely won't have a chance to dig in and respond until later this week. Thank you for understanding!"
Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and call someone, especially if you need an immediate answer.
Finally, be extra thoughtful about the tone of your emails. It's much easier to misinterpret the intention and energy behind written communication. It's best to be positive and productive.
Be Good to Yourself: Remember, working from home is a fundamentally different way of doing work. It has a different rhythm, a different "feel" than working on-site. There is an adjustment period that takes time and flexibility. Have faith that you'll figure out your approach to remote work. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you acclimate to this new paradigm!
Remember, working from home is a fundamentally different way of doing work. It has a different rhythm, a different "feel" than working on-site. There is an adjustment period that takes time and flexibility.