In the midst of a global pandemic, many people are finding themselves navigating the uncharted waters of working remotely. Although working from home has its perks, it also comes with its own unique challenges.
As a 100% virtual organization, all of our staff work from home. We’re used to managing our organization digitally from various states across the country. So, in an effort to help you ease the transition from office life to work-from-home life, we’ve compiled our top tips to help make working from home work for you.
Aaron, Executive Director
1. Noise Cancellation Headphones
Sometimes it can be hard to control the environment around you. While noise cancellation headphones aren’t magic, they’ve come a long way. The neighbor’s dog isn’t going to stop barking, and their kids will not time their shouting around your schedule. The downside is they’re pricey. Still, they’re worth the investment—particularly if you can get a deal.
2. Send Good Emails
Remote work means sending a lot of emails. Make them efficient. Be clear about what you’re asking and get to the point. Also, make sure there are good keywords in the email so you or the recipient can go back and reference the email if needed. With people all over, use time zones habitually. And if you’re proposing a meeting, suggest a time in the first email (or link to a scheduling tool).
3. Stay Focused
Not all work is glamorous and exciting. And so you may find that occasionally your own willpower becomes a problem. For cases like this, there are apps like StayFocused, which block any distracting websites. I also use Workflowy to save ideas and references for my next meetings with team members, and I use ToDoist for action items to help me stay on track.
Kirsten, Director of Philanthropy
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Shake it Up!
It seems like every tip sheet I’ve seen focuses on creating a proper office setup at home. But personally, I’ve found this too restrictive. I really enjoying watching webinars at my kitchen counter while I enjoy a cup of tea. And some of my most productive work has happened when I took my laptop out to my back patio or a local park. I find that a change of scenery can really help shift my mindset, so don’t be afraid to shake things up! That’s the beauty of working remotely.
5. But You Should Really Consider a Standing Desk For Your Office
However, it is important to have a nice, dedicated office space for formal meetings or when you really need to focus on a project. The only trouble is that without coworkers coming by to chat, it can be really, really easy to spend 8 hours in front of your computer, breaking only to replenish your coffee. Standing desks are your friend, fellow remote worker. This limits your sitting for the day and will encourage you to step away from the desk.
6. Forget about That Email; Boomerang It!
My lifesaver. Boomerang is a Gmail extension that will free up tons of working memory! Need to “circle back to that” next week? Boomerang it and it will automatically re-enter your inbox. Wondering if your recipient read your email? Yep, it has read receipts, too.
Chris, Director of Campaigns & Advocacy
7. Lay Off the Coffee
Working from home, you’ll probably have access to some of the creature comforts that may be more scarce or pricey at the office like coffee or snacks. However, it’s very easy for people who have a regular caffeine regimen to overdo it on the cup o’ joe when they can make themselves a whole pot. Same goes for snacks, especially sugary ones. Too much of that will make it hard to do your work.
8. Manage Your Biggest Resource: WiFi
Internet bandwidth is a hot commodity. Check connected items and turn the WiFi off of any ones you aren’t using. As well, many routers have multiple bands (2G or 5G for example). Many people jump on the 5g without thinking, but it has issues going through walls. Bands like 2G do better here, so consider that if your “Zoom room” is far from the router. As well, a WiFi extender can be a cheap and easy investment (~$20) to improve your connection.
9. Take Your Calls Outside
The number one advice you’re probably hearing is to get outside or exercise. You’re also finding out that hours of Zoom calls can become uncomfortable or downright painful. When you can, move a Zoom meeting to a call and take it outside. In the pre-Covid world most of my steps came when I would wander my neighborhood on work calls.
Caitlyn, Director of Operations & Programs
10. Take Advantage of Having No Commute
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that you have to start working as soon as you wake up. Use the extra time you would have spent commuting in the morning to do something for yourself before you start the day. I like to meditate and take a short walk with my dog to get myself energized for the day ahead.
11. Set Boundaries
When you don’t have a physical separation between the place you work and the place you live, it can be hard to shut off your work brain and tempting to keep checking your email past your regular working hours. Set your boundaries for work hours and stick to them. Don’t check emails after you’ve signed off for the day or on weekends. Your mental health (and your family and friends) will thank you!
12. Keep Up Communication with Your Team
For those used to working in office environments, working remotely may make you feel disconnected from your coworkers. It’s not as easy as just walking over to their desk to ask a question or make small talk. Use a chat app, such as Google Hangouts, with your team for quick, informal conversations or questions (or find a solution that works best for your team’s preferences). It can be a lot more efficient than sending emails back and forth, particularly for more time-sensitive tasks or personal check-ins.
One final thought: extend compassion to yourself and others. This is a stressful, uncertain time and all of us are trying to find our way through an unprecedented situation. Make sure you’re giving yourself (and others) the kindness and leeway you deserve right now.
As always, the Election Science team’s inbox is open, so feel free to let us know if you have questions about any of these tips! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.