How To Put Your Best Foot Forward While Working Remotely

How To Put Your Best Foot Forward While Working Remotely

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States, many Americans in essential roles are on the front lines fighting against the pandemic. Meanwhile, others are doing what they can to help these essential workers by staying home and flattening the curve.

Although varying in severity and presentation, adjusting to this new reality has posed challenges for all of us. For those fortunate enough to work remotely, here are just a few tips to put your best foot forward.

1. Establish a dedicated workspace

Carve out a space in your home solely for work — if possible, near a window with exposure to natural light. Although setting up shop in “relaxation spots” like couches, beds, or reclining chairs may be tempting, they’re productivity kryptonite. You’re one yawn away from putting on another episode of “Veep” instead of responding to emails.

If your living space is limited or you don’t have a desk that’s okay — just get a little creative. Kitchen counters, bookshelves, dressers, and end tables all make great makeshift desks. And if you prefer a standing desk, stacking books and other flat objects on top of them are relatively easy modifications.

2. Maintain clear boundaries

Whenever possible, create separation between your personal and professional life so they don’t blend together. If your workspace doubles as an area used during normal at-home living, label a bin to put your all of your work items in once you clock out for the day. At COB, that bin is hot lava until the next morning — avoid it at all costs.

If you’re coexisting with family members or friends, remember that can be difficult even under the best of circumstances. Create and communicate expectations with them. Discuss your work schedule, what’s “off-limits,” and how to best share your space. If you have children, coordinate responsibilities, when possible, so one person isn’t overburdened.

3. Carry out your morning routine as usual

Maintaining some semblance of normalcy during this time is key. For many, there’s a natural inclination to start mornings more slowly while working from home. But resist the temptation to stray too far from your typical AM workday schedule.

If you normally wake up at 7AM to exercise and make a gourmet breakfast, do that. If you’re more of a late-riser and enjoy a quick shower and cup of coffee before work, do that. No matter which category you fall into, prep yourself as best as possible for the day ahead. And yes — for all my fellow loungewear enthusiasts — that includes getting dressed. You don’t have to dress to the nines but wear something that you’d feel comfortable with colleagues seeing on a video call.

4. Communicate frequently with your colleagues

Proactive communication can alleviate many of the challenges that arise during remote work. Fortunately, in the digital age, there’s a range of platforms available to facilitate video call meetings, phone calls, and company-wide instant messaging.

Before the workday even begins, morning video check-ins can be an effective way to establish expectations, discuss workloads, coordinate efforts, and get teams on the same page. Throughout the day, be sure to keep colleagues aware of any new assignments, concerns, or questions that come up. Messaging is a great option, but if it would normally require an in-person discussion, hop on a video call. The better you are at staying in touch, the smoother the workday will go.

5. Allow yourself breaks when needed

This last tip is arguably the most important. Be patient with yourself and others right now; this is an unprecedented period we’re living in. If you can, build in blocks of time throughout the workday to recharge your mind and body.

Take intermittent walks outdoors. Set aside a half hour lunch break away from your workspace. Do five minutes of meditation or restorative yoga. If your work requires staring at a computer screen for eight hours every day, give your eyes a quick breather every 20-30 minutes.

And if you’re concerned about missing an email or call, just give your colleagues a heads-up. They’ll understand — maybe it’ll even prompt them to do the same.

There’s little certainty right now — COVID-19 has upended much of our day-to-day lives. But finding small ways to navigate this “new normal” can help us stay productive and healthy in our homes, while essential workers fight against the pandemic in our communities.

Gabby Harrigan