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How to Work Effectively from Home

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March 19, 2020

At Workiva, most of us have worked remotely on occasion. However, if you are not used to maintaining your routine away from the office or school for an extended period of time, it may present challenges. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some some things that have helped me work effectively from home:

 

Home Environment Setup

Designate a work space

Whether it's a home office, a kitchen table, a couch, or a closet, designate the space where you'll be "at work." This will allow you to mentally shift into “work mode.” And if you find yourself with new "co-workers" such as family members or roommates who also stay home, I don’t recommend trying to share the same open concept living/dining room as an office.

 

Protect your non-work hours

Finding yourself suddenly without a commute, you may have an extra thirty minutes to an hour of time each day. While it’s tempting to  just open the laptop and start working, I suggest sticking to the hours you're used to working. Find a new routine like listening to a podcast, going for a walk, or doing some quick tasks around your home to fill that extra time. 

 

Feel free to step away

While working from home, it’s easy to end up spending your entire day on the computer. Make sure you take a few breaks! At an office, there are many parts of your regular routine that allow for breaks from the computer and social interaction:  getting up to grab a snack or a coffee, lunch with coworkers, or a quick game of foosball. Even walking to a meeting takes a couple minutes. So remind yourself to stand up, look out your window, reach out to a colleague just to say hello, talk with your family members who are also self-quarantined, and  eat lunch away from your laptop. Don't feel guilty!

 

Support your back

At our offices, Workiva provides some very nice chairs and sometimes even standing desks. At our homes, we may be hunched over a coffee table, sitting on a sofa, leaving our backs unsupported. Watch carefully for signs that your body isn't responding well to this new work arrangement and make adjustments. I'm no physiologist, but two weeks of uncomfortable seating can really add up.

 

Missing that second monitor

With the adjustment of working from home, you may be down to just your laptop's monitor. Screen real estate is going to be tight, and you may need to get creative on how to see everything. Look to see if there are any new tools you can install to help manage things. I've been using Spectacle on Mac for so long that the shortcuts are now muscle memory.

 

Team Process Tweaks

The above tips cover basic behaviors that you can control at home. But we can’t forget that we're social creatures and we're all still working on teams. We have to make sure to facilitate that facet of the work-from-home experience also.

Extend stand up

We have numerous communication options. Even permanent remote workers are always connected. But instant messaging and video conferencing at work do not lend themselves to the usual chit chat that happens spontaneously in an  office. You will have to make a conscious effort to engage in small talk. If your team does standups, talk to each other about extending that time. One of my teams has a casual agreement to join all of our meetings five minutes early so we time to have off-topic convos before getting to work.

If you don't already have a daily meetup, I highly recommend setting aside some time to catch up and scratch that social itch.

 

Look out for each other

If you start feeling in a funk while you're subject to this increased social distance, keep in mind you’re likely not the only one feeling that way. It's possible that your coworkers might be the only people you encounter on a given day, even if it’s  just virtually. So, y'know, try to be chill and cool to each other. We’re all in this together.

About the Author

Chad Knight, Software Architect, designs and builds backend services for the Workiva platform. He has been with Workiva since he graduated from Iowa State University. Chad lives in Chicago, where he also brews beer and makes pizza.

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