Like many of you across the globe, we here at RDW are currently settling into our new remote-based work environment. A familiar scenario for some, and uncharted territory for many, working remotely can be a big shift from the usual office setting. This particular setting of work can come with a plethora of distractions, conflicts, technological barriers, and less-than-comfortable desk chairs.
However, this former remote worker is a firm believer that our new work settings also provide great opportunities for strengthening discipline, creativity, perspectives, and technological sensibilities. With that, I’ve compiled a roadmap to truly fine-tuning your new offsite norm while we do our part to wait out this pesky particulate sporting the name of a lime-adorned lager.
Maintain Your Routine
This is coming in first and foremost as the most crucial step of your journey. The best and worst part of the normal daily grind is the repetition. Those steps you take each day let your body and mind know that this is a normal workday like any other. It’s easy to maintain these when leaving your house each morning, but keeping it together when you may only be commuting 15 feet to the next room gets a little trickier.
Sleeping and working mere steps apart can really muddy the lines between home and office. Set your alarm for as close to your normal weekly wake time as possible. It only takes a short stint to form new habits, and you don’t want any of those to negatively impact your eventual return to office life. Take your shower, eat your breakfast, and get dressed for the day as usual. While it may be tempting to spend the whole day in your silk pajama tuxedo, setting a separation between work and home attire can do wonders for setting the proper mindset.
Your lunch and break times are also key to keeping your daily rhythm intact. Make your daily sandwich, read your daily Twitter rants, and log off for a spell to enforce a firm divider between morning and afternoon. This will, of course, vary based on daily work schedules, but try and keep to this as much as your calendar allows.
Setting clear lines, both physically and mentally, is also paramount to maintaining the quality of your personal/professional balance. Give yourself a designated workspace that signifies you are “in-office.” Avoid setting up your workspace in places like your bedroom, playrooms, or any other space that you typically use to relax. Creating this divide will not only help with concentration, but it also signifies a clear beginning and end to your work day.
It’s also important to set boundaries within your shared living space. Many of us have spouses, roommates, and other live-in companions that are also adopting their work to an at-home setting. Give each other your own space to set up shop and use courtesies such as shutting doors or headphones to avoid impeding on each other’s workflow. In my house, we’ve taken to treating each day as if we’re both still leaving and going to our respective offices for the day.
Embrace Collaborative Technologies
As a people person by both nature and profession, one of the bigger shifts for me in my initial run with remote work almost 7 years ago was the lack of face-to-face communication. As communications professionals, we often worry that this can throw a big wrench into the collaborative process. Fortunately, technology can help bridge the gap. There are a plethora of different communications platforms that have made remote work not so remote anymore. As a persistent (and perhaps occasionally pushy) advocate for new technologies, I’ve compiled two of my favorites that have connected me with many a coworker and client over the years:
A behemoth hybrid of instant messaging, thread-based forums, productivity tools, and emoji wars. De-clutter your inbox with chat-based conversations and team-inclusive discussions. Slack is free to use and can be upgraded to different paid plans that tailor to any storage need. Plus, it offers direct integrations with dozens of different productivity apps, such as Google Docs, Trello, Outlook and more.
If you’ve been at home for more than one day, you’ve likely already taken part in a Zoom conference. This platform takes the video chat model popularized by platforms such as Skype and scales it to the next level. Zoom combines screen sharing, turn-based video chats, a chat room, and support for up to 100 simultaneous participants on the free plan alone.
As with adapting any new technology, do your part to help educate your coworkers on the opportunities available and help each other get the most out of your new tools.
This is the big one. Many workers are now also at home filling both the roles of parent and employee simultaneously. At this point, most children are out of school and preparing for new methods of distance learning that are foreign to both parents and teachers. Couple this on top of a regular daily workload and that can add up to quite the overflowing plate. While I am only a parent to an increasingly droopy spider plant named Old Gregg, I fielded the expertise of the strong working parents here at RDW to lend their two cents on what has been working for them and their kiddos:
- “I’ve found that allowing brief periods of play time is critical for everyone’s well-being. It provides a mental break for us, while showing the kids that you aren’t fully ignoring them all day. It also reinforces the notion that while working it’s important to not interrupt us.” – Michael Masseur, Director of Public Relations
- “Setting designated breaks for us to all do things together, whether it’s a break outside, having a snack, or just talking has been helpful. I’ve also attempted to coordinate some activities so they have something to look forward to – if we’re all good listeners this AM we’ll get to paint later, or something like that.” – Janet Farrell, Director of Digital Services
- “For parents with little ones, it is not as easy as sitting them in front of an activity. They need a lot of help and guidance with almost everything. It’s especially difficult when they are an only child and have no one else to play with. I’m trying to transform my house into different places for imaginative play. For example, my pantry has become the grocery store and the guest room is the toy store where we pick out “new” (old) toys to play with.” – Katelyn Thompson, Associate Media Director
Ryan is the Director of Digital Services at RDW Group. Living his career on the digital frontier since ‘poking’ was social currency, he is ever on the pulse of the integrated mindset. Outside the office he can be found running silly distances to the beats of electronic music, capturing life through a camera lens, and soaking in the hop cologne at RI’s bountiful local breweries.