TMSA’s Top 10 tips for Working Remote from Home

So many of us are working remote from home this week, and probably for a while, amidst the nationwide effort to prevent further spread of Covid-19. With restaurants, coffee bars and many other remote working locations also closing up shop, that means most of us are under the roofs of our own homes, doing our best to be both productive and collaborative in entirely new ways.  

Whether it’s collaborating with your team, keeping workstreams going, or conducting a more formal virtual meeting, there are several tips we’re sharing in today’s blog post to help make the transition to home & remote working environments simpler and more efficient. In fact, many members of TMSA’s Headquarters Staff and Board, including today’s blog author, Jill Schmieg of Sol de Naples Marketing, have already spent years working in remote settings. Learn how they--- and you! --- can make it a success every day.

Tip #1: Create a dedicated work area. 

Many have the luxury of having a room dedicated to an in-home office, or can easily convert a den or study. Even if you don’t have this kind of space, however, find a small desk and put it in a designated corner of a bedroom or living area. This helps draw a mental line between your personal home life and your professional working life. It also helps you designate and build an area that fosters the most productivity for you during work time.

Tip #2: Use a time tracker. 

Consider using a time tracker, even if your company doesn't require you to. Some of us, especially those who live and breathe as an overachiever, work under self-inflicted pressure to always do more. A time tracker can help you look back at your day and really see how much work you put in, and what was accomplished in the time you spent. It can also help you recalibrate the second half of your day if you find that by mid-day, you’ve only put in a few hours of ‘true’ work --- and help you fend off personal life creeping into working hours.

Tip #3: Use Project/Task management software. 

This can help you maintain an ongoing task list not only for yourself, but also for other team members; contributions to a project, especially complex ones with multiple steps and collaborators. It helps everyone who is working on the team keep track of their tasks, see where a project is at any given time, and see how their tasks overlap and depend on others work, without needing to schedule a meeting or even necessarily make a phone call.

Tip #4: Keep your routine and wardrobe the same. 

When Don Friddell, COO at TMSA Headquarters started working remote, a mentor gave him the advice to still get up every morning at the same time, and still dress in business casual attire every day before ‘heading into the office’ --- even as he just walked across a hall in his home for his commute. It may seem like a minor nuance, but believe it or not, what you wear impacts your attitude and how you feel. Don’t let wearing pajamas to work put you into relaxation mode!

Tip #5: Use a webcam and video conferencing.

When you work from home, you will likely miss that “face-to-face” interaction, friendliness and even camaraderie that an office setting fosters.  Having video conferencing can help bridge the gap. Overall, working remote will require a myriad of technology enablers -- email, teleconferencing, webpages, intranets, social collaboration, and messaging tools are but a few that come to mind. They can help facilitate communication and collaboration like never before ---- but be mindful that you will have to slow down to read what is being communicated carefully. Also, be very deliberate about seeking clarification and full understanding that would otherwise be ‘built-in’ to a face-to-face office conversation.

Tip #6: Communicate with your manager and team regularly.  

We recommend that you schedule a regular touch-base call (or better yet, video conference!) with your manager each week, as well as one with your team, every week. This should be done in addition to leveraging messaging platforms like Skype, Teams, or Slack for quick communications and questions hour-by-hour or day-by-day. These weekly calls not only help build rapport and relationships in the absence of an office setting but also help provide ‘open time’ to bring up new topics or emerging problems that may not make their way onto your more formal to-do list.

Tip #7: Take time to exercise and care for yourself. 

It is easy to quickly blur the lines between working and at home obligations when working remotely. All too often, you may find yourself lingering for ‘just one more thing’ at your computer screen. Resist the temptation to do this in favor of being healthy. Getting exercise will also help you reduce stress and can provide a natural transition if you put it right at the end of your workday before home life begins.  

Tip #8: Know when to log off. 

This goes hand-in-hand with #7. It’s important to set a time to officially “log off” from work every day. Otherwise, you might work all the time since your home is now your office. What’s more, most people thrive when there is some structure and a routine. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps to maintain work/life balance.

Tip #9: Set ground rules with other people in your household.  

Your family may want to chit chat with you, especially if their working hours don’t match yours.  In our current situation with Covid-19 social distancing, we’re learning that many TMSA members working from home not only by themselves but also with a spouse and children also present. Establish a focused time for everyone -- including yourself --- to work. Set clear boundaries, designated workspaces for everyone and follow the schedule you design as closely as possible.

Tip #10: Limit distractions. 

Have you ever been on a teleconference and heard a dog barking in the background? How about heard a doorbell ring? These are some of the inherent distractions, and at times, disruptions, that can occur in a remote work environment. Do you best to minimize their effect on you and your professional regimen. Also, some people are really good multi-taskers, but quite honestly, most are not. That’s why we recommend keeping the TV and music turned off, and keeping a clean, well-organized work area.  

What challenges are you facing as you transition to a remote, at-home working environment? Do you like it or hate it? Does your company provide a policy and/or guidelines for remote work? Looking for tips on how to hold a successful virtual meeting with several people joining from several different locations? Need to rapidly find the right technology tools for working remotely? Join the conversation and help your fellow TMSA members succeed with insights provided in a collaborative webinar on Friday, March 27th at 11am CST. Learn More

This blog was authored by Jill Schmieg, Co-Chairperson of TMSA’s Education Committee and Chief Strategist at Sol de Naples Marketing.  She greatly thanks Jennifer Karpus-Romain, Don Friddell, Andrew Gulovsen and Brian Everett for the input and contributions to this blog post. 

Free Webinar: Top Tips for Working from Home and Conducting Virtual Meetings with Success
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