At Meister, we are accustomed to working remotely, but we realize that you may not be. And in light of COVID-19 and the suggestion to many professionals to work at home, we’d like to share some tips and tricks from our team.
While remote work is an adjustment and can be intimidating at first, it can also be fun and sometimes even more effective than office work. We’ll start at the beginning.
1. Get Situated
Perhaps the environment you have at home is not the most conducive to working in the way that you’re used to. And you may not have a dedicated office space at home, so first things first — set up your home office to make it work for you as best you can. Although some of these seem obvious, before you get to work, consider which space in your home has
- A solid internet connection
- An electrical outlet
- A seat at the right height, with proper back and arm support
- Good lighting and
- A writing surface.
Once you’ve covered the basics, you can move on to more advanced things like the importance of working in a room with a door or how to hack your space for creativity. If you find that you need to work remotely for an extended period of time, it might be worth investing in a good book on the topic, such as The Successful Virtual Office.
2. Don’t Stop Collaborating
Collaboration is most efficient when done in person, something that IBM, the pioneer of remote work, learned the hard way. But efficiency isn’t everything. One advantage of working from home is the ability to focus on collaborating effectively. What’s the difference? Just because face-to-face collaboration is speedy, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best way for everyone to get their opinions heard. Online tools can be great at leveling the playing field, as described in this article from Zapier.
Now might be a good time to mention that this article is being written quickly with the help of my team. Some of us are already working from home and my first thought was to put together a mind map in MindMeister and have everyone add to it. See the little green and red circles next to some of the items? Those are yes or no votes from my colleagues. All ideas and voices were heard, and no meeting was held.
Yes, online collaboration can be challenging, but it’s our standard at Meister. In addition to our own tools, here are some of our favorites for incorporating online collaboration:
- Google Drive, Docs, and Sheets. Check out this article for an idea of how these tools can help you collaborate.
- Google Meet. Online meetings can work well! Read about how to lead them successfully.
- Slack. Read about how the way you use your internal chat can help you and your team work more productively.
Of course, good collaboration is based on good communication. If you’re finding it hard to communicate with your team, or especially with other departments, under the new conditions presented by digital-only communication, check out these tips.
3. Use the Silence
While you may be missing your colleagues and the daily conversations you have, working on your own also has its advantages. If you’re lucky enough to have a quiet space to work from at home or elsewhere, embrace it — use the silence! This may be just the opportunity you need to focus on tasks that require intense concentration. Once you get into the zone, you might find that this type of concentrated work suits you. And, if you want to learn more about working without distractions on demanding tasks, have a look at Deep Work. These are skills that you can practice at home and even bring back to the office with you.
Just as the office isn’t always the best place to focus, it’s also the place where little tasks seem to drop out of nowhere onto your desk. We often delay the bigger tasks, like long-term planning, imagining a block of time we’ll have in the future to get them done. Well, that block of time has arrived. Set aside an hour or two at home and think strategy. When you’re happy with what you’ve come up with, share it with your colleagues.
Because home may be a foreign place to work in, things that don’t distract you at the office may distract you at home. If you find that all your friends are now also working from home and your phone is buzzing every few seconds, take a minute to tame that phone.
4. Get Noise on Your Side
If that last section on using silence didn’t speak to you at all because your home office is not silent, there’s good news — you can make noise work for you. Moderate noise (70 dB) has actually been shown “to enhance performance on creative tasks.” That means if the kids are home from school, their playing video games in the background might not be such a bad thing. In fact, it may even force you to concentrate more than usual. If the kids require more attention though, it might be useful to prioritize your tasks by least to most involved, so that you know when you can work on what.
If you don’t have kids at home and find silence deafening, try adding some music to your work — it can help you be more productive. If you need help finding what kind of music is best, give these tips a read. Still not sure where to start? Here is our Partner Manager and Staff Writer, Raphaela’s, top music for concentration. And here is our Marketing Manager for MindMeister, Michelle’s, favorite work Spotify playlist.
5. Spend Time with Intention
Working at home requires quite a bit of discipline — discipline to get work done and eliminate distractions, but also discipline to take breaks. In the office, coffee breaks or colleagues dropping by create natural, important breaks. At home, be disciplined about getting up out of your chair or off the couch. Set a timer if you need to or try the Pomodoro technique. If you have habits at the office, like a 10-minute meditation session at a certain time each day, try to observe these things at home, too.
Although you’ve taken your work out of the office, make sure that it doesn’t spread too far. Draw a clear delineation between office time and home time, even if the office time is now taking place at home. Let the principle of work-life balance remain firmly in place and keep working to achieve it.
6. Keep Reading
This last tip is our way of saying, we can’t possibly summarize all the benefits and best practices of working from home ourselves. So please keep reading to learn more about how to stay productive while working remotely with these helpful resources:
- Zapier’s Ultimate Guide to Remote Work
- Top 15 Tips To Effectively Manage Remote Employees
- 3 Questions the Best Leaders Ask Their Remote Teams Every Week
- RemoteWork sub on Reddit to ask questions and find community
- 4 Tips for Effective Virtual Meeting Management
- A Guide to Conquering Remote Work Loneliness
- 8 Effective Tools for Common Meeting Management Tasks
- The Art of Listening for Distributed Teams
- Buffer’s The State of Remote Work
You Can Do It
Although this situation might feel new and different, we hope to have made your work-at-home journey a bit better, more productive, and even pleasurable. Please share your favorite work-from-home hacks or tips that we haven’t covered, in the comments on this page or on Twitter @MeisterTask or @MindMeister. From the team here at Meister, you’re not in this alone (though it might feel like it)!