Having had the opportunity to work both remotely and in an office setting, I am here to tell you that you can do it. You'll have to get into a new routine. To help you get up to speed quickly, I'm sharing a few tips from my own experience of working out of my home office. It's important to remember these are simply tips that work for me. Try them, use the ones you find beneficial, ignore the others, and even make some of your own.
First Thing: Set up your office.
Find a place to call your office. For some, you are fortunate to have a separate room available to make into a home office. For others, you may need to be creative in finding the best place to set up shop. Try to locate an area you have minimum distractions from the other going-ons in your home - especially if you have kids or a spouse who is also at home. If you will be on the phone for your job, you may need to invest in a set of noise cancelling phone headset- to block out background noise from those you're on the phone with.
Ideally you will have a spot - even if it's just a desk or table - that you don't have to pack up every evening. But, if you don't have this luxury, get a container or bag you can keep your work in and stay organized. Make sure your wi-fi works in your home office - work with your IT department to make sure you have everything you need on the technology end. Other items you may need include a printer, extra ink cartridges (so you don't get caught unable to print when you most need to), pens, pencils, notepads, sticky notes, and paper clips. Personally, I also have a white board - but that's because I am a visual person and like to write the important tasks on it, so I don't forget.
Keep a Routine: Start your day as if you are going into the office.
Get up, take a shower, and get dressed. Eat breakfast, have a cup of coffee, and when you'd typically be heading out the door to get to work, head into your home office. If you usually have a long commute, go into your remote office the time you'd previously be walking into your building. If the latter is the case, enjoy those few extra minutes to do something you don't usually have the time to do, maybe even go for a walk.
Are there certain tasks you always tend to as soon as you get into your office? Start your day with those as well. In your pre-home office life, did you set aside time each day to do something specific - such as research for a project or meeting with a coworker? Keep doing it. The only difference is your meeting will be virtual, instead of in-person.
Keeping part of your previous routine will make your adjustment easier. Remember, "when working from home, you're your own personal manager. Without things like an in-person meeting schedule to break up your day, you can be quick to lose focus or burn out."
Let People Know: Remind everyone that even though you're home, you're working.
Years ago, when everyone still had a landline, I worked from home. I actually had two lines - the home line and a work line. A couple friends used to complain, "I called you yesterday, but you didn't answer." I inquired about which phone number they called and was informed it was the home phone. I then asked, "Do you answer your home phone when you're at work?" They looked confused and said, "No."
"So why," I asked, "would I answer my home line when I'm at work? Just because I'm physically in my house, doesn't mean I have free time to chat." When I'm at work, I'm at work - regardless of where I am physically. You may have to remind your friends and family of the same thing, at first.
If you have kids who are old enough to be independent within the house, let them know you have to work. Place a reminder on your office door or desk. They will quickly learn to be quiet at the appropriate times. My boys used to come tip-toeing into my office, making sure I wasn't on the phone, before asking a question. They had been trained from a very young age that when I was working they had to be quiet. Be patient, this is an adjustment for everyone - yours will come around.
If your children are younger and require more attention this can be a juggling act. You may have to split your work time into smaller chunks and work different hours than you normally did, as long as your workplace allows it. Communicate with your manager to find a solution.
Remember, you are working. If you wouldn't chat with friends on the phone while at your workplace, don't do it when you're working remotely. Unless, of course, you're on "break."
Mini Breaks: Take them periodically throughout the day.
The same way it's good to take mini breaks throughout the day when you're at work in an office building, it's healthy to do the same while working from home. Your break will look different, but is important to take it.
While taking a break, complete a quick household task. Where you would have previously walked to the vending machine or snack bar, you are now strolling into your kitchen. While grabbing that snack or coffee, why not take a minute to unload your dishwasher? It's one less thing you'll have to do later - and doesn't take longer than your office break would have.
Make a brief phone call. You don't have the luxury of stopping by a coworker's desk for five minutes anymore, but you can call a friend or coworker. Just make sure, if it's not work related, to keep it short. Set a time and let the person know you only have five minutes. Then stick to it.
Tend to the family. If your kids are home, take a few minutes to catch up with them. Help them with what they've been stopping by your desk for the past two hours wanting you to do, to only to be sent away. It helps them understand the importance of waiting, but they also know when you get a break you will give them your attention.
Go for a walk. If you 're taking a longer break or lunch break - get out of the house. Get some exercise. You'll come back refreshed and ready to focus on the next task at hand. I'd usually suggest occasionally going out to grab something for lunch, but, in this coronavirus situation, that most likely isn't possible. You could still, however, drive to a take-out restaurant to get a cup of coffee or lunch-to-go.
Stay Connected: Communicate and collaborate with your coworkers.
One of the challenges of working remotely is to not feel isolated. It takes a different type of effort to stay connected to both your coworkers and managers. If your company already uses technology to communicate this will be easier for you from the start.
Workplace communication tools, such as Slack, provide "a single place for messaging, tools and files." This is an effective means of collaborating when files need to be shared and multiple people are involved. Instead of having to pick up the phone every time you have a question, this form of instant messaging is a great option.
Use of video conferencing allows you to have those face-to-face meeting, even though you are in different locations. Just remember to pay attention to your surroundings and background in your video path, as well as the noise level in the area you're in. Follow Liane Cassavoy's advice, "If you're working remotely, you still need to dress well, [and] clean up your area..." For more tips, read Liane's article "I was a webcam zombie! How to look alive and professional in videoconferences and web meetings."
Hopefully you'll find that working remotely has many benefits. Once you determine and find a solution to the unique challenges that come along with it you will also discover the rewards. Good luck with your new work location. Now go get your office set up!