Telecommuting was the dream environment for countless modern workers. Over the past couple of weeks it has come crashing into reality for millions. At MartianCraft we have been doing the “remote thing” for more than a decade and we have been advocates of a more distributed workforce for even longer. Like many of our readers we didn’t think it would become a reality so fast.
The Novel Coronavirus has changed the way we look at many aspects of the world, and I don’t believe it is too early to say many things will be different on the other side. Over the last few weeks we have seen increasing numbers of companies, states, and even countries advising or mandating working from home where possible.
Everyone I have spoken with was thrilled to be able to work from home, it was the silver lining on a terrible time. Then people actually started to work from home, they found out that their companies were not equipped or prepared for it, and worse they found out they had no idea how to be successful in their newfound environment. We have routinely published articles on working from home for many years now, but given the overwhelming demand that has so quickly befallen us we will be stepping up the sharing of our hard-earned and trial tested knowledge. While MartianCraft is a software development company we have learned over the years that our expertise in remote transitions all fields.
The following tips and guidelines are designed to get you up and running in a remote environment. More comprehensive and specific information will be made available in the future.
Build a Routine
We, modern humans that is, have spent our entire lives encased by routine. We have been told when to get up, when to arrive at the office, when we should eat, and when we are free to go home since we were schoolchildren. These routines birthed new routines; we shower in the morning, then we have breakfast, we break for lunch at the same time, we walk our dog, we eat dinner, we go to the gym, everything that we do is a function of the routine that we have been completely enveloped by.
When you are thrown into a remote workplace many of these routines disappear, maybe you don’t need to shower until noon now (or at all), maybe you can run an errand in the middle of the day, or you can catch up on that report after dinner now. Our brains just aren’t designed for this rapid shift of behavior and people end up prognosticating, becoming frustrated, performing poorly, and becoming unmotivated.
We have seen and dealt with this issue for years, primarily with new employees who have never worked remotely before. The solution we have found is a simple one, fake the routine. Get up at the same time everyday, take a shower at the same time, eat breakfast, and then go to work. Pretend nothing has changed, you just have an awesome commute now. The more stringent the routine the easier it will be, do everything you need to do, but do it with purpose and at the right time. Tossing the laundry in between meetings may not seem like a big deal but it throws you out of the work mentality. Build a schedule like you were in the office, and stick to it the best you can.
Remove Home Distractions
One of the biggest issues that we see our new remote compatriots facing is the constant and pervasive distractions of the house. Not only are you adapting to a new working environment but the kids are out of school, the spouse is home, and everyone is bidding for your attention. These may seem like new problems that people haven’t faced before, but you may be forgetting about summer break and other staycations, and they should be treated the same. It is difficult not be distracted by the very nature of being home, after all this is where you relax after work and spend time with your family and friends. It’s hard to separate that this is also where you now work.
What works is what I like to call the archway or arched office approach. This works best if you have a room you can dedicate to a home office, perhaps a guest bedroom, most of us will not be having visitors anytime soon after all. Even if you don’t have an extra room a sectioned off area of the house works as well. The trick here is when you enter this space, when you walk under the archway of the office, you are teleported to work for all intents and purposes. Your spouse and children need to know they can’t run in there and ask you questions, they need to text, call, or email you just as if you were at work.
The most important part isn’t just letting family know to leave you alone. By far the most critical thing is your own mentality that this room or space is now your office. When you are in it you are at work. Don’t do anything personal in this space. Don’t work on your taxes, don’t email your family, don’t play video games, just work. On the flip side, don’t do any work from the rest of your home. Don’t get up and reply to some emails from bed, don’t take that conference call from the kitchen, don’t think you can write that report from the couch. What you are trying to do here is create a separation in your brain, like any new behavior it takes some time to adapt. When you are under the arch you are at work and will treat it just like work. When you are done for the day you go home, and you can relax because its your home, its not your office. It is crucial to keep that distinction going, even if it seems silly at times to create imaginary separations.
Normalize your New Environment
Working from home is great, you can wear pajamas all day and play with your dog during meetings, and work alongside your spouse. Wrong. This is the mindset that you need to break if you want to be successful in this new environment. You have a job, you are at your job, you aren’t on vacation, you aren’t retired, and it’s not the weekend. If you normally wear a dress shirt to work, when you get up in the morning put a dress shirt on. If you wear jeans to the office, then wear your jeans to work. If you aren’t comfortable having your boss come to your door in the middle of the day unexpectedly then you aren’t really in a work mindset. Trust me when you accidentally stand up on a conference call you will be thankful for wearing pants.
If you have ever been unemployed or on vacation too long you know the terrible feeling of not accomplishing anything. Sitting around in sweatpants all day, snacking, and watching TV in the background replicates this feeling. Get some exercise, try and eat healthy, get dressed for work, and things will start feeling normal again before you know it.
The more you treat remote working like actually going to work the better you will adapt. I know its hard, but try and make this all feel normal, remote work shouldn’t feel like you are cheating the system. It should still feel like a job. Yes there are great benefits, but its not the time to pretend like you don’t have to work anymore, just because you are in your home doesn’t mean people aren’t counting on you.
This may be the new normal for a long time, for some of you this might be how you work for the rest of your career. Some companies, not all, but some will find that remote works for them. It saves money, it creates happier employees, and it retains key staff, not to mention all the environmental and cost benefits. Most of you probably want your employer to be one of these new enlightened companies. Show them you can be more productive from home. Show them how much value this adds for them.
MartianCraft not only provides custom mobile software development and design, but we are here to help your business adapt to a remote workforce. We are available to consult on an as needed basis.