Me 16 months ago: Working from my bed in sweatpants is my dream! #goals
Me now: HAHAHAHAHA I’m so dumb.
While it sounds like a mini-vacay, working from home brings a lot of challenges. Whether you’re a parent with a full household, an extrovert who needs interaction, or you’re managing your department, physical isolation can be tough on all teams, especially marketing.
Fortunately, I’m a pro at making working from home successful because I’ve been managing Vision6’s marketing department from across the world (in the US) for over a year now. So, here are my tried and tested tips for getting the most out of yourself, and from your team while keeping at least six feet apart. Or in my case 11,558 km.
1. Stick to your current routine as much as possible
When I first started working from home, I was living in a tiny studio apartment in New York City. The time difference between myself and my team was about 12 hours apart so I started my day at around 11am and worked through the evening. This was my first mistake. And because my entire apartment was basically my bedroom, I started hosting meetings from bed with my camera off (Duh). That was my second mistake.
It’s really important to keep to your current routine as much as possible. If you shave or put on makeup before work, keep doing it! I get ready as if I’m going to the office every morning, down to putting on my shoes.
Your mind needs to distinguish between relaxation time and work time. So going through the motions of getting ready and unready is really going to help your body and mind adjust. Which leads me to my second tip.
2. Maintain a separate and tidy workspace
After almost a year of working from my studio apartment in New York City, I relocated to a much larger apartment (in comparison) in Southern California. This is where I stopped hating remote work and started loving it. Not because SoCal is amazing (it is!), but because I stopped working from my bedroom. Your workspace is probably the most important element of making working from home work for you.
Whether you have a big home or a small apartment, creating a separate workspace from your living and relaxation space is super important and not as hard as you think. If you have the option of creating a workspace in a spare room, lucky you! If you don’t, head over to your local home goods store and buy a room divider. If your space is really small and the room divider feels like a DIY prison cell, position your desk so it’s facing a window. If you have kids, creating that physical barrier can also help them distinguish from home mum/ dad to work mum/dad.
3. Over communicate, even if you feel annoying
The saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’ rings true in a work from home scenario. The option to walk up to someone’s desk and get a quick answer is now a luxury you’ll wish you had. Expect to replace simple, one word answers with email chains 15 pages long— and that’s not a joke.
Remote communication is hard for two reasons:
Reason 1: It can take forever to get anything done
If your team isn’t on slack or constantly checking their emails, projects can hit a roadblock, especially if that project requires cross-departmental collaboration. There’s a really easy way to avoid this and it’s to set communication expectations and over deliver on them.
I have 15-30 minute catch ups every morning with my direct team members to discuss the work we did the day before and what we’re doing today. We also slack about a gazillion and one times after that. The challenges of cross departmental communication have the same, easy solution. While in my remote role, Vision6 embarked on a major project to completely redesign and launch our website (coming soon!) which required A LOT of collaboration from all departments.
We created what we now call a dynamic team and created a slack channel specific to website communications. At a minimum, we had a one-hour long meeting every week to discuss our WIP. I highly recommend finding a robust video meeting platform that allows you to record and screen share with unlimited users. We go between Zoom and Google Hangouts, but I also really like GoToMeeting.
Reason 2: Being a one man band is lonely AF
When you’re having meetings online, even if it’s a 5 minute catch up, I really encourage you to keep your camera on everytime. The face-to-face interaction is so meaningful, not just while we’re self isolating. If you’re someone who lives alone or is surrounded by kids everyday, you’ll really benefit from that type of face-to-face engagement.
4. If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist
When you’re working in an office environment you have dozens of triggers that help guide you through your day. You have a meeting that reminds you of a project you need to work on, a conversation that sparks another task and so forth. When you work remote all of those triggers are removed and you’re really on your own to self manage.
I’m not someone who will sit there and write a to-do list or fill my calendar with tasks I need to complete. To the disappointment of my own manager, it’s just not happening. So I’ve found keeping an agenda for every meeting I have (which is multiple every morning) super helpful to keep me focused.
5. Buy a calendar and set alarms
My life constantly felt like that in between ‘Christmas and New Year’ period where a Sunday could easily be a Tuesday. If the government was really spying on me through my Alexa, all they would know about me is that I didn’t know my days of the week. Even with a dedicated workspace, separating personal time from work time is hard because you don’t know when to switch off. I found myself checking emails at midnight and doing work on the weekends— the separation of days and times started to become a big blur.
I recommend buying a calendar and crossing each day off. It helps the weeks feel shorter because you get that same ‘looking forward to the weekend’ feeling you’d get on a normal Thursday or Friday. I also set alarms for starting the work day, lunch/ tea breaks, and closing up shop. It helps me hold myself accountable and will be super helpful when it’s time to readjust to the workplace.
I hope those tips help. Here’s a video of a guy who’s kids crashed his BBC interview while WFH. Enjoy!