Working Remotely

March 20, 2020

Tips and tricks for employees transitioning to a home office during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have worked remotely in part-time and full-time roles for more than five years now.  I remember my first completely remote gig, working for a consulting firm headquartered in Massachusettes.  I eagerly sought out advice from seasoned remote workers in my professional network. One person emphasized the importance of applying makeup and dressing for the office every day.  My first thought – you’re out of your mind, that totally defeats the purpose! Since then, I’ve refined my own recipe for remote work success, it doesn’t involve putting on makeup every day, but getting dressed does help.  If you’re transitioning to remote work during the COVID-19 outbreak, I hope you find these tips useful. But most importantly, give yourself time to adjust and find the formula that works for you, and your employer!   

Communication is key!

Understand that your colleagues and your manager can’t pop their head into your office to see what you’re up to, or answer a quick question. 

Be sure you have a clear understanding of your work for the day or the week. If your manager hasn’t explained their expectations in detail along with timelines, you will need to request that information from them. 

Don’t be afraid to have a direct conversation with your manager and colleagues about how you are going to communicate. Examples could include quick, daily check-in calls, a daily email update, or keeping in touch via Slack, Hangouts, or Teams.  If you know how folks want to communicate from the start you will be a step ahead of the game.


Replicate your office scheduled as much as possible (or desired)

If you typically work in a call center and now find yourself fielding calls from home, this will be easy, mostly a change of scenery.  For folks who have mixed scheduled with meetings and independent work, you’ll need to figure out how to map that schedule to your new home office. 

Using your calendar to block off time for independent work is helpful. That time you normally spend commuting can be reallocated to working out, spending time with family, or tackling a new project.  This can be an opportunity to be more productive than ever!


Set yourself up for success

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of creating a dedicated workspace.  Not everyone has the luxury of a home office, but most can make a space on the dining room table to work during their normal shift.  It can be tempting to take the laptop to the couch or lounge in bed in the morning and read email, but there’s something about sitting upright in a proper chair at a proper table (or desk) to put you in a working frame of mind.

It’s also good to consider your housemates and clearly communicate your schedule to them.  If your housemates are small children, good luck with that. In my case, I’m careful not to have my dog Kevin in the office on Tuesday mornings when the garbage truck comes.  That amount of barking can interrupt a conference call pretty quickly. If I find myself scheduled in a video conference I’ll give my husband a heads up so he doesn’t walk into the room and make a cameo appearance during a strategic planning session.

dog home office

Home office perks: cute assistants! Here, Kevin is pictured NOT barking at the garbage truck.












Mind the fridge

There are lots of temptations and distractions when working from home.  You may hear the laundry calling, without judgy colleagues around you may want to whip up some seared salmon over risotto, but be mindful of the clock. 

That time you’d normally spend commuting is the perfect time for a quick load of laundry or a turn of the vacuum.

When it comes to lunchtime, remember to take a break!  I find it’s best to have something prepared in advance.  Have a great lunch prepped and in the fridge – and now you don’t have to put your name on it, because it’s your fridge!


Use your tools

We are fortunate to be in this situation in the digital age.  There are so many tools available to support remote work. Be sure to use all of the features at your disposal to maximize your productivity and communication. 

Share your calendar with your team and keep it updated with what you’re working on.

If you step away from your desk, update your status so folks know you’ll be right back, or you’re offline.  


Don’t forget the fun stuff

You may find it isolating to work from home.  There’s no coffee machine to gather around in the morning, no hallway stop and chats.  Be intentional about recreating these opportunities for connection. If you normally chat with Jim in Accounting about the 2020 presidential race, start up a virtual chat about that topic and keep the conversation going. 

Make time to check in with your manager to let them know how you’re doing and offer your support. Check-in on your colleagues with kids and make sure they have enough alcohol or chocolate to get them through this crazy time. 

Virtual happy hours are a thing, you can schedule a video conference to have lunch together, those connections matter (maybe now more than ever).


For more helpful WFH tips, check out these posts: