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Advice for crushing work from home

Mike Joyner

I transitioned to working fully remote several years ago. I was living in San Jose and commuted daily to San Francisco. My podcast game was on point and I talked to my mom on the phone more than I had in years, but it didn’t take away from the fact that I was stuck in a metal box on wheels for hours a day. After our second son was born and spending one day in commute traffic for SIX HOURS, we decided to move closer to home to get some help and transition into a schedule where I didn’t feel like I was missing our kids growing up.

With the move, I had time to process all the emotions and anxiety thinking through the new reality of not being in an office with my co-workers. It took me a couple months to finally settle into a rhythm. Remote work is now being abruptly thrust on people, and I’m sure causing some uneasiness. Managers are trying to figure out how to lead their team through a massive change without being able to go for the in-person coffee chats. New hires now have to understand an entirely new company without feeling the soul of the culture within its walls. Employees have suddenly lost their morning dance buddy, lunch crew, and idea bouncers.

Based on my experience, here are some tips for adjusting to remote work to keep you energized, feeling connected, and avoiding the feeling of isolation, which is definitely a real thing.

1) No commute means some time back in your day — Invest it in yourself
Use this time to meditate, exercise, read, or connect with your family. I went from 3+ hr commute days to 0. Ok, maybe a minute or two to walk up the stairs to my home office. I went through a period of guilt feeling like I needed to fill the time with more work. Don’t do that. This is your time to charge your batteries in the morning and decompress in the evening. Local gyms are livestreaming classes for free and Peloton is offering 90 days of free home workouts (no bike required).

2) Create a workspace with as much natural light as possible
It’s amazing what sunlight can do to your mood. If you’re in a room without windows or no direct sun, there are light therapy lamps that can make a huge difference. Doctors agree. Life is messy and sometimes so is the background behind you on camera. It’s ok, find ways to embrace this together with your teams. You can have crazy hat days, meet the kids and extra points to reenacting the BBC guy, or bringing in your furry friends too. Zoom has great virtual backgrounds if you need it.

3) Get dressed
Simple, I know. Dress like you normally would. For me, this has been helpful to signal to our kids that I’m ‘going to work’. I give hugs, put on my backpack, and head to work. If you don’t have kids, this is to save you from yourself. Before you know it, it’ll be 7pm and you’ll still be in your PJs. Not that I’ve avoided that 100% of the time. Let’s face it, some work is best done in your PJs anyway.

4) Master your technology
There’s nothing worse than people talking over each other or someone getting frozen in time right before they were about to say the most profound thing you’ve ever heard. You might want to consider upgrading your wifi temporarily to avoid being that person. Check out these tips for mastering Zoom and Slack. Talk with your team and those around you at home about your availability and how best to communicate with each other, and have fun with it. Use emojis, gifs, and clear chat status updates since everyone will be relying on that vs. being about to visually see you at your desk.

5) Create a routine
Wake up as you normally would, schedule work blocks in your calendar, and most importantly know when to shutdown. A routine can improve your health while also serving to set boundaries and expectations with those you’re sharing your home workspace with. It’s also important that you create opportunities to connect with people not just in team meetings, email, and chat channels. In the same way that you’d catch up with someone walking back to your desk or on the way to lunch, reach out to people to connect on FaceTime or Zoom for these moments as well. A quick two-minute feedback conversation before logging off a meeting or a brief good morning goes a long way!

6) Take time for a break
These are naturally built into your day when you’re in an office. You need to get to and from work, walk between rooms, and grab food. For example, if a meeting ends a couple minutes early, I’ve found taking these little moments to connect with someone in the house or online really helps with feeling connected. Don’t forget to walk and if your space allows change locations even if it’s just to eat a meal. Nothing will drain your energy and focus more than eating at your desk every day, skipping lunch entirely, or waiting until you’re famished at 3pm. Schedule it in if you need to, because these options aren’t good for your physical or emotional health.

7) Over Communicate
Find ways to connect with your team for big and small moments. You can replace that time you have sitting near each other with scheduled daily stand-ups. You can ask trivia, highs and lows of the day, or work from home hacks as people get creative in their new ‘office’. Don’t forget to celebrate as a team. I’ve heard of teams adding in some fun by creating group challenges — daily steps, TikTok Flip the Switch, photography, best song choice on a Spotify collaborative playlist. If you’re a manager, it’s an opportunity to connect with your team in a way that maybe wasn’t possible before. Be as transparent as you can with sharing your experience, the struggles and the wins. Consider using tips in this leadership guide for helping your team navigate through these uncertain times. Let those around you at home know what your schedule looks like each day. I setup an iPad in our kitchen with my schedule so they can see when I’m in meetings. Informal meetings can involve more people at home, and a great way to share your work-life with your roommates or family. If it’s a high-stakes meeting, I talk to our kids in the morning and text my wife prior to the start time.

8) Re-read what you write before sending
Tone and words are even more important when you’re not face-to-face and conversations are moved to email and chat channels.

These are challenging times, but my hope is that we can find ways to lift each other up and work through things together. If you have any tips on working from home that have worked for you or your team, please share.

Growth by Design Talent helps early & mid-stage high growth companies design talent strategies to help them scale quickly and thoughtfully.

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