Working from home used to seem like the dream way to get your work done. Until you had to do it. Then you wondered what was in the fridge, if the postal mail arrived yet, or one of a dozen other easy distractions to make up for the solitude. Well, that reality is now being forced upon many of the world’s workers in ways that were not expected or wanted.
How do you turn remote work into a productivity boon and more pleasant experience?
Most companies consider this to be a temporary situation, although there are pundits claiming that this will kick off a more permanent and steady work from home trend. I am not so sure. There’s plenty of reasons why many people want to work from an office, with other people, despite the commute times and human challenges. We are social beings. Most of us, anyway.
Some of the basics based on years of personal experience as well as advice I have received over the years, some tech-ish, some human-ish:
- Get dressed. Working in your pajamas sounds cool, but you will feel a bit lazy and too relaxed. Plus, if you start a work call and hit the video button by mistake, well…
- Carve out a dedicated work area, even if it is temporary during this Coronavirus situation. A separate workspace is healthy as well as keeping to your regular work routine, even though you are not in the office. Plus, it lets you close the door and leave work behind.
- Replicate your office work tech as much as possible. If you work with two screens, haul them home for this time. If you don’t have two screens, why not?
- Since you might not have an ergonomic desk and chair setup at home, plan to take more physical breaks to get up, stretch, move around. Avoid the fridge, though. Keep your normal coffee break and lunch time, but avoid distractions.
- Get noise-cancelling headphones if you need to listen in to a conference call and your kid is running around. Or read about Krisp below. Or, get good and fast with that mute button.
- By the way, unfair or not, I am presuming you have high-speed, reliable internet.
Okay, to the five solid tech options:
On the tech front, video calls can make a remote work day feel more connected. Accounts are free for the basic plan, if your company does not already have a corporate one. Zoom is amazing and, well, I would recommend another if there was a better one. Some folks still swear by Skype and some even claim FaceTime can be a great alternative. Zoom is packed with features and is fast with clear audio and video. Record the calls so participants who cannot attend can listen in later.
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Collaboration with Slack
Lots of telecommuters, remote work types tell me they like Slack, which brings together messaging, and a single place for files, attachments. I’m not a fan personally, but if your company does not already use it, then you can create a free level plan and invite people into it. Think of it as the replacement for email, except you still have email, plus Slack.
Google Docs and Sheets
My preferred method these days may appear a bit clunky, but I use Google Docs or Sheets and let people collaborate. There is a chat feature (which is not that elegant, frankly). There are add-on tools, like Voice Typing that I wrote about last year, but Zapier has an excellent, long list of helpful add-ons. If you haven’t heard of Zapier, read this: Zapier Is The Web Service That Will Make Your Productivity Soar.
Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, built and has a free, group collaborative space called P2. It’s free and can be hosted on WordPress or self-hosted (meaning you have your own blog hosted, say, at Bluehost, and you want to collaborate with others — you can download the theme and install it).
Try Krisp If You Do Not Have Noise-cancelling Headphones
Hat tip to Matt from WordPress for the shoutout about the Krisp app that lets you mute background noise during calls. Free for 60 minutes free per week. If you use Krisp for iOS, Apple users get 240 minutes free per week. What? Platform discrimination, in my view.
You can listen and speak without noise. I have not wrapped my head around how it works yet, but the site states: “World’s Best Innovative Noise Cancellation Technology Powered by Deep Neural Network.” They promise they will not store or send any of your calls; it is all processed on your machine.
Two non-tech resources:
Time has this excellent piece on how the tech is not enough to quell the human spirit that needs contact. Hint: Even introverts need human connections. Read: The Coronavirus Is Making Us See That It’s Hard to Make Remote Work Actually Work.
Fast Company created a practical guide to the human side of remote work: How to set up remote teams during coronavirus.