Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tips for Telecommuting

Hi, so I've been a telecommuter or remote worker for over ten years. Since some of you may be telecommuting for the first time here are some tips. As always, not all of them will work for everyone. 
1. Try using a dedicated work space. When I injured my knee, I basically had to work on the couch for a while. It made it tough to make the mental transition between work time and fun time. They can be super close, I live in a small apartment, but a different butt cushion helped.  Similarly, I am in favor of putting on day clothes of some sort.  Or at least different PJs.  I'm not saying I never started work still in PJs.  But being able to take a last minute video conference, or answer the door for an unexpected delivery, it makes life easier.  And I found for me, made me feel again like a person who was doing things, so that the days I did just lounge around in PJs were more clearly non-work days. 
2. Think ergonomically. I did something weird to my shoulder the first month I worked from home. I ended up changing my monitor height, getting an additional chair cushion, and also having to rest my poor shoulder for a while. If the set up at home had never before been used, or used irregularly, it may work differently for you now that you are there for hours at a time.
3. Food. You probably stocked your food and snacks differently when you were eating there at different times. Some of my coworkers had really awesome snacka that they had no trouble avoiding when they were out of the house forty some hours a week. Alternately, I did not have enough food to survive 80% of my meals being eaten there and it took a while to figure out what was the right amount.
4. Schedule. Figure out a schedule. If you are a person like me, you may have used the growing silence of the office, or your desire to eat dinner as your sign to go home. You may now work where your dinner lives. I talked to a few coworkers after we transitioned who found they were more productive. I asked them how many hours they worked. 
Also, this is not my area of expertise, but folks with kids often found setting the I am here but I'm at work boundary tough. A dedicated space and/or regular hours may help with that. (It does not help with pets, but they do adjust somewhat too.)
4. Movement. Depending on what your commute looked like, you may be doing more or less walking. If you used a gym near work, you may not be near it automatically anymore. So think about how you'll incorporate that into your schedule. 
5. Work people. I've worked with teams where everyone was remote and one's where some people were on site together. Either way it means rethinking how meetings and updates work when everyone isn't in the same place. Also, there are conversations and such that happen when people wander by each other, or hear someone sounding frustrated that don't happen organically when folks are separate. Group chats and regular check in meetings, can fill in some gaps. Also, you may need to think about how to update folks about roadblocks, and being explicit. For example, I am working on this problem is not the same as I am working on this problem and have no idea how to solve it. Yes, this is good communication for even on site team members, but some of those gaps get filled in when you add in person discussion.
6. Nonwork people. Your house may have far less non-work people. This may be exciting. This may be sad. Think about how to adjust for this, whether it's more phone calls and video chats with friends, or whatever. Some folks might know I joined knitting groups and book groups to get some real people interaction, but that is just one option.
7. Errands. The first part of errands is about boundaries. Your telecommuting may include more flexibility or it may not. If it does allow for midday errands, that might be a great option. You might also be able to help run errands for others. But you still have responsibilities. Your increased flexibility has limits. As I said to one person it's work from home, not do chores and get paid by the company I am not doing chores for. So figure out your boundaries there.
Obviously if you are telecommuting due to health reasons, some of this will change. Overall, boundaries and schedule are some of the keys.