So, like most everyone else, you’ve been asked to work from home for the foreseeable future. You may be someone who is relatively accustomed to this lifestyle, but what if you are completely new to remote work? What sorts of things will you need to continue being productive and well-adjusted? What tools would be helpful for making this transition as painless as possible?
As an experienced team of remote workers, we’ve been able to figure out what works and doesn’t work for us; some of these things require software or something physical, but some things are more intangible in nature. Here are a few tools that you might consider moving forward into your remote workdays.
Virtual Meeting Spaces
Depending on whether you are the employer or an employee, there will need to be decisions made regarding when, how often, and through what channel you and your team will be able to virtually meet. Fortunately, such tools exist and some are, for a limited time, offering premium versions for no additional cost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One example of a virtual meeting space platform is Zoom, which has become somewhat of a household name over the past couple of weeks. Zoom was developed in order to make virtual meetings possible for up to 1,000 video participants and up to 10,000 viewers. This platform is great for smaller scales too, and it comes with the capability to record and transcribe meetings.
Another option is GoToMeeting which was specifically designed to host meetings and webinars for up to 250 participants, so it’s essentially a smaller-scale version of Zoom. Through GoToMeeting, you also can record and transcribe meetings for simple reference later.
This is a broad suggestion, but it has been a necessary one for me. Because you are being tasked with designating and maintaining a home office space, keeping your space organized and clutter-free can be difficult when you’re dealing with paper-based assignments.
Instead, why not consolidate and handle your paperwork as digitally as possible? The type of tablet you’ll need will depend on the type of work you’re doing. For example, when I was doing remote teaching work, I really needed a pen tablet to interface with my virtual “blackboard.” With that in mind, I used a Wacom pen tablet because it was a no-frills method by which I could write digitally; that’s all I needed.
When my work involves a lot of reading and note-taking, I prefer a pen tablet with an actual screen. For this, you may use an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, a Surface Pro X, or any other tablet with pen compatibility. I use GoodNotes for my note-taking software because of its ease of use and versatility. Having a tablet handy has been invaluable as a tool to declutter my home office space, go paperless as much as possible, and use creative annotation techniques without needing a whole kit of office and art supplies.
Time Management Tools
The tool you use to track your billable hours will depend on how you compartmentalize your billable hours, but keeping track of your work time is essential not just for your company but also for tracking your work-life balance.
If you just want a decent idea of how many working hours you’re putting in, it’s good enough to just use the stopwatch built into your phone. However, you’ll miss out any categorical tracking and if that’s important to you, you may consider investing in a dedicated work timer.
For project-based time tracking, Timely is a great resource to use. Not only is Timely able to time different projects and billable activities, it can also help you manage team projects in an equitable manner. Timely automatically tracks time spent on work projects and is especially great for remote teams because it makes your at-home work visible and trackable by others.
For some, the transition to home office is second-nature but for others, the idea of working from their home space is strange and misaligned with their established routine. Because of this, it is possible to experience a drop in productivity in the beginning; attempting to fit a working routine into a differently-shaped home routine may not work as seamlessly as we hope.
For this, I’ll simply suggest that if something is not working, stop pushing it. If you cannot work the same way at home as you can in the office, then so be it. For me, it helps to establish break times and work times that don’t always comply with the traditional nine-to-five.
It also helps to designate a hard boundary between work and home. You may decide that after 6PM, you’re away from emails until the next morning; between 12:30 and 1:30PM, you’re away having lunch; at 3:30, you’re taking a walk or having a coffee through Zoom with your colleagues. Or, you may need to address some non work-related housekeeping at 4PM and that means you’ll be online with work until 7PM or in early the next day, and that’s okay. Boundaries are important in every aspect of your life, but they’ll need to be redefined and well-respected for this new home workspace to be productive at all.
Noise-cancelling headphones are great at home (and in the office) if you can’t cope with background distractions. I have these Bose 700 headphones, and they’ve radically improved my focus!
This is a rare (but becoming less rare) opportunity for you to define what your optimal workspace can look like for you. Take advantage of the many tools available, invest in your productivity, and enjoy the flexibility of working remotely.
Work Globally, Live Locally.