How to work from remote more efficiently

How to work from remote more efficiently

March 20, 2020

In these devastating times of SARS-CoV-2, also known as the Coronavirus or COVID-19, more and more employees work from remote.  This might sound tempting, working in pajamas all day, enjoying a Latte Macchiato while looking out of your window in your wonderful garden. Oh, the Japanese cherry tree is already in full bloom!

For some employees, myself included, it is common to work one or more days remote from home.

Advantages of work from the home office

Advocates of work from remote say that the home office is a modern workplace, making it easier to work flexibly and is better for self-management. According to a statista survey, in 2018 more than 3 million people in the Netherlands used the possibility of working from a home office- a rising trend.

People who are working in modern-day open offices know that it can be difficult to focus when several of your colleagues are holding phone conferences next to you. The noise level can be high and very annoying. It is surely easier to focus on work when you are in a quiet environment without distractions.

Another advantage is the commute. With more and more emphasis on CO² reduction, the commute could not be more sustainable. No trip at all. You get up and start working in your home office. That’s it.

Why I like to work from remote

work from remoteI am a regular home worker. Working two days from home office and 3 days in the local office- that’s perfect for me. Why? I need time to focus on my writings, to edit articles or videos. To get into the flow of deep focus, I need silence, without disruptions. While brainstorming, I tend to walk around. While editing, I read the text out loud.  Again and again. Not very considerately, if I would do that in front of my colleagues.

Also, as I work in Social Media Marketing, Social Media never sleeps. You need to be flexible and to be a Social Media enthusiast. I can easily check comments on our Social Media channels with my iPhone.

On the other hand, it is very inspiring to meet my colleagues face-to-face in the office. To develop strategies together, making jokes, having a cup of coffee- the human social factor is important.

Being now fulltime unintentionally imposed to home office when you never experienced working from remote before, can be confusing. So let me give you some recommendations based on my own experience.

Using the right tools

Just because you feel like being isolated on a little island, you don’t have to be isolated. Each morning, our Marketing Team has a Stand Up-Meeting, regularly face-to-face, but now via Microsoft Teams. Like Skype, you can have team calls where everyone can share his or her screen. You can speak about strategic topics and discuss the tasks for today. You can also work with several people on the same document, so there is only one actual version of the document. You can use the Kanban board to define sprints which is essential for agile working. Overall, Microsoft Teams is a great and cost-effective tool for team collaboration.

Don’t skip meetings just because everybody is working from remote. Use Microsoft Teams or Skype instead. If you want to, you can turn your webcam on. But remember to keep a professional atmosphere. If you decide to work in your pajamas today, it might not be a good idea to confront your colleagues or business partners with your sleeping dress. If you feel more motivated to work in a suit, pull on a suit.  You are free to decide. If you belong to the generation with 10 to 12 Instagram stories per day, you are already used to be in front of the camera. But please pull off that selfie smile!

Communicate!

Even though I am located at the Yokogawa office in Germany, my direct stakeholders are not in the same building, not even in the same country. They are based all over the world: The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Norway, Argentina, Japan and also Australia. We may have not the same mother tongue, but we luckily live in a connected world. So you can have a skype call with Japan or Australia in the morning, with other countries in the daytime. Sometimes it’s easier to call somebody to avoid misunderstandings and to check if you are on the same page.

Your workplace at home

work from remote

A lot of people just got the instruction at very short notice that they have to work from home for an undefined period of time. Where is the best place to work from home? If you have a free room, use it as your temporary office. It is better to have your own place instead of working on the kitchen table. You can leave your things there and create a working atmosphere.

Why breaks are important

It’s not possible to concentrate for 8 hours or more. This is why taking a break is essential.  It is not productive to work without taking a break. Ideally, you should go out for a walk and have a light lunch. But please take a break! Many employees rather tend to eat their lunch next to their laptop and work through e-mails.

You will recognize that after taking a break, your mind is fresh again and your unconscious might have found the solution for an issue in the meantime.

In any case, executives should remind their employees that they should take a break.

Having a young and active dog, instead of taking a long break for lunch, I go with our dog for a walk. Often I get new ideas while I am outside. After that, a sandwich, a soup or a salad serves as lunch for me as I usually cook a fresh meal in the evening.

Sometimes the boundaries between work and private life are blurring. If you have a private appointment like a doctor’s appointment, you will often sit again on your desk in the evening to make up for the lost hours.

Consequences of social distancing

Still, working from remote is not easy for everyone. A friend of mine with a three-year-old toddler told me: “Everyone is working from home now. With child care closed and parents-in-law not available for support (contagiousness), this means for me: Working in the early morning, in the late evening and whenever the kid is sleeping. In the meantime, taking care of the child which is not allowed to play with other kids anymore.”

How do you experience working from remote?  Are there differences by country? I am curious to get to know your thoughts in the comments. 

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