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With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending social distancing, working remotely can be a great way to keep you, your loved ones, and others safe. However, what does it take to set up a good work space and routine when working remotely? These tips from seasoned telecommuters should help:
Location & Routine
At home, the lines between leisure time and work time can become blurred. Therefore, it can be important to 1) establish a routine and 2) designate a specific home workspace. If you have a spare room you can dedicate to a home office, great! If you have limited space, your homework solution can be as simple as sitting in a different chair or on the opposite side of the table than you normally do.
A designated work area can help your brain recognize that it’s time to work — and has the added bonus of signaling to other household members that you are working, thus limiting distractions.
In this day and age, technology is likely a key component of your remote work, and might include everything from making sure you have all the appropriate charging cables at home to checking bandwidth capabilities to using new software programs.
Virtual Meetings: To start, establish what methods you and your office will use to stay in touch. Luckily, there are many options that can meet your needs. A few that the Pitt community depends on include Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Skype. Other prevalent interaction tools include GoToMeeting and Slack. Whoever your team, determine which platform you and your coworkers are comfortable using and test it out with multiple people before hosting any important meeting. Common issues include attendees not having audio or visual capabilities on new platforms.
IT: To access Pitt’s software downloads, receive help with multistep authentication, and other remote technology needs check out Pitt IT.
File Access: Before leaving the office to work remotely, make sure all important files are stored in your preferred cloud platform for easy access and sharing. At Pitt, OneDrive, Box, SharePoint, and Google Docs are all prevalent. Also, so you can remain responsive via all modes, set up your office phone to either send voicemails to email or forward calls to a different number you’ll have access to at home.
Internet Bandwidth: Bandwidth capabilities are also an important thing to consider when using video conferencing. To improve performance try:
- Closing as many unused tabs and applications as you can.
- Using an ethernet cable instead of wireless networks.
- When at home, make sure others in your house are not doing “band intensive” activities during your meetings (i.e., streaming music or videos).
- Try coordinating work schedules with those you share internet with so multiple people aren’t trying to stream meetings at the same time.
Communication plays a vital role in maintaining good, functional work relationships, especially while working remotely. Some tips:
- Add your remote hours to your email signature.
- Share your calendar with team members so they can see your availability.
- Use chat functions to encourage open communication throughout the day.
- Set up weekly meetings with team members to identify priorities and deliverables.
- Even though it is tempting, try not to multitask on conference calls. We all have been there- thinking this doesn’t pertain to me so it won’t hurt to quickly check email- then comes the awkward silence that makes you realize someone just asked you something and you have no idea what it was! To have productive conference calls step away from your computer and try walking around a bit to maintain your focus on the call.
- Use video conferencing when possible.
Workspace: The first step of homework wellness is to set up your at home workspace with wellness in mind. You can start by reviewing your computer ergonomics, which are under-considered, but important for daily comfort. Additionally, consider your access to daylight and views, which have both been shown to increase happiness and productivity. If your back tends to give you problems, check out these tips on how to protect your back while at work.
Take Breaks & Move: When working remotely, it’s easy to get “in the zone” and forget to take breaks. Make sure to get up and move regularly to prevent back and shoulder pain. Even in a home office, repetitive motions and poor posture can cause injury, so setting reminders to take a break and stretch can be very helpful. Regular movement can be as easy as taking a short walk during your lunch break or checking out one of Be Fit Pitt’s videos for free exercise tutorials when you need a break!
Mental Health: When working remotely, it is important to maintain social connections so individuals and teams don’t begin to feel isolated. Homework doesn’t provide opportunities to run into your teammates like you at work, so having open chats and scheduled social calls can help promote well-being and connectivity. Also, social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t go out of doors, so take a phone call outside and change up your physical location to provide mental variety.
If you’re working from home with roommates, partners, and/or children, it can be stressful. To reduce conflicts, set boundaries early by discussing when it’s appropriate for someone else to enter your workspace. Younger children especially don’t always observe boundaries, so if they’re also home from school, check out these free online educational resources.
Benefits of Working Remotely
Did you know?
- Having flexible work arrangements can increase job satisfaction and foster organizational commitment. When flexible work options are negotiated between supervisors and subordinates, employee productivity and performance are enhanced (De Menezes & Kelliher, 2016).
- Employees that are able to work remotely 8 hours a month are less likely to experience depression than non-telecommuters (Henke et al., 2015).
- Working from home positively impacts leisure time satisfaction (Reuschke, 2019).
- No commuting or sitting in traffic! One study showed that the amount of time you spend commuting is associated with an increased sense of time pressure and lower levels of life satisfaction (Hilbrecht et al., 2013).
Plus, you may get to hang out with these faces all day! Need we say more?