Tips for Being an Effective Teleworker
Many employers and employees are shifting to telework structures. For some, conducting business from home may be a new adventure, while others are veterans of remote work. Regardless of experience, it can be helpful for us all to think through approaches to teleworking to ensure that we are both effective and content when working from our home offices.
These tips are designed to provide teleworking strategies and best practices for employers and employees. Though they’ve been designed with people with disabilities in mind, they provide information that can be useful to anyone who is transitioning to remote work.
Creating a Comfortable Workplace
Pick a Spot
Designate a long-term space to work in your home where you can focus during work hours, making sure it’s clean and uncluttered. Avoid using a space you frequent in your personal life, like your kitchen table or couch. If there are things that make you happy or motivated (a candy jar, your favorite chair, etc.), don’t be afraid to include them in the space.
Make it Comfortable
Think about the comfort level of the location you choose. Find a spot with room to spread out, a place to type away without hitting your cat in the face with your elbow. If available, pick furniture that won’t put a strain on your body after hours of sitting. Ask yourself: Is this chair causing me to slouch? Is the table too high to type?
Evaluate Accommodation Needs
If you have a disability/chronic condition, evaluate what tools you need to be productive. The article “Accessibility and Employment: What People with Disabilities Need to Know” provides guidance on how to request accommodations and/or permission to use personal devices that you may already own with the features you need.
Staying on Schedule
Keep a Routine
Maintain your typical weekday schedule as much as possible. Wake up at a consistent time every day, like you would if going into an office. Avoid the temptation to work in your PJs and trade in your slippers for real shoes. Sticking to your usual morning routine will help you stay productive.
Budget the Time You’ve Saved
Use time previously reserved for your commute to do things you wouldn’t typically have a chance to do. Rethink long-standing strategies or approaches to your work, consider how things can be done better or more efficiently, and use downtime to clean and organize your inbox, desktop, and network folders.
Communicating with Your Team
Connect with Colleagues
Take the initiative to regularly connect with others, including your supervisor, teammates, and contractors. We have become so accustomed to sending emails, but when working from home for an extended period, phone and video communication becomes more meaningful and important when we’re all in different locations.
Practice Good Conference Call Etiquette
Be on time to conference calls, put your phone on mute when not speaking, and don’t talk over others. If you’re leading a call, give everyone on the call on opportunity to add to the conversation, as appropriate. It can be something as simple as asking, “Does anyone have anything to add?” If you’re leading a large group of people, follow an agenda and help direct the introductions by calling on certain groups of people by team or agency. This avoids the awkward situation on the call of people speaking over one another or not knowing who or what comes next.
Share Your Experience
Don’t be afraid to talk about the challenges that you’re having. Moving to extended telework can feel isolating, even for the biggest introvert. Find someone you trust and are comfortable with to talk to about it.
Stay Productive & Balanced
Give yourself permission to take regular, small breaks, especially if you need a minute to refocus. Realize you may get distracted at times. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Taking breaks can help you reenergize and get back into work mode.
Keep Work/Life Balance
If you are done for the day, sign out of emails. Explore activities outside of work and work hours that provide an opportunity to interact with others. There are lots of online virtual learning and volunteer opportunities. (Check out volunteermatch.org and Coursera.org.)
Working from home means you’re missing the regular activity of commuting to work. Keep your body active by moving around like you would in an office. Ideally, set aside time to exercise in whatever way is best for you. If you typically go to the gym over your lunch hour at work, you may want to maintain that schedule. Some prefer to exercise before or after work. Regardless, make it a priority. Keeping your body active will help your mind focus.
And, most importantly...
Give Yourself Time
Take things one day at a time. Adjusting to full-time telework can be difficult and lonely, and the transition will have its challenges. Sometimes, focusing on what needs to be done in the next hour, rather than the next week, is the most practical way to persevere.
Compassion for ourselves and others can help keep us connected and feel supported during uncertain times. Practice self-care and check-in with your teammates to see how you can provide support and ease anxieties. Share strategies with colleagues for staying on task and working successfully at home and help others when experiencing platform issues or learning new tools.
Try to Stay Healthy