Telecommuting Tips: What to Know About Working from Home
For many of us, working from home sounds like a dream come true. However, it’s unlikely that any of us envisioned our dreams of telecommuting becoming a reality as the result of a world-wide pandemic and National Health Emergency. But, as COVID-19 sweeps through communities across the US and Canada (along with the rest of the world), more and more people are being told to stay home in general, and to work from home when possible.
It may surprise you to learn that Beyond Indigo Pets is one of the “oldest” continuously-run virtual companies in the US. As of March 2020, BI has operated as an online-only workspace for 22 years – which, in our humble estimation, makes us subject matter experts in telecommuting, both as employers and as employees. With that in mind, Beyond Indigo’s directors and staff alike have collaborated on a list of tips for working from home.
Whether you’re an employer looking to successfully establish telecommuting in your workplace or an employee looking to succeed in working from home (especially if you have children or pets), it is our hope that our tips for telecommuting help you get the job done.
Telecommuting Tips for Employers
Whether you are looking to make a long-term transition to telecommuting or are just looking to sort out a stop-gap for the crisis at hand, Beyond Indigo’s team of directors have found that these two points are key factors when it comes to successfully supporting a virtual workspace:
Communication – It should come as no surprise that communication is key when it comes to creating a virtual workspace and company culture. Indeed, we have found that communication and creating a thriving company culture go hand-in-hand.
Through years of trial and error, we have found Slack to be our go-to for internal instant messaging. Slack supports messaging for our team as a whole, for individual client projects, and for one-on-one chats between co-workers. We have added channels for special interests as well (music, movies, healthy living, etc.) so co-workers can have a social space to share interests outside of official channels. To this end, we also recommend creating a separate channel for any discussion of COVID-19 not only to keep business channels clear for their intended use, but also as a way to keep staff (and yourself) sane.
Zoom is another integral part of our daily operations. This teleconferencing platform allows for on-camera team meetings, individual conversations, screen sharing (great for collaboration!), and more. From regular staff meetings, departmental brainstorming, or even just a quick, “it’s easier to talk about in person,” Zoom has been our saving grace.
Other tools of the trade include Basecamp to manage client communications, Google Office Suite for ease in sharing and collaborating on all the things, and QuickBooks Time Tracking for billing and employee timekeeping.
Company Culture and Employee Support – It’s tempting to think that you can’t foster a thriving company culture in an online workspace, but, from our experience, that is simply not true. BI’s company culture is not only thriving, but constantly evolving in ways we could have never predicted.
How, you ask? Trust and communication. While it is important to set up expectations when it comes to availability, deadlines, and KPIs, it’s equally important to support a little flexibility in your employee’s day-to-day; especially in the face of a health crisis. If you can offer a little trust and confidence in your employees’ ability to work independently and deliver quality work, it’s likely you won’t be disappointed in the results (and you know at Beyond Indigo, we are all about results!).
Allow for life to happen and your employees to have time to dedicate to their families and responsibilities, and you’ll be amazed at how well they will perform for you in return.
Tips for Working from Home
Whether you’re the big cheese or part of a support staff, there are a few things you can do to make working from home successful.
Routine – Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set an alarm, get dressed, and settle into an established workspace at a regular time. We know all too well the temptations of sliding out of bed and onto your couch with your laptop while still in your jammies, but don’t give in! Keeping to a work-day routine will help with your focus and productivity throughout the day. Even a quick walk in the morning (if you can safely do so in your area) to simulate a commute can help set the tone for the day.
Likewise, be sure to set up some sort of office space. If you don’t have a dedicated room in your home, take over a breakfast nook or the dining room table — anywhere you can keep your work and your thoughts organized. As the weather warms up, a backyard workspace can be a great antidote to spring fever — just keep your pruning shears out of reach!
If you have the ability to do so, our Social Marketing Analyst Sydney recommends trying the Pomodoro Technique! Embrace the flexibility of a non-traditional work schedule, but make sure you’re not overwhelmed by it.
Distractions – But the dishes! The laundry! The new series on Netflix that just dropped! Instagram!! The struggle is real. But, this too, is where the need for routine comes into play. Sure, you can change over the laundry between meetings, but hold off on folding until your work is done and you can tuck into that Netflix series guilt-free, just as you would if you were coming home from an office job. Do your dishes at night; keep things normal.
Family, friends, kids, and pets – This can be an unexpected challenge for many telecommuters. Partners and children (in particular) don’t always understand that working from home means you actually have to work. Set expectations up front with family and friends that you do have responsibilities to meet while you’re “home all day” and that you won’t always (if ever) be available for an impromptu phone call or grocery store run. Yes, the house may still be a mess at the end of your work day. Yes, there may still be errands to run and chores to do. While you are working, work is the priority. Set your boundaries and enforce them.
Work-life balance when telecommuting will be a challenge if you have children at home. Talk to your employer about flex time. Get creative. 30% of Beyond Indigo’s staff have children (at home) ranging from newborns to teenagers and everything in between! Our staff is able to pull it off because management has been there and supports our efforts. That might mean being primarily available for meetings and communications during regular business hours, but doing your “deep work” early in the morning or late at night while the household sleeps. Work with your managers to find a rhythm that works for everyone, especially if illness has crept into your home.
Pets, too, can be a challenge. The dog knows you’re home and wants to play or go for a walk or chew on your laptop cord. The cat sees you on your computer and wants to nap there. Again, routine is your friend and pets thrive on a consistent schedule. Work outside when you can (so your puppy can frolic in the sunshine) and find an auxiliary keyboard for your cat to nap on.
Time to go home
For many telecommuters, knowing when to call it a day can also be challenging––especially if this is your first time at the rodeo. If you find that you are forgetting to eat or step away from your screen, or that you are working well into the night, it’s time to set some boundaries.
Set alarms on your phone to remind you to step back or call it a day. If you find those alarms are too easy to dismiss, set them on your oven so you have to physically get up to turn them off.
Especially in crisis, it can be easy to pour your nervous energy into work and neglect self-care; but that’s not healthy. Build yourself a routine that allows for downtime, food, and, family, and showering.
With everything happening in the world, working from home shouldn’t be a stressor, but a relief. Whether you are an employer or an employee, Beyond Indigo Pets wishes you success in your telecommuting endeavors as we collectively face what might come.
More importantly, though; stay safe, wash your hands, and be excellent to each other.