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25 tips for working remotely

March 16, 2020
8 minute read
Last updated March 26, 2020

The coronavirus has taken the world by storm. As countries manage this growing pandemic, much remains uncertain. But maintaining the health and safety of those around the globe is paramount.

For many businesses, remote work will become a critical resource in the coming days and weeks. And for many employees, this’ll mean working away from the office for the very first time.

This can be intimidating for companies and workers alike. Fortunately, at PI, we have a strong community of full-time remote workers we can rely on. To make the transition less daunting for you, we asked several team members to share their telecommuting dos and don’ts.

Here are 25 essential tips for working remotely:

On your work environment/setup:

1) Have a dedicated work space that’s clean and free of distractions. What’s more, try to separate this space from the idea of “home” as much as possible. That way, when working, you’re not preoccupied thinking about that sink of dirty dishes or pile of dirty laundry. (Travis Hervey, lives in KY)

2) When setting up your work space for the very first time, do so the night before. That way, all you need to do in the morning is turn on the computer. This helps avoid “Shoot! This isn’t working the way I thought it would” moments. (Amanda Cox, lives in NH)

3) Make sure you have strong Wi-Fi to support your work. If you’re in sales or have frequent meetings, you need an internet connection that’ll support latency-free audio and video calls. Be sure to call your local provider to iron out these issues ASAP. (Travis)

4) Have the right equipment. This will differ by person and by job. But make sure you can replicate whatever workstation you have at the office at home.

If you normally use a headset and keyboard, you should use a headset and keyboard when remote. If you use multiple monitors at the office, you should have a dock and multiple screens at home, too. (Byron Alvarez-Torre, lives in GA)

5) Be comfortable, but not too comfortable. It may sound nice to work from a sofa or loveseat. But hunching over a laptop for long hours isn’t great for posture. What’s more, you may be tempted to turn on the TV—or even doze off if you didn’t sleep well the night before.

Instead, find a suitable “home office” space for yourself. You may not have a desk at home you can work at—and that’s fine. Even sitting at a regular table and chair can help you stay focused. (Travis)

how to work from home

On staying productive:

6) At the beginning of the day, make a to-do list of what you need/want to accomplish. Prioritize the tasks that are most important, and budget your time accordingly. (Shannon Howard)

7) Use a tool like the Pomodoro Technique. This technique has you organize non-meeting time into 25-minute work sprints. You then separate each of these sprints with shorter, five-minute breaks. This lets you stay focused on the task at hand without burning yourself out. (Nancy Dabu, lives in CA)

8) Mute Slack notifications if you need to. If someone has an urgent request, they can always reach you via email. (Slack users can also push notifications via Slackbot—just be careful not to abuse it!) (Shannon)

9) Go through the same rituals you do when in the office. Get dressed in the morning. Eat your lunch at your usual time. Go out for a walk and get your Fitbit steps in.

The more your remote working days feel like your office ones, the more comfortable—and focused—you’ll be. (Maribel Olvera, lives in FL)

On meetings:

10) Include a video conferencing link in every meeting invite. When looking to accomodate a group of remote employees, this is typical etiquette. But when looking to successfully manage a remote team, it’s critical.

Also include links to any relevant materials (e.g., Jamboard, Google Drive, Miro). This’ll allow you to make the most of your meeting time. (Shannon)

11) Set alarms for meetings so you show up on time. Meeting at 10:00am? Set an alarm for 9:59am to remind you to jump on Zoom or an equivalent service you use. (Shannon)

12) Once in a meeting, mute yourself when not talking. This helps to reduce background noise and keep distractions to a minimum. (Shannon)

On your physical and mental health:

13) Make sure you eat. It’s easy to get preoccupied with work, but don’t forget a proper breakfast, coffee (or whatever wakes you up), lunch, and snacks. Otherwise, you’re bound to sabotage your day. (Andrea Blasdale, lives in MA)

14) Also take regular breaks. Use an app like Time Out to remind you to periodically take a breather. Working from home, you spend pretty much your whole day looking at a computer screen. Get away from it every once in a while! (Andrea)

15) Invest in a pair of blue light or computer glasses. With so much time in front of the computer, it’s also important to protect your eyes from strain. Even if you don’t have a pair at your disposal, there are plenty of software programs (such as “f.lux”) that can help eliminate blue light. (Mark Reinke, lives in VA)

16) Set boundaries for when you start and end your day. When I first started working from anywhere, I never closed my laptop at the end of the day. I’d get a Slack message in the evening, answer it, and set the precedent that I was available.

Since then, I’ve learned how important it is to maintain a proper work-life balance. Set limits for yourself—determine when it’s work time and when it’s not. If you decide to close your laptop at 6pm, don’t open it again until the next day. (Andrew Barks, lives in IL)

On interacting with your colleagues:

17) Maintain your typical “water cooler” conversations. First thing in the morning, connect with a teammate over Slack/video conferencing for five to 10 minutes. Ask them how they’re doing, learn about their weekend plans, etc. (At PI, we have a #coffee-buddies channel that pairs employees up for morning chats.) (Amanda)

18) Learn to love Slack. Not just for group chats and direct messages—but also for quick 1-on-1 calls. This can help maintain contact with the people you’d normally just turn to at the office to brainstorm with. Plus, it’s much faster than setting up a Zoom meeting. (Byron)

19) Find out your colleagues’ preferred communication style. Ask them how they’d prefer to connect when there’s a question or something to talk through. Should I ask via Slack? Throw time on their calendar? (Shannon)

20) Spend time with the people around you. As we learn to practice social distancing, it can be especially hard on those used to face-to-face interactions. Take the opportunity to spend extra quality time at home with your family. (Travis)

On working with family/children at home:

21) Prevent interruptions with a designated work zone. When you have a family—particularly children or teens—at home when you’re working, having an “off-limits” work space can help prevent interruptions. (Travis)

22) Set expectations with other people in your home. Let your family know that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re available. Communicate that during working hours—when you’re in work mode—that space is yours. (Byron)

23) Keep the music playing. I give my kids an hour-by-hour schedule of who’ll be the “DJ” on Spotify. I find when there’s music in the background, they sing along. It certainly helps pass the time. (I expect to hear “Hamilton” at least three hours a day.) (Lee Pichette, lives in RI)

24) Design scavenger hunts for your kids. My kids really enjoy these, and they’re simple to make. Just print pictures based on a theme (super heroes, cartoon characters, etc.). Then hide them around the house and give your kids a list of clues to help them find them. You’ll keep them busy—and give yourself time to focus. (Travis)

25) Plan a project your kids can work on over the next several weeks. My daughter’s writing and illustrating a poetry book. My son’s writing and illustrating a comic book (“Super Chicken”). They’re both excited to chip away and do two pages a day.

I promised to professionally print if they finish. They have grand plans to sell copies at the local farmer’s market this summer. (Lee)

Make the transition to remote work as seamless as possible.

Working away from the office can present unique challenges. Even if you’re working time zones apart, we hope these tips for working remotely bring you closer together. What’s more, we hope they inspire you to bring your best selves to work every day—even from the comfort of your home.

Be safe, and stay healthy.