With the unfortunate rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, more employees are working from home than ever before. Since we’ve always operated this way at LRZ, here are some tips for working remotely that have been helpful for us over the years.
Invest in a comfortable setup
Can’t stress this one enough. If you’re working eight hours a day cooped up in the same environment, even the smallest discomfort can become very irritating. I used to experience minor back pain every day; nothing significant enough to see a doctor about, but it was there. After trading in my old desk chair for a newer model, the pain was gone. It didn’t take long for me to determine the old chair with poor neck support had been the problem all along. Moral of the story: take the time to curate a comfortable setup for yourself. Especially since many of us are likely working from home indefinitely, consider purchasing a standing desk, reevaluating your chair, or getting something small like a cushioned mouse pad; whatever will keep your workspace comfortable. Similarly, make sure you have the necessary computer setup. I’m personally most efficient with three monitors and a wireless mouse/keyboard.
Know your phone and video-conferencing etiquette
Video calls have become more prevalent over the past few years, even since before the pandemic hit; I’m sure many of you have had a Zoom subscription for quite some time now. But since March, it seems that half of the day is spent on unfocused or inefficient calls. Raise your hand if you’ve been on a call where the host dials in over five minutes late, or someone doesn’t realize they are muted/unmuted, or there’s lots of background noise and it’s hard to hear, the list goes on and on. It can be very frustrating.
We try to follow two basic but important principles:
- If you’re the meeting owner, act like it. You have to be on time to start the meeting on time. Take a moment at the beginning of the meeting for housekeeping items – remind everyone to mute themselves when not speaking (if there are a lot of participants) and lay out any other guidelines. Lastly, recap the agenda and goals of the meeting. This will make it easy to get the discussion back on track if it gets out of your control later on (be honest, we all have peers who commandeer meetings or steer the conversation off topic). Just remember that everyone in the meeting benefits when someone steps up as a leader.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. This could include inserting a question, or (politely) asking someone with lots of background noise to mute themselves. Believe me, the other participants on the call will be internally thanking you for speaking up, rather than having to sit through a call full of technical issues.
Set a schedule and stick to it (but don’t forget to take breaks)
One of the most necessary traits to have when working remotely is discipline. Establish guidelines for what constitutes a “normal” workday – would your employer be comfortable with you working a more flexible schedule that dips outside the average nine-to-five, or do they expect you to be available strictly during those hours? My personal recommendation to employers: if it’s not imperative for your employees to be online for specific hours, then allow them to have some flexibility. We as humans are more efficient when taking periodic breaks, so go get a workout in, do a hobby, or cook a homemade meal for yourself – it’s almost guaranteed to boost your productivity.
Work on your green thumb
It may sound silly, but try bringing some plants into your workspace. You don’t need an expansive garden that requires a ton of upkeep; even a single succulent can breathe some life onto your desk. There’s countless health benefits too – having plants in your home can lead to better air quality, increased memory and focus, and reduced stress. (And we personally just love the way they brighten up the room.)