Home office remote working

By Will Rico | March 26, 2020

How do you stay sane and productive when working from home?

I have seen clients’ entire workflows upended overnight as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. If working from home is a new experience for you, how do you feel? If you feel any of these, please know you’re not alone:

  • unproductive
  • inefficient
  • out of the loop
  • lonely
  • overwhelmed (as the barrier between home and work is eroded)

I, along with my fellow CommonMinders, have been working from home for much of our careers. We’ve had the feelings above in the past, and still do sometimes, but as a team accustomed to working virtually, we’ve also developed strategies and routines that make our virtual work lives joyful and productive.

Below are tips on working from home gathered from the CommonMind team. We hope these can be useful to you on your new journey. If you have questions, want recommendations, need to vent, or want to share a virtual coffee break, please reach out. We’re here to help.

CommonMind Tips for Working from Home

Home Office

Set up a workspace:

  • Try to find a dedicated space to work that affords some privacy
  • Don’t be afraid to take advantage of different spaces within your home for different work activities, e.g. bring your laptop to the garden or catch up on reading in a comfy chair
  • Have a headset for working around others
  • Equip your workspace with all the tools you need to get work done

Solid Daily Routine

Start by setting your alarm to wake up at the same time every day:

  • Get dressed, even if it’s from PJs to sweats
  • Have a solid routine each morning
  • Review your calendar and to-do list before the news and email
  • Write down everything you need to get done
  • Take short breaks every hour and longer breaks every three hours
  • Don’t expect any one routine to work forever. Embrace what works while it works, and be open to changing things as your work situation changes

Productivity Tips

Achieve more:

  • Focus on getting tasks done, rather than on sitting at your desk 8 hours a day
    • This relieves the pressure of trying to work as if you’re in the office – you’re not in the office, you’re home and you can experiment with how you structure your day based on what works for your situation
    • Completing small tasks, no matter how inconsequential they seem, can get you out of a rut
  • Practice sticking to the schedule you set for the day
    • Forgive yourself if the day doesn’t match your plan and give a thought or two to why it didn’t
  • Work out, take naps, and/or meditate: if you don’t have physical and mental sanity, you don’t have anything. Plus, these things give you energy
  • Take a walk outside

Useful Tools

Tools that make your work easier:

  • Zoom (online conferencing tool)
  • Slack (instant messaging tool)
  • Dropbox (cloud storage)
  • Harvest (time tracking)
  • Timeanddate.com (world time zones)
  • Spotify (to make your days even better)

Team Collaboration

Build team relationships and get more done together:

  • Turn on your webcam:
    • Seeing each other makes meetings more intimate and lets everyone pick up on visual cues
    • Having everyone on video creates parity. Meeting dynamics can feel weird when only some people have their video on?
    • Avoid being backlit. If there is light coming from behind you, your face can wind up too dark to see on camera
    • How you sound is more important than how you look. Invest in a quality headset or microphone, and test your audio.
  • Having a short daily call, especially in the mornings, helps to get the day moving:
    • Try the “daily standup” format if you’re worried about the time commitment: each team member shares exactly one thing they accomplished, one thing they are working on, and any stuck items
    • Even with 4 or 5 people, the meeting can be over in 5 – 10 minutes
    • Everyone feels in the loop, and stuck items get unstuck
  • Know when to pick up the phone. When a conversation becomes too complex or can be misconstrued, call or have an online conference
  • Always send a meeting recap

Kindness

Be kind to yourself and others:

  • If you feel fatigued or stressed, your body is telling you something. Don’t beat yourself up further. Slow down and think about whether you’re getting enough sleep and exercise
  • Set boundaries with roommates and family in advance, rather than in the heat of the moment
  • Kids will be kids and they love you. You’ll get angry and frustrated sometimes when they barge in, and that’s understandable, but how can we respond in a way that’s kind to them and ourselves?
  • If you sense a coworker is having a bad day, or if you simply haven’t connected with him or her in a while, schedule a one-on-one to catch up informally
  • If you’re having a bad day or just feeling like you’re in a rut, schedule a call with a colleague and let them help you come up with a plan or next steps