Working from home for the first time is intimidating. It’s a major break from routine: you’ll need to establish a new schedule and figure out the best ways of communicating with the rest of your team. And of course, in the process of installing new meeting software and organizing docs in the cloud, you still have deadlines and meetings to keep up with.
Fortunately, as a company that’s embraced work from home culture for years now, we’ve found that business really does carry on as usual - even when you’re working (or learning) from different buildings, states, or even countries. And once you adjust, you’ll find that your creativity, productivity, and overall happiness improve.
Here are just a few reasons why we choose to work from home every day. We’ll also share some tips to ease the transition so you can chat, collaborate, and inspire each other just as much as you did in the office.
Working remotely actually promotes new creativity.
During the initial transition, we admit that your innovative thinking may suffer. You’re going through some pretty big lifestyle changes: no co-workers to greet you in the morning, less division between home and work. But don’t let that color your opinion of remote work in general. Hold out for the long-term benefits.
Working from home can actually enhance creativity through flexible schedules and work spaces. There will certainly be times when you’ll need to be available to the rest of your team. But we all have our ideal times of high productivity, and working from home allows you to complete your most focused work when you’re at your peak.
Your work/life balance will improve. (And yes, you will be able to “turn off.”)
When commuting to the office, did you ever find yourself checking email after you’d clocked out for the day? You’ll still do that when you’re working remotely. And just like when you worked in the office, you may have to give yourself some guidelines to avoid burnout, like “turning off” at a specific time.
So set a schedule that works for you and your family. When your whole team is relying on Slack and shared calendars, it’s pretty easy to adjust your status, snooze notifications, and block off time when you know you won’t be available.
It’s worth mentioning that as an added measure to prevent employee burn-out, a lot of companies that have a remote work culture also offer unlimited vacation time. When organizations realize they can trust their teams to get the work done, everyone benefits.
You’ll have more sources for inspiration and collaboration.
You’ve probably been clinging to that myth of the remote worker: the loner shuffling around in their slippers, unsure what time it is or when they last spoke to another human, resigned to the echo chamber of their own brain.
It makes for a good Twitter meme, but fortunately that’s not how it works in real life.
Co-working spaces are on the rise for a reason. In a shared work space, you’ll interact with other people who are passionate about their work, and also like to chat by the Keurig. Which means you’ll be exchanging ideas and gaining inspiration from people outside your department, company, and even your industry.
This type of environment could be even more conducive to your work than commuting to a traditional office. According to a 2018 survey, “spontaneous collaboration” ranked as the #1 benefit of a co-working space.
Plus, you’ll have more freedom to switch up your workspace or take a walk when you need a change of scenery. New places, experiences and perspectives will inspire your creative side.
You’ll still chat with coworkers.
We promise: you will still have frequent contact with co-workers, even after you’ve all packed up your laptops and left the office. It just looks a little different.
When telecommuting is truly part of the workplace culture, casual conversations happen at the start of video-call meetings and in the chat sidebar. If you find yourself reminiscing about morning coffee catch-ups in the office kitchenette, set up Slack channels dedicated to sharing pics of your pets, Spotify playlists and healthy lunch recipes. You can even schedule weekly calls where you chat about interesting industry stuff (not the projects that are due tomorrow) to help get you out of work mode.
Our tips for turning out your best work from the comfort of home
You’ve probably already taken care of the basics. The family knows your planned work hours, you invested in good lighting, and you’ve stocked up on more chamomile tea than one person could ever reasonably consume.
But that doesn’t mean you’re truly maximizing the benefits of working from home. There’s more to it than buying some new stationary and an ergonomic chair.
Here are some practical ways to help your newly remote team adjust to the new routine - from members of the Thinkful family who have already gone through it.
- Ask about non-work stuff in virtual meetings. Erin Rosenblatt, Thinkful’s V.P. of Education Operations, points out that you may have to be more intentional about getting to know your co-workers. “When you work remotely, most of the times that you see your colleagues are in meetings that usually have a specific topic or goal. I find it important to have relationships with my colleagues, so I make a point to spend a little time asking people about themselves, their weekend or vacation plans.”
- Be strategic about your workspace. Video calls can get distracting when there’s a lot of background noise, so make sure you’re in a quiet space for meetings. Check that the wifi is secured with a password. And when you spot a cozy couch, find a nearby power outlet before you get too comfortable.
- Update your slack status and calendar. Take advantage of your newfound flexibility by leaving the house, taking a lunch break, and deep thinking without interruptions. But communicate breaks and focus times to your coworkers. Erin advises: “get used to over-communicating. Let your teams know if you are going to be heads down on a project for a while and not responding to messages. Block off time for lunch or doctors appointments on your work calendar so that people can see when you aren't available.”
- Make documents, meeting notes, and resources easily accessible. With tools like Google docs and Dropbox, it’s easy for multiple teams to collaborate. Erin recommends choosing one system and sticking to it. “Having a central source of documentation for meeting agendas, project plans, helps to keep everyone on the same page.”
- Be present in virtual meetings and chat threads. There are some habits of remote work life, like responding to someone’s message in your Slack channel or keeping your camera on in meetings, that show you’re still engaged. Make a point to turn your microphone on, even if it’s just for a quick response to a question. Drop a comment or emoji when someone shares a ridiculous Reddit thread to show them that someone’s listening. Erin notes, “being extra responsive and present helps everyone to feel like they are really part of a team.” And of course, keep all of your usual meetings: just move them over to a video platform. Google recently announced that they’re offering free access to their advanced video-conferencing tool if your company hasn’t invested in a platform yet.
- Schedule times for winding down. You won’t have a co-worker stopping by your desk asking why you’re still working at 6:30. So if you used to be the last one out of the office, you may need to schedule your own wind-down time. Katie Dassao, a Senior Product Manager, found that she had to schedule parts of her day to separate from work mode. “I block my calendar for a walk and time to wrap up and plan for the next day.”
- Reach out to other departments. Ivy Rueb, Thinkful’s Community Manager, advises that you’ll have to make a concerted effort to work with other areas of the company. “You can be deep in a project and forget to get feedback, or not check with other teams to make sure that what you are working on aligns with their goals. It is better to continue getting feedback along the way so you don’t have to go back and redo the work.”
Finally, whether you’re working from your living room for the first time or signing up for a co-working space, give yourself time to adjust. Plan out what your day will look like, and change up your routine when you need to.
There will be challenges during your transition, but you’ll discover new benefits of a remote workspace that never could have been possible in a physical office. Just like we did.