“It’s great to see you and keep up the good work,” Michele’s boss said to her as she waved. Michele could see a cat run across the back of her boss’s chair. Suddenly her screen went black.
Michele works in Seattle; it’s been two weeks since she started working remotely. She’s been my client for years, but we had to make adjustments when she started working from home. The advice I gave her made a huge impact on her productivity. She was able to stand out with her boss despite working from home, and even impressed her with her ability to stay connected without coming into the office.
Working remotely is a trend that has become more popular in business over the past few years, but with the current coronavirus pandemic, it’s become a necessity. Although things feel uncertain now, you can still maintain control over your productivity and decisions while working from home. By implementing these three steps, as my client Michele did, you can create an environment in your home that will foster your success despite being remote.
1. Set regular work hours — and stick to them
Have you ever heard the saying, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”?
That’s Parkinson’s Law, and it says a job will take as much time as you give it. If you know you’re not going to leave work at 5 p.m. because you are already home, you probably will take longer than that to get your work done.
One of the pitfalls of working from home is there are no boundaries, which can be overwhelming and actually less productive. If you are working remotely and your employer doesn’t give you set hours to work, do it for yourself. Create a schedule and keep to it. At the end of the day, shut the door — or the laptop — and don’t look back. You’ll end up being more productive during those “office hours” because you have a finite amount of time to accomplish your tasks.
2. Schedule virtual meetings and stay connected with colleagues
We’re practicing social distancing, not social isolation.
Working remotely can feel lonely, but there’s never been an easier time in history to be connected while working from home. Technology allows us to hold meetings and talk face to face even if we can’t come into the office. Take advantage and take charge by scheduling daily virtual meetings with colleagues. You might start out brainstorming that project, but you can ask about family and check in with each other too.
For me, I love the accountability this creates. Sure, I could push off writing that proposal until later, but if I’m Skyping with my boss at 3 p.m., I definitely better have it done in case they ask. They may not be able to stop by my cubicle, but the next best thing is popping up on my computer screen. Being prepared when we “meet” shows them that I’m still taking my role seriously, and I can self manage my time.
Another great way to stay accountable and connected is to set up a virtual work session. It’s like having a study buddy without being in the same room. I find I get a ton of work done this way; if you are a competitive person, this works really well. Whether it’s official or just to check in, make sure you schedule a daily virtual meeting to feel connected to your team — and the world.
3. Get dressed for success every day
Roll out of bed. Open up the laptop. Get to work.
It does seem like a waste of time to shower and get dressed up when no one is going to see you anyway. But keeping your morning routine of getting ready for work, including dressing for your day, helps you mentally prepare for your workday.
It’s also a way to gain control during uncertain times. If your boss calls an emergency Zoom meeting, you are ready. You’re prepared if you’ve got to make a quick run to the pharmacy for your elderly neighbor. Whatever the day throws your way, you’re ready for it.
I’m not saying you need to wear a suit: You can keep it comfortable while still looking put together and polished. But pajamas are for weekends. As New York Times best-selling author Jon Acuff says, “Flannel feels like failure by day three.” That seems accurate, so get yourself dressed.
Things seem uncertain right now, and working from home can have its obstacles, especially if it’s new to you. Making the most of working remotely by following these steps will be beneficial for you and your company. Eventually life will get back to normal, and when it does, your boss will be glad they could count on you to be professional and productive.
Originally published on Business Insider.
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