Keep Regular Hours, Set Up Check-ins and Get Dressed, Remote Experts Say

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We've all been reading a lot this week about working from home, managing remote workers, throwing our dog or cat off our desks, etc. I did read one good article that I can't find now (!) that said it's beneficial to actually CALL two people every evening and talk a while—not a conference call, not a question for a webinar. A conversation.
 
And, of course, any way you can electronically create those watercooler run-ins—Slack, Zoom, Google apps—do it. "Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions," Steve Jobs famously said. "You run into someone, you ask what they're doing, you say 'Wow,' and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas."
 
I have received a few good tips on working from home that I'd like to share. Thanks to SIIA's own Jenny Baranowski—who has magically and mostly invisibly run our CODiE Awards for many years—for the first five.
 
Connect on an IM platform. Many of us are already on Skype, and it is a great way to check in with people on quick questions, say hi, etc. You can also call people directly without searching for a phone number.
 
Choose a workstation. If you have a desk at home work from it. Or a room with a door that you can close (and keep the dog or cat out). Working from the couch can get distracting. At least I'm not alone—from The New York Times this week: "'Now I have my cat jump on my laptop in the middle of conference calls," said Siobhan Gorman, a partner at the Washington office of the Brunswick Group, the corporate public relations colossus. 'It is not helpful.'
 
Maintain consistent hours. I definitely put in a longer day yesterday than usual. I was up early, didn't have to commute, so started work, and then at 5, it was grey outside and there were more emails to respond to. I don't think that will work in the long run. Try to maintain similar hours to what you did in the office so you aren't tempted to jump online at all hours. This also allows for more collaboration with the rest of the team and members. Although my early hours may put me more in sync with my European colleagues.
 
Create a morning routine. Maintain a similar routine that you would in the morning when you go into the office. Get ready, brush your teeth, go for a run, walk the dog etc. It's a slippery slope.
 
Have scheduled check-ins with your team. It's great to hear what everyone is working on. It's beneficial to have these with people you work with regularly too if you don't have them set up already.
 
The following are from a former editor for an SIIA member, Lindsay Young, who now runs 3 Aspens Media.
 
Don't be afraid of video conferencing. There is a HUGE difference when you can see someone's face vs. just a conference call. We have weekly video calls (Zoom Video Communications), and use video for most of our one-on-one calls.

Use Slack. It's amazing.

Get dressed. Seriously. It helps. (I tried it yesterday; she's right.)

Be real with those on the other end of the line. We're all human. Right now many of us are balancing work with kids at home. (Lindsay has a 3-year-old.) "I tell people on the phone that I could be disrupted. For example, the other day, while I was on a call, my daughter yelled from the basement that she was stuck. Clearly I had to go fix that.")

Take lots of breaks. This one I may be too good at, especially in the afternoon. "We all have split attention with everything that's going on, plus many of us having families at home. One of our team members is using tomato-timer.com, which is just a 25-minute timer you can set to focus your attention for short bursts.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…