Lessons Learned WFH—5 Tips to Make It Work for You
Working from home is not as “fun” as many may imagine. You miss building rapport with your team and peers, you miss the face-to-face discussions by the kitchen counter or on your way to a meeting, and sometimes, you even miss the struggle of trying to find an open parking spot (which happens almost every time I am in the office).
Most notably, you may feel as if your voice is not being heard as you try to get your point across during a Zoom meeting. Such has been my experience working from home over the past two years. You add a newborn into the mix and staying productive is always at the verge of collapse.
With so many people unexpectedly working from home due to the coronavirus, I figured I would share the top 5 lessons that have helped me be efficient in my role while constantly adding value to my team, peers, and the rest of the organization.
Tip 1: Don’t lose your morning routine
We all have a “routine” when we first wake up and must get ready to head into the office. For some, it may be drinking a warm cup of coffee while reading the newspaper, whereas for others it may be running crazy cooking breakfast, dropping kids off at school, etc. This is your pre-work morning routine. Normally, my advice would be to not let your morning routine change when you work from home. Keeping the same routine keeps yourself productive and in “work mode.” Otherwise, it’s easy to deviate from your routine and find yourself running errands and losing half a day of work. But given everyone’s normal routine has been shaken up by COVID-19, it’s time for a new routine. Maybe that means getting up, dressed and eating breakfast with your family before heading to “your office” down the hall.
Tip 2: Work in ‘sprints’
For those of you who do not sit within the product and engineering organization, the concept of a sprint is an agile practice where you set a specific period of time to complete certain work. For example, we may say we are running a two-week sprint to build a new feature. Apply this concept to your day. I will often apply sprints to my work day and tell myself, “I will not leave my home office for the next three hours until I finish this report.” This can help you mirror being in the office, where you can’t just get up and leave mid-meeting or in the middle of tackling an important task.
Tip 3: Set expectations with loved ones
Understand that working from home is also new for your spouse, significant other, parents, children, neighbors, etc. Set expectations with them to ensure that they understand what this new normal means to them and you in terms of your availability. Letting them know that you are not able to take them to the park or play board games or just shoot the breeze all afternoon because you have to work is okay.
Tip 4: Check calendars and schedule meetings
If you need to get something done with urgency, Zoom is your best bet. Don’t rely on an endless chat conversation. Instead, it is totally acceptable to peek at someone’s calendar and schedule a call to tackle the issue head on. It is good to send a Slack reminder with the agenda and context for the meeting, but video is the way to go. This will also help you feel as if you were in the office next to your colleagues.
Tip 5: Do not work next to your kitchen
I love to eat. When I first started working partly remote, the kitchen became my best friend. It was easy to grab a snack, warm up a pizza, grab a drink, you name it (especially depending on how stressful of a meeting it had been). This is human nature and hard to fight against. As you set up your work from home station, I recommend you strategically find a place in your home as far away from your kitchen as possible. Otherwise, your productivity will likely take a toll. Not to mention that kitchens are common areas and hence come with many distractions.
Now, this is not to discourage you from grabbing a snack or a drink while working from home. I do this all the time. But where you do it is key. I typically start my morning by grabbing a cup of coffee and two protein bars and bringing these with me to my home office area. This mimics what I typically do when I’m in the office.
Adjusting to WFH (even just temporarily)
Moral of the story, working from home is not for everyone. But as we get through this difficult time, I hope these tips are helpful in some shape or form. Also, if you have your own WFH tips, please share. We are all in this together.