Tips for Working From Home like a Pro

April 3, 2020  |  Richard Gabrintina

Social distancing measures taken in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 have forced many nonprofit organizations to shift their operations and adapt their strategies. Many of us are now working from home as result. For some, it might be for the very first time. If you or your organization are looking for the best ways to maximize your focus, minimize communication difficulty, and maintain a balanced personal life while working from home, EveryAction has you covered. We’re lucky to have some in-house remote work experts – here’s what the pros (with a combined total of over 40 years of remote work experience!) have to say: 

Rivka Watkins, Senior Data Specialist: 

  1. Have a designated office that is ONLY an office. It can be a room or table or even just a recliner, like me. Only do things there that you would be willing to do in the office where people could look over your shoulder. 

  1. Invest in your online social life. Most people don’t realize just how much of their needed social interaction comes from just saying hello in the office. Even extreme introverts like myself need some social contact. Set aside time to interact on non-work topics. It doesn’t have to be with your coworkers, taking 4 minutes for a brief WhatsApp conversation with your parents, siblings, significant other, whatever, will do it. But don’t isolate socially just because you’re isolating physically, and don’t restrict yourself to members of your household. 

  1. Have your ‘breaks’. At the office, you’d get up, grab a glass of water or some coffee, possibly say hi to someone, and get back to your seat. The trip is shorter when you work from home, but be sure to take breaks of at least 1 minute for every hour since you’ve last looked up from your computer. 

  1. Order your day. At work, people tend to have routines for minor issues. Keep those, even if part of it becomes ‘shoo the cat off the keyboard around 10 am’ instead of ‘grab a coffee at 11 to get me through lunch’. 

  1. Last but not least, make sure that you communicate well with your coworkers. Have coffeemaker/water cooler chat. Learn to love Slack or any other chat tool. You don’t want to lose sight of your team just because they’re primarily communicating by text. Invest in voice communications as well as chat. Maybe do video, if that fits your team. Don’t become work-only people; include personal details of your life (“The cat’s being cute,” or, “Geez, the coffee machine did NOT want to work this morning,” or, “My kid got third place in the talent show,”) and chat to grease the wheels. It’s even more important when you’re remote. 

Julia Heselton, Senior Account Manager: 

  1. Don’t work in your pajamas. It sounds like it’s a great idea, but the act of changing into “work” clothes even if it’s sweatpants and an office-appropriate shirt for those video calls, is a good signal that you’re working and not just hanging out around the house. 

  1. Don’t work from your bed. Everyone may not have the ideal work from home “office” environment but avoid working from your bed unless it’s really your only option. For me it’s the same as #1 – it’s a good self-signal that I’m not just at home. 

  1. I make an honest effort to engage with people every day and I try to treat slack like I would a face to face conversation. I say hi – even if I don’t “need” to talk to that person. 

  1. I try to keep my weekly internal check-ins, even if I don’t have anything to review with my supervisor or the person who the call is with. Even if it’s just a 5-minute conversation, it’s a good touchstone. (Obviously, if everyone is swamped, cancel). 

  1. I schedule breaks in my calendar and use them to get up from my desk. It sounds simple but the “oh no, it’s 2 pm and I haven’t left my desk since 9 am” slide is even easier when you’re by yourself at home. I have two blocks on my schedule (that I leave as open/able to be scheduled over in case of something urgent) but it helps. 

Vicki Weiner, Software Engineer: 

  1. The biggest advice I can give as a remote employee is to set alarms in order to not miss meetings! 

  1. Stress levels will be elevated right now, and it can be easy to misinterpret something over Slack or email. If something seems off, pick up the phone – it will clear up confusion and gives both people a chance to have some more social interaction. 

  1. Communicate what hours you are expecting to work, and when you plan to be out of the office, especially since hours may become unpredictable with the current challenges. 

  1. Pick something to function as your ‘commute’: walk around the block, make a cup of tea, maybe do some yoga. Whatever you choose, do it at the beginning and the end of the day to help you leave ‘home’ at home and ‘work’ at work 

  1. And when your day is done… walk away unless it is an emergency. 

  1. To remain connected and energized, I find it helpful to chat with my team on Slack (and not just about work!) Doing a daily phone call with the team also helps. We haven’t really ever done games, but this scenario is a bit more remote than even we have done, so I think games are a great idea. 

Tyler Oyler, PAC Account Executive:  

One thing that is helpful to remain connected is to have a team stand up for 15 min once work has started to allow everyone a moment to start the day together and set goals. Also, confine your work space to a specific area in your home to allow for quiet and solitude to concentrate.