Basics for Stress-free Remote Working

Print photo of Nicki Lever

Nicki Lever

Tuesday, March 3rd 2020

You’ll probably have seen a lot of articles flying around at the moment where individuals and SMEs are suddenly being thrust into WFH (Working From Home) situations. And for the most part, many desk-based jobs can be carried out from the kitchen table.

The outpouring of support being displayed by other Remoters across LinkedIn, Twitter and FB is wonderful and as two seasoned (and battle-worn) remote workers we’d love to summarise some of the things that we’ve learned that can turn you into a remote working pro in no time.

It’s broken down into 8 areas:

  1. Ditch the PJs
  2. Get in the zone
  3. Basic Ergonomics
  4. Virtual ‘Morning’
  5. Collaboration: 101
  6. Doing Housework is OK
  7. Break Out
  8. Trust

1. Ditch the PJs

Out of all the hints I’ve written up here this is the one thing I 💯absolutely recommend: Get Ready. I get up, shower, brush my teeth and get dressed. I definitely need this process to feel ready for a day of productivity and focus. Getting this habit early on in your Remote-working journey means that even when you aren’t in the work premises, your brain is in work mode.

2. Get in the zone

If you chill out on the sofa in front of the TV then avoid work there, you’ll start finding that you’ll spend all your time in the same space and after a few days you’ll be consumed by it. If you can, create a dedicated workspace. I work from an old bakery table in the utility room, it’s not fancy but it’s functional; I have my mac, pens, Star Wars notepad (stealthily borrowed from my son), decent wifi and power. For you, it might be the kitchen table or a table in the spare room. Don’t feel tied to the desk, try out working in a few places until you’ve found your groove 🤓.

Work space @ Nickis
[Work space @ Nickis]

3. Basic Ergonomics

Wherever you base yourself, make sure you have a comfortable seat 🧘‍!

Here are a few hints to ensure that your back isn’t screaming by the end of day one!

  • Sit with both feet on the floor
  • The height of your chair should allow your hips to be slightly higher than your knees (use a cushion or pillow if you can’t adjust the height of the chair)
  • Your wrists need to be level or slightly below elbow level
  • If you have a separate keyboard and mouse then this next step is easy. Raise your monitor/screen so that the top of the screen is level with your eyes. That is the optimum position to view your screen in the majority of cases and helps to avoid neck ache.
  • Try to keep a good posture, primarily keeping your back in a relaxed but upright position. You need to have good back support, use another cushion to give that lumbar area some well-needed cushioning
  • Take breaks - don’t look at the screen for too long.

4. Virtual ‘MORNING’

Take a moment to check in with your team at the beginning of the day. It’s the virtual equivalent of saying ‘morning’ as you wander through the office. It helps with your visibility as you’re essentially clocking on and available for work chat, for me, it creates a sense of accountability and sets the tone to your day. Whatever collaboration tool you use, a quick ‘Morning’ does wonders!

5. Collaboration:101

When the ability to get up and wander over to someone is somewhat restricted you have to fine-tune your remote communication skills.

  • Video before Voice - Make sure you can whenever possible have a video call instead of a voice call. Body language is a superpower, helping you convey your message in a way words can’t do alone, harness it.
  • Use a Headset over Built-in Mic/Speakers - this does two important things; it filters out the noises around you, allowing you to concentrate on the conversation, and it improves the sound quality allows others on the call to hear you loud and clear.
  • Mute when you aren’t talking - cannot be stressed enough. Find the mute switch you prefer, there are keyboard shortcuts or some headsets have one. Find it and use it. Heavy breathing by others when they aren’t talking can be hugely distracting.
  • Screenshare if you are using an online tool that allows you to collaborate whilst on the call, allow one person to share their screen - this removes ambiguity and gets everyone on the same page.
  • One medium at a time - don’t jump on a video call and then start playing with your phone, this looks like you aren’t interested in being there. Mention if you need to make notes otherwise try to make eye contact with the other participants to help create a harmonious remote presence.

Collaboration also demonstrates the best kind of habits/behaviours that you should be doing in the office.

For collaborative work discussions, we’ve found that Slack does almost everything we need - allowing us to quickly spin up channels to discuss projects and there are Slack integrations for many tools like HubSpot, Github, Netlify, etc which helps centralise your notifications in one place. The paid plan allows you to have video calls too.

6. Doing the housework is OK

Can you imagine getting up in the office to put a load of washing in the machine? No? But trust me when I say there’s a lot of other distractions in the office environment that you will not face working remotely. Your time will be optimised and when you get your head around your increased efficiency you’ll realise that stopping for a moment to take your online shop in or put some clothes away really isn’t having a huge impact to your output. Fit it in with regular breaks and it’s OK to get your housework done!

*Obviously this is said with some caution. Use common sense, don’t attempt to carry out a huge list of jobs at home that can’t wait until the end of the day as you’ll just stress yourself out. I’ve tried to take technical calls with clients whilst going to a supermarket. Tried it, and it definitely didn’t work.

7. Break-out schedule

So you know I said that you won’t have the same distractions in the home as you do in the office the other upshot is that I’ve often found myself working on something and suddenly looked up to realise that it’s 6 pm and I’ve overrun the end of the day by an hour. To avoid this is actually fairly easy, set a daily schedule:

  1. start at a time, you’re online
  2. set an alarm to finish at a set time, shut down
  3. then make sure you pause for breaks during the day - leave your workstation, go for a walk, do some yoga, anything except looking at your screen.

Finally,

8. Trust

Trust that your team are working hard, your team should trust you are working hard.

There are more but these are the key things we’ve found over the years. Hit us up with any of your must-dos 👍. And we can help you crack remote working, give us a shout.

Nicki & Jodie

[PS. Enjoy my little macrame pot to give me a little bit of greenery and little CO2 conversion!]

Enjoy my little macrame pot to give me a little bit of greenery and little CO2 conversion
[Enjoy my little macrame pot to give me a little bit of greenery and little CO2 conversion]