I’ve been touting the many benefits of remote work for years, having gone remote myself in 2015 and never looking back. With the current global crisis that’s dominating all of our day-to-day lives worldwide, being able to work from anywhere at any time feels more important than ever. Between school closures and social distancing measures, more and more employees physically can’t make it to the office. And employers are realizing that sending their entire workforce home -- including their contact center agents -- is the best decision in such a climate. So, if you’ve suddenly shifted to working remotely, I thought I’d share some practical advice on how to make that transition a successful one.
Set up your workspace.
We created a checklist to ensure you’ve covered all the bases about working from home. Your company will likely supply you with the necessary equipment, but if you find there’s another piece of equipment you really need and it’s within reason, talk to your boss. Make sure you have, at minimum, a designated desk space, comfortable chair, reliable computer, webcam, mouse, and headset. If this is short-term, just stick to the must-haves. But if you’ll be working remotely for an unknown amount of time or potentially long-term, think about what it would take to make your workspace a place you’ll enjoy spending a lot of time at. Here’s my permanent set up:
Have a morning routine.
Having a morning routine is so powerful; it will set the tone for the rest of your day and help shift you into “work mode”. As soon as you wake up, get dressed (no, don’t stay in your pajamas), tidy your workspace, and eat breakfast. Getting ready as if you had to show up somewhere will make you feel prepared and ready to “clock in”. And, equally important, you’ll be available to jump on video calls at a moment’s notice. Basically, pretend like you’re hosting a meeting every day at your house!
Maintain a regular schedule.
It’s important to outline a schedule and stick to it in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I’ve talked about this before, but working from home often makes remote workers end up working too much. When your computer is always right there, and your desk is in sight, you end up feeling like you should always make yourself available. The risk of burnout when WFH is huge, especially for work-at-home agents who are fielding interactions all day long. Like this Harvard Business Review article says, “People using flex or remote policies often do feel more grateful to their employers. That feeling of indebtedness can lead some remote employees to keep their foot on the gas until they run out of fuel.” Create a daily schedule that works to motivate you to focus on work (and not what needs to be done around your home) and know when to call it a day!
Whether you live with roommates, a spouse, children, or a handful of pets, establish boundaries and rules around your workspace to avoid constant disruptions and distractions. If you're a customer service agent, treat your new space like your very own virtual contact center. I have definitely lived through an incident à la Professor Robert Kelly on the BBC where his children barged in during a video call. So, discuss your boundaries with your children and the person watching them, hire a pet sitter or dog walker if you require it, sort out a quiet zone or dedicated meeting hours with roommates, let your spouse know your stopping point each day, etc. Nothing is worse than feeling totally frazzled when working from home.
Figure out what needs to be done.
Depending on your role, a sudden shift to working remotely can make you feel like you’re on an island. You won’t be getting constant feedback from managers and colleagues like you would if you were in the office. It’s up to you to figure out what needs to be accomplished each day and make it happen; it will drive productivity and success! While you have new autonomy, don’t be afraid to reach out to your manager or peers. Set up video conference calls if you need to (or want to), so you don’t feel isolated. A five-minute video conference call can be the face-to-face connection you need to work out a challenge or finesse an idea.
Leverage the cloud.
I can’t imagine there’s anyone not using Google Drive or similar programs to collaborate on projects with colleagues, but cloud-based real-time programs like these enable you to be swift and quick. The same goes for external and internal business communications; they should be cloud-native, omnichannel, and available wherever you are.
Set alarms to remind you to move.
Get up and do a few laps around the house. Think about it: if you were in the office, you would get pulled over to someone’s desk, go around to various rooms, get up to grab a cup of coffee, walk down the street for lunch, and so on. Working from home means you end up sitting...a lot. Some remote workers wake up earlier to workout (I’m not that dedicated but here’s to wishing) while others (like me) will use their lunch hour to walk to the mailbox, do a lap around the park, or just find a reason to otherwise move. It’s super important to remember to not be glued to your seat.
Take a break.
I think people are most productive in bursts, which means taking a lunch break like you normally would has benefits beyond satisfying hunger. Walking away from the computer and turning your mind towards something else can give you clarity of thought. If you don’t step away, oftentimes you’ll end up “passing the time” without actually getting things done in a meaningful and productive way. You don’t have to go to crowded spaces or eat out every day either; taking an energy-boosting break can be as simple as making lunch in your kitchen and then taking a short walk.
Utilize technology to stay connected.
Meeting up face-to-face is ideal but not always possible (and, right now, it’s even discouraged). Schedule weekly meetings, decide on a meeting agenda, and then save a few minutes towards the beginning or end for the sole purpose of just catching up. This helps teams continue to feel bonded, and this sense of community is more important than ever in uncertain times like the one we’re in right now.
Switching to being fully remote requires trust, a fresh mindset, and the right technology. So, whether your team is separated due to the current crisis or simply due to geography, unified communications can virtually eliminate the distance. Teams need to stay connected at all times, from across town to the other side of the globe, so utilizing a cloud-native communications platform with top-notch collaboration tools like internal chat, video chat, and the ability to ring anywhere is essential. Our team here at Edify has gone 100% remote in light of the recent climate, and luckily we built communications technology that is crisis-proof. While sitting in the same room to brainstorm can’t be replicated exactly, you’d be surprised how well technology allows us to work together. If you’re not sure what to do to help your business stay connected with your customers and teams, reach out. It’s what we’re doing now and what we strive to help other businesses do every day. We’re here to help.
So for now, enjoy your flexibility. Put some music on. Take a break when your focus is getting foggy. Stay connected. And don’t forget to interact with other humans, even if you do it virtually! :-)