Did you know the DRG Group is made up of people from all over the country? We have team members in Texas, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina, and California. We work remotely as a team every day, so we wanted to share our best tips for those of you who are new to the world of working from home. Hint: It isn't as easy as many people think!
Here are a few of the tips from our team:
Now may be the time to amp up your bandwidth in your home. Check your wifi speeds and consider upgrading to the next level so you can handle all the digital traffic without any lag.
Consider purchasing a monitor to connect to your laptop and getting a real keyboard and a nice chair, comfy work from home environments are better.
Drink water and hydrate throughout the day! Refill your water, invest in a soda stream, whatever it takes but don't forget to stay hydrated.
To help minimize distractions, employ some self-discipline regarding how frequently you check your phone. For example, if you are working on a data project, only check your phone after you’ve completed X number of rows.
Get up and move! One of the perks of working from home is that you can take more frequent quick breaks to keep your energy levels up and to keep back/neck stiffness at bay. And you’ll get no dirty looks from officemates who think you’re slacking off! It’s self-care, people!
Take a moment to reevaluate your definition of productivity. Many of our cultures have become overly obsessed with squeezing every drop of productivity out of every moment of the day, and this has led to some frighteningly draconian work-from-home policies as organizations make this sudden shift. Stop. Remember that your team members (and you) are people first -- people who are juggling a lot in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Be generous with your team, regularly check in on their wellbeing, and trust that they have the organization's best interests in mind. Be equally kind with yourself. It's not about routinely working through your task list right now. We've been given an unexpected gift of time to step off the moving sidewalk and ask ourselves, "Is this the direction we should even be going?"
Put your data to work. All those events you've been frenetically postponing? Take a pause on hitting that reschedule button and spend some time evaluating whether you should. What is the purpose of this event? How has it demonstrably met that purpose and related organizational goals in the past three years (here's where you deploy the data)? Could we accomplish the same (or improved) outcomes via other means -- a meaningful video highlighting donor impact, a virtual gathering, a well-crafted handwritten note? In the harried pace of our typical day-to-day, we don't often get the chance to thoughtfully evaluate our events. Seize this moment—the outcome may surprise you.
Take this time to convert your out-dated hard copy mailings to digital masterpieces. Since we have all been unexpectedly forced into the digital space through recent events, there is no better time to shift processes. We don't have months to plan and it may not go quite as smoothly as it would under normal circumstances, but we do have right now is grace...grace with our donors who are in just as much a time of flux as we are. This crisis gives us the perfect opportunity to step into the 21st century and to be as progressive as we have desired for many years. Consider it the silver lining!
Check in with your teams for informal Zoom meetings/video conference calls with no agenda other than to see each other's faces. Human connection is very motivating!
Step away from the computer when you normally would leave the office. Since there's no separation between home and work, no daily commute to unwind, it's easy to stay "on" all hours of day when home. Figure out how to best end your day and switch yourself into "home mode". Even if you're just commuting from the den to the family room...
The University of Florida College of Medicine posted a wonderful resource for UF employees and the public with resources to promote well-being during Covid -19. It includes online exercise resources, tips for getting food and medications, mental health, socializing ideas and even free resources for kids. Check it out! https://wellness.med.ufl.edu/2020/03/18/resources-to-promote-well-being-during-covid-19-outbreak/
Managing your team remotely - remember you hired great people so do not use this as an opportunity to micro manage them. Set very clear expectations for them and then give them the tools they need to be successful. Communicate every day (or on a set schedule) so they know you are there. Once a week schedule a face-to-face virtual meeting with your team. You need to see them and they need to see you and their other team members. As a manager create a safe space for them to share their highs and lows and be vulnerable. Remember this is an uncertain time and your extroverts are going to need time to discuss how they are feeling and your introverts will not want to talk about how they feel and will likely be more concerned with processes. So make space for all of this for them.
Over-communicate right now. Do not assume that all of your folks have what they need to be successful. Provide tools to help them communicate regularly like they would if they were in the office - tools like Trello, Basecamp, Slack, Zoho Projects - are all good examples of tools that can make it easy to share openly where you each are on a specific project.
Be responsive - now more than ever before try to respond to your team members as quickly as possible. As a manager they are counting on you to help keep them on task. They cannot just walk down the hall and pop in to ask you a question. So find what works for you. For me - my employees text me because if I am on a call or zoom meeting I can still respond immediately. They are my number one priority so I make the time.
Do not forget to continue to build relationships with your team members. Send them thank you emails, calls or texts. Ask your leadership to do something for them when they have gone above and beyond. Drop a thank you in the mail. Send a treat to their home - food or flowers is always a good idea! Anything you can do to cultivate and nurture these most important relationships is time (and money) well spent.
Treat it just like you would if you were in the office. If you sometimes run errands at lunch / do that when you work from home. Save them all up for once.
Establish a routine and try and stick to it. Eat breakfast, get your coffee and do just like you would if you were going into the office.
Try and have a specific place you work from everyday. Make sure you have office supplies set up just like at work.
Tell your family when you are working so they know you are busy. Try and give them a time when you can interrupt you so they know when you are available.
Start time blocking, if you haven't already. Many of us are working from home with kids, which means distractions and interruptions are bound to happen. Schedule blocks of time by task so when you sit down to work you know exactly what you need to accomplish in that timeframe. For example, if you know you'll have 30 minutes in the morning before your family wakes up, use that time to read and respond to emails. Use larger blocks of time for bigger projects that require more focus and thought so you don't have to stop and restart multiple times.
Take a few minutes to get ready as if you're going to leave the house. Sometimes getting dressed and putting yourself together can give you that boost of motivation you need to be more productive.
Find a way to be social with your team. Can you schedule a call instead of sending the same person 25 emails a day? (Sorry, Lynne!) Set up a video conference, FaceTime with a co-worker, or find other ways to connect with your team outside of email. Used to going to happy hour with a group from the office? Make it a virtual happy hour! We've done this in the past week and I can tell you, it will make you feel better! It may not feel "normal", but having that human and social interaction is so important—especially right now.
Make a dedicated workspace. This will be easier for some than others, especially if you have children, but having a dedicated workspace is absolutely critical in working from home. First, it makes you much more productive. Sitting on a bed or couch in front of a TV makes it tempting to "watch one quick thing" or take a "quick five minute nap." If you have a spare room you can convert, that's the best option. If you don't have that option, unplug your TV to remove that distraction. Second, it mentally helps you separate work from home. Shut the door while working and don't work in the rest of the home.
Find some sweet playlists. Spotify is my go-to. I have a wide range of playlists and podcasts I listen to. This will accomplish a number of things:
It will cut the silence. If you're used to an active and workspace, sudden silence can be jarring. Now, if you have a house full of kids, that may not apply. So in that case, it will help dampen the noise.
It will pass the time. It keeps your mind moving and can help break up the day.
It will create variety. Working from home can get monotonous, especially if you have a job that requires repetitive tasks. Having a variety of playlists will help mix up the day.
It will inspire creativity. Studies suggest creativity improves from music/ambient noise. One caveat: listen to music without lyrics; my top playlist contains movie scores (love some Hans Zimmer!) Music with lyrics should be reserved for repetitive tasks.
It can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. Right now is an uncertain and anxious time. Help calm your mind with the right music like ambient spa music or classical piano.
If you have a pet or child at home with you, make sure they aren't in the room when you start your conference call—or make sure they're in your lap and ready to smile for the camera if your team needs a pick-me-up. Personally, we love puppies and children around here!
How are you adjusting to working remotely? Share your tips and challenges with us in the comments below. Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay home! Cheers, The DRG Group