How To Stay Sane When Working From Home
This article was written by Alexander Maasik - a Marketing Manager, OKR specialist and trainer working in Weekdone goal setting app. He has a degree in journalism and public relations and a strong passion for internal communications and online collaboration.
Working from home can be very stressful. Especially when you are not used to it. Many employees suffer from anxiety, stress and loneliness when suddenly forced to work from home. This in turn means that their productivity is lower and they get less done, adding to the general anxiety.
Luckily, there is a lot that you can do in order to negate this stress. Working from home doesn’t mean you have to stay isolated from your team. It means you need to find new ways to stay entertained and connected. A good remote team can have as much fun together as an office team going for beers after work. You just need to be creative and take the lead. After all, working from home and going into the office might be the future for the upcoming months.
As long as I’ve worked at Weekdone, I’ve been working from home most days for over 5 years. And it is not like we don’t have an office either. In fact, it is a 20 minute walk from me. It’s just that I have discovered, working from home is so much easier for me. Recently I summarized my experience in a free ebook “Leader’s Guide to Remote Work.”
Set a schedule and stick to it ⏰👏🏼
The key to working from home successfully is keeping a strict schedule and having a specific time for work. While you are at home, you can not be “at home” all the time. It doesn’t matter what your children, pets, or partner thinks.
I usually work weirder hours than the classical 9 to 5. In fact, I often finish most of my planned daily tasks before our 10AM team call. To be fair, I am a morning person. In general, working from home allows me to divide my day into smaller blocks and stay energized by switching between work and tasks at home. For instance, if I feel my brain is fried from writing blog posts, I can take my puppy for a walk, or wash dishes, or read a book in my bed.
While this might sound chaotic and random, it actually only works because I am very strict with myself. I have a schedule I need to follow every day and I have a place in the apartment that I only use for working. This structure is different for all people and it usually takes a little bit of trial and error to make it work.
Meetings need to happen 👩🏽💻👨🏾💻
If you set meetings, stick to your schedule. This is part of having a schedule. Always have them at the prearranged time, and always keep to an organized and strict schedule. Meetings have a tendency to run long and turn into pointless get-togethers that waste money.
When our entire team started working remotely, we started doing calls every morning. Even if there is little to report or no projects to discuss, we take 15 minutes to see how everyone is doing. This helps a lot when you don’t see your co-workers regularly. I know from my own past experience that if you don’t talk with your teammates every day you’ll soon have no idea what is going on in your department or company.
Stay up to date with reporting 🗒📊
Some sort of weekly reporting is vital when at least one person in your team works from home. And everyone in the team needs to do it. This is the only way both the manager and employees always have a clear overview about what is going on. This is basically the only way remote employees can understand what people are working on and how their own work matters for the team.
You can use the Weekly Review based approach to your reporting.
Weekly Review is a status reporting method for tracking the weekly activities of your company. The aim for every status report is to answer three key questions:
- "What plans did you achieve this week?"
- "What challenges have you encountered with your plans?”
- "What do you plan to do next week?"
It is often used as a replacement for weekly stand-up meetings in offices as it helps to provide quick updates with simple online check-ins. It works just as well for remote teams.
Have clear goals 🥅💯
In addition to weekly plans, remote teams must also have their long term goals in front of them at all times.
You can use the The Objectives and Key Result (OKR) goal-setting methodology. OKRs are a goal-setting system that helps everyone focus on what needs to be improved at the company and team levels.
In remote teams, people need direction to have some clarity and OKRs offer it.
Working from home has its own challenges on an individual level. It might be already hard to figure out how to successfully work in the home environment and a lot of things might create confusion. The more clarity there is the better.
As mentioned above, OKRs help to set priorities and the direction of your team. If we know where we are going, it calms us down and offers some sense of security.
Seeing real results and giving ownership motivates your team. It gives new meaning to the things they are doing. The OKRs should also be set together with your team so they can feel part of the process and share their opinion.
Take team building activities seriously 🧐
There are so many ways you can set up entertainment for the entire team online. From VR escape rooms to classical online games and puzzles, there are a lot of options.
One of my friends who had to start running his team remotely because of the Coronavirus decided that each Friday their team will wear a costume for their video meetings, and each week they'd choose the best one. This sort of online "casual Friday" is exactly the sort of thing people need to relieve their stress and keep going.
These activities help you and your people stay sane, especially if you are stuck at home and have nothing to do. And, like with any team, trust and a team bond only forms when you spend time together and have shared experiences, both work-related and fun!
Remote work is not scary 👻👍🏼
If there is one thing I can say about remote work, based on my own experience, is that it's not as big a problem as many people think. Yes, it has its own set of challenges - but so does office work. As long as the team is ready to commit, try new things, fail, and try again, everyone should be able to be productive and goal oriented from home.
Once you try it, you might never want to go to the office again 🤔