With many offices closing because of COVID-19, much of the workforce is experiencing working from home for the first time ever. For the last 15+ years Yelp Community Managers have been digital nomads working remotely across North America. As the experts in working from home, we wanted to share our learnings, tips and tricks.
Community Managers almost universally agree that the three hardest challenges are sticking to a routine, time management and not having coworkers to talk to. On the flipside, CMs agree that the flexibility offered from working from home is one of the best perks. While working from home you can make your own schedule, pop in that laundry before a conference call, make a healthy lunch or even practice yoga on your lunch break.
Here are some tips to make your WFH transition a little easier.
1. Establish a routine.
This is a bit of a choose your own adventure, to be honest. You can wake up, make coffee (or pick up a local cup o’ Joe), then dive right into work if you choose to. Or you can take advantage of not having drive time and get a workout first thing in the AM then plop down at your “office”. Many local fitness studios are now offering virtual options so you can stay active while still social distancing. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but you do have to establish a routine for some normality. You already have a weekday routine and you may not even realize it, since it’s routine. Stick to that routine, or create a new one with your new found freedom.
2. Make a checklist.
The first thing on your to-do list is make a to-do list. Every morning when you wake up, make a list of the things you want to accomplish for the day. Try to organize them from hardest (or what you least want to do) to easiest (or what you’ll enjoy the most). Of course, always add the most time sensitive things to the top of your list.
3. Clock in, clock out.
It’s important to establish your start and end times. Some companies make you log in for working hours, but some allow you to have a flexible schedule. Either way, you can easily find yourself working from the early morning until bedtime if you don’t set your hours. Establish a “clock out time” and hold yourself to it. This will be important for burnout. Ideally you will mimic your regular in-office hours.
4. Take your lunch break.
You have a lunch break at the office, you should have a lunch break at home. You can take the time to actually eat lunch. Since you aren’t rushed you can take your time and craft a healthy meal. You can also have an at-home culinary adventure by supporting one of the 100,000 businesses that deliver through Yelp. If you eat fast (or munch while working), you can get a workout in, take a walk, watch some TV or catch up with a loved one. Whatever you do, make sure you take a break and split up your day.
5. Setup a workstation.
It’s tempting, but don’t work from bed! Don’t get comfy on the couch with your laptop. You won’t be productive lounging around and it’s really bad for your posture. A kitchen table is a little better, but if possible set up a designated space that’s exclusively for work. Having a desk, comfortable chair and a space with no distractions will help you be the most productive.
6. Brush your teeth.
Well, practice all traditional rules for hygiene, really. Waking up, having breakfast and jumping right into work can be tempting, but make sure you’re practicing your regular hygiene routine. That means showering and brushing your teeth. You will be shocked at how easily this can be overlooked and next thing you know it’s 5pm, and you’ve neglected the basics. Keeping your morning routine could also mean trading in the jammies for more traditional work clothes. The jury is out here with folks split on wearing pajamas VS actually getting “dressed for work”. Choose what works best for you as far as your WFH uniform, but brush those pearly whites first thing in the AM.
7. Watch the snacking.
No matter how loudly it calls you, don’t open the pantry too often. It’s so appealing to go for luxury snacks or pots and pots of specialty coffee, when you’d usually be sitting in your cubicle eating instant oatmeal out of a paper cup. It’s a trap. Plan your meals and coffee consumption, or you’ll end the day with an empty pantry, jittery hands and much regret.
8. Live by the calendar.
Deadlines are harder to track when you don’t have 100 sticky notes around your computer or your manager a few feet away reminding you. If you don’t already, building out a robust schedule, on a digital calendar is key to your success. Set reminders, block out times you’ll be working on specific tasks, schedule calls and drop in important deadlines to make sure you aren’t missing anything. Some CMs even schedule in their gym, dog walks, calls with family and breaks.
9. Make time for human interaction.
You don’t appreciate what you have till it’s gone. Human interaction is what Community Managers miss the most from a traditional work setting. Make sure you find time throughout the day to connect with your colleagues. You can keep in contact via text message, ping, video calls or the good ol’ phone call. Be cautious to keep these interactions somewhat limited or timed, as they can sidetrack your productivity. Managers, here’s your chance to shine. If you’re managing a remote team, keep in mind that it can sometimes feel like you’re on a deserted island. Cultivate some of that interaction on your team.
10. Don’t turn on the TV.
Catching a rerun of the Office in the background while you dig into emails seems harmless, but it’s not. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it will just be background noise. Having the TV on while you work will lead to a decrease in productivity. Instead create an instrumental based playlist that will match your mood. Avoid sing-along style playlists as trying to hit those high notes will also be a distraction.
BONUS Productivity Hack: Pomodoro Technique
No, not the sauce, although that is mighty delicious. If you find it hard to focus because your home is loaded with distractions – things to clean, organize, eat, pet, whatever. Try the Pomodoro Technique. Here’s how the technique breaks down: 25 minutes on a single task, 5 minute break, repeat till 100 productive minutes (one pomodoro) then take a 20 minute break. You’ll stay focused on tasks at hand and balance how your mental bandwidth is being dedicated.