Here at QT, I’ve become accustomed to working in our well-equipped office, having impromptu brainstorm sessions with my fantastic colleagues, and traveling around the Pacific Northwest to support our stellar roster of local clients. In the wake of COVID-19, most of this has disappeared, and as a former telecommuter, I’ve found myself relying on a handful of go-to productivity solutions while working remote.
Pre-QT I managed communications for a Silicon Valley-based tech company from the comfort of my home office in Portland, Oregon. My boss was across the pond in the U.K., and I collaborated with colleagues from as close as Cupertino, California, and as far away as Taipei, Taiwan.
Here are the top five things I’ve learned to be successful with no co-workers or cubicles in sight:
I’m not going to encourage you to keep wearing a suit if that’s what you usually wear to work. I see no correlation to one’s professional capabilities and whether they’re wearing slacks or sweatpants. What is important is to shower and get news anchor ready, meaning look decent from the waist up. First, you’ll feel better, and second, you won’t find yourself in a situation where you have to fib that your camera is having technical difficulties because you currently look more haggard than Tom Hanks on year four in Cast Away.
Turn the camera on
Now that you’ve managed to look decent, be the first to turn on your camera. It just takes one person to start the trend. We all know that body language is crucial to communication, especially at a time when the only people we might be interacting with these days are our immediate family members and the grocery pickup attendant. Zoom is my personal favorite for group meetings. Google Hangouts is another excellent solution, especially for quick 1:1’s. Also, be sure your housemates are aware that you have a video session in progress. To avoid embarrassing interruptions, I hang a picture of a stop sign on my office door.
According to the 2018 State of Remote Work, loneliness is the biggest struggle to working remotely. Combat loneliness by turning this difficult time into an opportunity to connect with your team in new ways. This week Quinn Thomas hosted a virtual “Furry Friends Happy Hour,” where we brought our favorite beverage and four-legged companion in front of the screen for a social hour. Getting to meet my colleagues’ pets would never have been possible in our usual team meetings. To create deeper social connections, try kicking off a team meet up with a unique question. For some ideas, check out The 25 best icebreaker questions for team-building at work.
Trust is essential to any high-functioning team, but sometimes it’s hard to trust what you can’t see. Examine your teams’ communications channels and cadence to see if there are opportunities to collaborate in new ways that inspire transparency while remote. Replacing in-person team meetings or watercooler chats with virtual versions is an excellent place to start. Quinn Thomas’s go-to messaging tool is Slack because of its channel function. Our client teams use channels to stay up to date in real-time on project statuses, make quick decisions together, and share the occasional funny meme. I also keep a hot list of key projects to share with my manager, so she’s informed about what I’m working on, along with any roadblocks I’m encountering.
It’s beyond easy at home to be so focused on work that you look up at the clock at 3 pm and realize you haven’t eaten or walked more than ten steps since breakfast. Be sure to set aside time in your schedule to take a mental break and get your heart rate up. Even a 10-minute stroll around the neighborhood can boost your happiness and productivity. My favorite at-home exercise option is Kayla Itsines’s 28-minute BBG workout on her SWEAT app. I’m also planning on trying Chris Hemsworth’s Centr program. He’s offering all of his workouts for free amid the COVID-19 crisis.