The Covid-19 Pandemic has reshaped the way we think about working from home (WFH). Companies that had a strict NO WFH policy have changed their tune, and are seeing huge benefits of a staff that's working from the comfort of their home. Overhead costs, work-life balance, and employee happiness are just a few of the major perks. Massive companies such as Salesforce have even announced a WFH forever policy, and we are in full support of that!
In fact, the MMC team was doing the WFH thing way before it was cool. Not to toot our own horns, but we're kind of a big deal. Our CEO, Thomas Michael, has been pro WFH for YEARS, and unsurprisingly, he has a team of loyal team members who greatly appreciate the flexibility, trust, and happiness that comes with working from home (or anywhere for that matter).
So, since we've been doing this WFH dance for several years now, we thought we would share our top tips and tricks. I chatted with each of our team members to get their advice on working from home (and loving it).
You don’t need as much space as you think. I used to think that I have to have a big desk and surface area for all my stuff – notepads, pens, mugs, keyboard, etc. But ever since I moved to a 1 bedroom apartment in Manhattan I realized that I don’t actually need any of it. So now I have a small desk just big enough for my laptop, notepad, and coffee cup – and it works like a charm! If anything, having a small work area forces me to be more organized and efficient – being from Germany these are two of my favorite words.
When you’re done, you’re done. It’s tempting to try to finish that one thing today and then the other thing, too…and before you know it, it’s 10 pm and you haven’t even had dinner yet. Don’t let the possibility of working from home turn into a never-ending work session. Set a clear schedule and call it a day at a reasonable time. The work will be there tomorrow.
Don’t worry about your kids, dogs, spouse, etc. If anything good came out of the pandemic it’s the fact that people get it now – we’re all working from home doing the best we came given the circumstances. Everybody seems to be sympathetic these days if there’s a barking dog in the background, your kids barge into your home office (aka the bedroom) or your spouse walks through the camera feed. Don’t worry too much about it – we at MMC certainly don’t.
Communicate! More than you think is usually a good thing. Finishing a major work project as well as reminding everyone of your vacation schedule should be a no-brainer. But, unless you are using a team scheduler, people may not remember what else you are up to or working on. Good, friendly communication also keeps you in touch with your team and makes your job more social – which can be something working from home lacks.
Be Time-Aware! I like a flexible schedule, but the workday can slip away easily if you do not keep to a basic structure and scheduled to-do list. It is a wonderful advantage to work from home and make a nice breakfast or enjoy your backyard, and you should take the opportunity to do so; however, structure activities into your entire working day so neither work nor your home life takes over each other. Having a set number of working hours in a day is key, but it may not matter when you start and stop – if you are productive in the designated hours.
Have a designated workspace. If you are susceptible to distraction – I would strongly recommend having a designated workspace, even if it is the dining room table. And if you have others at home with you, consider selecting a room with a door, so you can be clear about your work time boundaries.
Be mindful of your background if you ever need to be on a video call. Set up your workspace and then turn on your camera and see what others see when video conferencing with you. A plain wall is better than a cluttered room or busy street view that can distract people.
Remember to stop working. In mid-2020 Monday and The National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a poll of 3 million work-from-home professionals. In this study, they found that those who work from home, work on average 20% longer than in-office workers, that’s eight more hours per week. So, be sure to set some work boundaries, just because your desk is right there, does not mean you have to work.
Resist the urge to work from your bedroom. It makes going to sleep at night much harder! When you have a dedicated work area, you’ll find you are more focused there, and when you reserve your bed for sleeping, you’ll find it much easier to go to sleep at night. You’re sending your body signals – this is my workspace and this is my rest space.
Set firm boundaries. A lot of people don’t understand that working from home is well, still work! Make sure your friends, family, and/or housemates understand that even though you’re at home, you’re not available. Nothing is worse than someone popping by and interrupting your entire workday because they don’t understand how serious your duties are.
Don't be an Island. It can be tempting to have a singular focus on your own projects and assume that the team knows you are online and busy cranking away. But a remote employee can be both out-of-sight and out-of-mind. It’s a good idea to briefly check in with your team or your manager regularly, perhaps when you arrive in the morning, and remind them that you are there and available. Also proactively sharing your availability or the top few items on your hitlist for the day can remind your team that you are focused on what is most important, and reduce the need for unnecessary meetings.
Consider getting ready for the day and dressing as if you are actually going to the office. This can help you get into the right frame of mind for work. It also helps to have a regular routine. Maybe this is a pre-work walk, breakfast, coffee, or reading the news.
If you are able to, invest some money in your home office space. You’ll be spending a lot of time there, so make it a place you want to be. For example, having double screens and a quality computer mouse has allowed me to maintain productivity, while plants & small pieces of décor help to make it a space I enjoy.
Get as much natural light in your work area as possible! This wasn’t always an option for me before I began working from home. Now I work right next to a window and take advantage of the many benefits of sunlight such as lower stress levels, better sleep, and a boost of Vitamin D. Quick tip: If you want to increase the natural light in your home office space, add a mirror or two to the room!
Wake up early. I found myself missing my morning drive to work with my favorite radio talk show and my Starbucks. Try waking up 20 mins earlier and make time for an enjoyable morning routine.
Have distractions ready for little ones and pets. Every day I know I can distract my dogs for at least an hour with their favorite chew toy. My dogs now know that shortly after breakfast they get their bones, it’s a guaranteed distraction-free hour!
GO TRAVEL. Our team knows that I am a proud wandering digital nomad. Thomas is super supportive of us working from anywhere, so my husband and I spent a year traveling in Central America and Europe (pre-Covid), and now we're planning on working from a Sprinter Van that we are converting. You will love your job even more if you know that it allows you to travel to places you never thought possible. When else will you be able to earn an income while sitting under an umbrella on the sandy beaches of the Bahamas??
Keep your eye on the prize. I always get asked, 'how do you not get distracted when you're traveling??' Honestly, I feel like I am the most productive when I'm traveling. I know the ONLY reason I can upkeep this kind of lifestyle is because of my job, so I make sure to make my work priority #1, and playing #2. And if you prioritize your workday in an efficient way, you know you can go explore the new area you're in on nights (or mornings) and weekends. It makes it that much sweeter to enjoy the new area you're in.
I've talked to several people who are loving working from home, but they're afraid that they will have to go back into the dreaded office post-Covid.
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