Due to current events, many people are being forced to work from home.
For some of them, it’s nothing new, maybe they have been working remotely by choice if they have a flexible schedule. Others may have often finished up some work they started in the office which needed to be done by the morning or may have prepared some work at home that they would then finish later at work.
These tasks probably involved mainly, working with office tools (Word, Excel) or reading, sending and replying to emails. Other tasks could be specifically job-related for which they use the same program as they use in the office.
For many people, however, this is a whole new world, a place they have never been before, and didn’t intend to visit so they are not prepared for what is coming their way, and it may cause the necessary stress and anxiety.
If you are reading this article, and are struggling with one of the following questions, how do I get organized at home (when I don’t have an office), how will I stay in touch with my boss and co-workers (should I just send emails, talk on the phone, are there other ways), what about the important meeting we had planned to prepare work for the upcoming week, how do I get access to folders and files I need…
Besides the practical issues, there are also technical issues, how to install those new programs you need on your laptop, how to work with them, what if they don’t do what you expect them to, or don’t seem to work at all.
Most office workers, call the IT department when they run into a problem, and have them take care of it, but now there is the sudden need of resolving things yourself, no back-up, no colleague to turn to, what to do next…
As an Online Tech Consultant and Personal Assistant, I have experience with working remotely and have worked with lots of software that makes work-from-home life easier.
Here is a list of suggestions on how to get yourself organized and what software you could use to stay on top of things, and keep in touch with your work-mates.
1. Create a designated workspace.
Even when you don’t have an office in the house, you should still try to create a space where you can work quietly, and uninterrupted. Even if it is just a table in a corner of a room, make sure you separate your work area from your leisure area.
Make sure your space is organized and decluttered, this will help with your productivity.
2. Keep family members at bay.
It may be very tempting for your spouse and kids to come to you for a little chat, or help out ‘for a minute’. Make sure that everyone knows when you are working, you are not available.
If you are sharing your designated space with others in the house (like when you have set up your desk in your kitchen or living room), get some noise-canceling headphones to keep you from being distracted by what happens around you.
3. Internet Service.
Needless to say that you will need a reliable internet connection, at a decent speed. Not having this may slow down your productivity tremendously. You might need a temporary upgrade, check with your internet provider what the possibilities are.
4. Get dressed as if you were going to the office.
Working from home may tempt you to stay in your pajamas all day. As mentioned before, it is better to separate leisure and work. Get ready for work as you normally would get dressed, take a healthy breakfast and head over to your workspace.
5. Set a schedule.
As no one is looking over your shoulder, you might get tempted to mix work and home-related tasks. You get to organize your own time, but make sure you set a schedule for yourself and stick to it.
That being said, let go of work once the workday is over. If some things didn’t get done during your scheduled work time, put it on your list for tomorrow.
6. Stay in touch.
When working from home, you don’t have the human connection you used to have in your everyday office life. Even though you can no longer have the chat at the water cooler or lunch with your work buddies, you should still connect with others through phone, email, Skype, WhatsApp or any other means. It is important to keep communicating!
Furthermore, clear communication with your boss or manager, about exact expectations is crucial to working from home. Try to set up a daily online meeting of 10-15 minutes. This way you can keep your supervisor updated on your progress, and find out what it is you need to be focussing on next.
7. Get the extra tools you need.
As mentioned before, there are many tools that can help you when you are working remotely. Some companies will provide their employees with the tools they need, and eventually pay for them if they aren’t free.
Check with your company what tools they are using and if they will reimburse expenses.
Tech side of it all too overwhelming?
I am temporarily offering my services at a reduced (20%) price
until the end of March 2020.
If you are not sure what tools use in this unusual situation, here is a list with some tools I recommend. All of these are free to use (or have a basic free plan).
A. Communication apps
Communication is crucial to stay on top of things and to make sure you don’t get isolated.
To replace the chat moments at the water cooler, the simplest apps to use would be Whatsapp and Skype. Not just because most of us already have these on our phones, but also because they are pretty straightforward to use.
As a remote worker, it is also convenient to have all your applications within reach, and both these apps can be installed on your computer.
I always find it easier to write a quick message from my keyboard, instead of struggling trying to type long messages on my phone.
Installing Skype is easy, just download the software from their website and login with your credentials.
WhatsApp, on the other hand, involves a little more action.
- Download and install the app on your computer (available for both Windows or IOS)
- Open the desktop app
- On your phone, open the app and click on the 3 dots in the right-hand corner.
- Choose WhatsApp Web
- Scan the QR code to connect your account
- Now you can start using WhatsApp on your computer
Here is a video with instructions
Another real-time communication app to use for teams is Slack.
Slack is free and quite clear-cut to use. It runs on all platforms, and even directly in your web browser. Messages can be sent out to teams and you can DM individuals or smaller groups.
Check out the basics in this video
B. Video Meetings
If you disregarded my #4 suggestion, and are in your pajamas, you can join Zoom without Video.
It lets you share your screen, share links or messages through the chat and record the meeting so you can rewatch it at a later time.
Zoom enables you to schedule meetings in the future, send invitations to join, or the possibility to share a link.
Want to learn the basics of working with Zoom, follow this link
C. Time Tracking and Time Management
A way I track my time when working for clients is by using Clockify.
Even though, as a temporary remote worker, you are working from home for your boss, the app can still be very useful.
You can track the time you spent on a certain project. It is perfect for keeping track of what you are working on.
It lets you generate daily, weekly, monthly reports, which you could send to your employer.
Here you can find a small tutorial on time tracking with Clockify
Using Clockify to track your time, can turn out to be a good start for managing your time. Knowing where you spend your time on, is crucial for productivity measuring.
Another similar app is Toggl.
Toggl tracks how much time different tasks take to complete. It allows you to track various activities with the touch of a button, then adds up how much time you are spending on that activity each day, week, and month.
D. Project Management
When you need to work together on a project with colleagues, and keep track of what has already been accomplished, or want to assign certain tasks to individual team members, then I would suggest using Trello.
Trello is cloud-based and extremely easy to learn.
It uses bulletin boards. Each board can represent a project. Within each board, teams create lists, which they then populate with cards.
Cards can be assigned to specific team members, labeled, stamped with a deadline, and filled with comments or attachments. Lists and cards can be moved around according to priority or by progress.
Trello is a very flexible system that gives you a quick overview of the situation.
But using Trello doesn’t have to stop with Project Management, you can use it as a shopping list, a recipe book, To Do-list, it can replace sticky-notes… you name it, there’s a chance, it can be done with Trello.
Check out my blog post on the use of Trello as a Real Estate Organization Tool.
Want to learn more about this awesome app, check out this video
E. Cloud Storage
There are many cloud storage possibilities out there, but my all-time favorite one is Google Drive. Not only does it let you store files that you can access from anywhere (with an internet connection), you can share them with team workers, and even collaborate with others.
Watch this video for more info on how to use this fantastic tool.
Working from home doesn’t need to be overwhelming.
With the right mindset and the right tools, you are already halfway there!
I hope these guidelines help you on your way to remote working success. Good Luck and Stay Safe!