Now that I’ve been working from home for a while, we wanted to pass along our best, most meticulously-tested tactics to help you become a Work from Home Master.
Carrying the title of Remote Work Master is a heavy burden. Many an hour I have wasted trying to explain proper Slack etiquette to a coworker, or why it’s inappropriate to conduct a formal meeting with a vendor inside their kid’s ballpit (true story).
But much like a sherpa guiding his rich tech-investor to the peak of Mount Everest, you will be expected to provide life-critical (ok, fine, work-critical) advice, recommendations and support. Practice our tips, trust in yourself, take a deep breath of fresh air, and you will succeed.
1. TRY TO MAINTAIN YOUR REGULAR EVERYDAY ANNOYANCES
Working from home presents many new conveniences like rolling out of bed straight into your office, taking as many lunch breaks as you’d like without judgment and closing sales in the nude.
It’s a hoot, but unfortunately all those conveniences can also make you soft.
To keep your edge, we recommend artificially recreating some of the annoyances you’re used to in your normal workday.
If you take public transportation, stand in your bathroom and rock back and forth while holding onto your shower curtain for 10-15 minutes.
If you normally drive to work, go sit in your car, honk the horn repeatedly and scream obscenities at the fictional dude who just cut you off and then slowed down.
If you normally have a chatty cubicle-mate, ask Alexa to read off your daily highlights and then try to concentrate on a big project with an impending deadline.
If you’re moderately to severely clumsy, set an alarm on your phone to spill a cup of coffee on yourself once a week.
Please feel free to make these suggestions your own and add any other annoyance exercises you feel necessary to truly recreate your normal office environment at home.
2. HAVE AS MANY CHROME TABS OPEN AS POSSIBLE
Staying productive while you work from home can prove difficult, especially as the weeks drag on. We’ve found that the best motivator is to open as many chrome-hosted websites, documents, extensions, and drives as possible so your eyes physically can’t escape. The constant reminder of the backlog of projects will create an overwhelming sense of pressure and anxiety to keep you focused and sharp.
If you don’t have enough projects to create the needed sense of panic, then we recommend going to Youtube to find 8 or 9 how-to videos on related, but not crucial parts of your job to open in chrome tabs instead.
“Out of sight, out of mind” as they say. So keep everything in sight.
3. SHOW OFF HOW BUSY YOU ARE BY WEARING PAJAMAS AND GLASSES INSTEAD OF CONTACTS
If you’re like me, rolling out of bed at no earlier than 8:59 is every day’s goal. Unfortunately, if you are also like me, then you have co-workers that have been up and working for hours by then.
You can avoid the awkward conversation of why you are just pulling into your desk so much later than everyone by explaining that you pulled an all nighter and stepped away from your desk for a little bit. The evidence for this should be clearly obvious by the fact that you’re still wearing your jammies and your glasses. For an added bonus, you can even “forget” to comb your hair.
Be careful with this technique though. It’s certainly awesome, but can also be dangerous when impromptu video conferences can strike at any time.
You see, glasses have a nasty (some would say snitchy) habit of reflecting your screens. You may think you’re successfully pretending to pay attention, but in reality the whole team can see that you’re watching The Office or playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
4. KEEP A/C BILLS LOW BY KEEPING YOUR LEGS COOL
Video Meetings can be terrifying if you need to dress up and don’t want to overheat to the point of visibly sweating during the meeting.
Our recommendation is to only dress from the waist up. Keep yourself cool and properly ventilated by exposing your bottom half to the fresh flowing air.
Just be aware though that it’s inevitable that something—perhaps an unexpectedly close spider or hearing your dog eating something they shouldn’t—will drive you to stand up during a video conference. Be careful to keep control of your impulses to jump. We strongly advise against it if you are pants-less.
5. HIRE YOUR PETS AS COWORKERS
With all your coworkers holed up in their own homes, working remotely during quarantine can get pretty lonely. As we all know, a great way to combat loneliness is to talk to your pets. Unfortunately, that can also be viewed as “slacking off” or “unsettling” by certain employers, so we at FluentStream recommend giving your pet an official job title, a desk and a share of your work.
Before you do this though, be sure to check with HR, file the appropriate paperwork and introduce him or her to the rest of the office. Remember, everyone appreciates it when new hires are introduced around the office.
As a salaried employee, your pet instantly goes from furry friend to valued team member. That means your conversations with them also transform from one-sided ramblings to scheduled meetings. You aren’t gossiping about another department, you’re conducting performance reviews. Those aren’t walks so your pet can relieve themselves outside, they’re team-building excursions.
6. LEARN THE SUBTLE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COWORKER AND WHINY CHILD
Both children and coworkers have a habit of making unreasonable demands for your time and attention. When you have your headphones on during a conference call, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.
I don’t have any children myself, so I turned to our graphic designer Jen Okada to share what she’s learned over a decade of raising tiny humans while she works.
“When it comes to kids and coworkers whining at you, there are two things you need to take into account.
The first is how sudden the whining is. Kids will start out of nowhere, crying or yelling they want something. It’s a crime of passion. Annoying, but you know… they’re kids. Coworkers on the other hand premeditate their whining. You’ll notice them scrunch their eyebrows when you talk or open and close their mouth like a fish several times before finally speaking up. Usually they start with a passive aggressive question, or something like, ‘Just to clarify…’
The second thing you need to consider is the pitch of the whining. Kids have underdeveloped vocal cords so it comes out as more of a shriek. However, coworkers will often make an unconscious groaning noise before they whine at you. Like they’re revving up a can engine or waking a swarm of bees in their hive.
The differences are subtle, but with enough practice you can start knowing right away whether you need to take your headphones off and help your child, or take your headphones off and ignore your coworker.”
Thanks, Jen, those were some great insights even though I’m pretty sure you were talking about me that whole time.
7. START A NEW END-OF-DAY RITUAL
It’s all too easy for work time to bleed into home time when your whole house is technically now your office. An easy way to separate the two is to set a reminder to open your blinds at the time you’d normally leave the office.
By allowing the real darkness of the outside world to replace the artificial darkness you created throughout the day, you remind your brain that it’s time to switch gears. Never having to see the sun is one of the many benefits of working from home, and good darkness management makes it even better.