Welcome to the New Normal: A Newbie’s Guide to Remote Work

The coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of our day-to-day lives. Many non-essential businesses have been forced to shut their doors for the time being while others have had to make the difficult transition to move from an in-office environment to one that is entirely remote. Experienced remote workers such as freelance artists, writers, and web developers know what to expect. Many remote workers may not even notice a change in their daily work routine.

For workers used to reporting to a desk job, however, working remotely comes with a major learning curve. Not everyone is cut out for working from home. Others often think that remote workers are lucky to hang around at home and make money from their hobby, but remote work is far more than that and comes with unique challenges. Here is some advice on how to navigate and succeed when working from home to stay motivated, productive, and make the most of the “new normal.”

Do a Broadband Internet Tuneup

The internet is the lifeline of a remote worker, but not all internet service is created equal! Your company may have invested considerable money to ensure the headquarters or brick-and-mortar business has the highest speed internet possible. The simple fact is, business internet is usually better because residential internet comes with more restrictions.

With this in mind, you may notice that the pace of your work from home is slower. You probably only used your home internet to send emails or watch some Netflix when you got home, but now you’re a remote worker with different internet needs. For example, your employer may require you to join in for regular video conferences, which takes up considerable bandwidth.

If your home internet speed is impacting the amount of time it’s taking for you to complete basic remote work, you may need to upgrade your home plan to a higher-tier service with faster speeds. You’ll also want to check your home service agreement and make sure you won’t be charged a fee for using more than a predetermined amount of data. Many internet service providers (ISPs) limit how much data you can download per month and could shut down your service or charge you more if you go over your usage.

If upgrading your internet plan to be remote work-friendly is more than you can afford, you can always speak with your boss about the issue and ask if they might reimburse you the difference between what you’ve been paying and the price of increased internet needed to work from home.

Don’t Make Assumptions When You’re Working From Home

Remote work is new to you and could even be new to your employer. Your boss may recognize the advantage of working with remote staff and freelancers, but may not know how the process works. Companies worldwide have had to adapt fast to stay-at-home orders, improvising along the way. Your company may not have the resources or experience to properly manage an employee’s performance when the staff is suddenly working from home.

It’s important to establish clear expectations about what your job description will be as a remote worker. It may not be the same as your role in the office. Don’t fully rely on your employer to outline what you need to know about your tasks. Schedule a meeting with your supervisor. Review how your role from home will be different, what hours you’ll be expected to be available, how you will communicate for fast response times, and any other questions or doubts you may have so you can work together on settling a remote role you can be happy with for future performance evaluations.

Pretend You’re Working at Your Office

It’s all too easy to slack when you work from home. There’s no one to watch you or keep you on track. Who’s going to know how much of your work you’re actually doing and when? Having this overly-casual attitude about your job will reflect poorly on your professionalism in the long run.

It’s fun to work from home in pajamas at first. All new remote workers should attend a video conference in business attire from the waist up and sweatpants from the waist down at least once to get the thrill out of their new reality. Doing so is almost a rite of passage. Once the novelty is over, however, it’s time to establish a professional work routine. You need a routine, just as if you were still reporting to your company headquarters or office.

To set up a productive work environment, start with your work area. All you may need is a small desk and a comfortable chair where you can get your work done. Track your productivity by using a timer to monitor how long you’re working on projects. Include a 15-minute break regularly, just as you would at the office, to have a stretch, get a coffee, or go outside for some fresh air.

Consider dressing up(albeit casually), and grooming yourself as if you are expecting clients for meetings every day while you’re working, and don’t forget to close the laptop and turn on voicemail when the workday is over. Small routines of this sort help you separate your personal life from your work life when you’re working from home. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to blur the lines and burn out from feeling like you work all the time.

Schedule Social Time

The hardest part of adapting to remote work at first is the sense of loneliness that can creep up when you’re working alone from home. Even if you resented the office distractions and noise from other workers, being surrounded by other coworkers and peers had its benefits.

Working from home eliminates the social aspect of a job. To make up for it, reward yourself with a virtual coffee to catch up with a colleague via Skype on your “home coffee break.” You can also join a Facebook network of other remote workers in your field who you can connect with. However, you choose to be social, place importance on staying in touch with family, friends, and peers to keep you energized and connected to others until social distancing is over.