Today I own my own business, and recently (like, last week recently) I signed a two-year lease on new office space. It’s a little scary to commit to something as a small business owner, as I watch the stock market go down and realize my team won’t get to show up in the new space on move-in day. We homeschool our two older children, and our preschooler who loves social interaction is back at home with us all day. This season has its challenges on normal days. While I’ve had the privilege of working remotely and hiring remote workers over the past few years, I’m a high I/D on the DISC Assessment, and I like to be around people and in the action. But I have learned a thing or two about remote working along the way! I hope our new office space is an opportunity to build a culture of belonging, but perhaps we can work to build that culture even before we are able to move in.
If you found yourself becoming a remote worker this week, or if you’ve been working remotely for a while, here are some ways to help you cultivate a sense of belonging with the rest of your team:
1. Find A Morning Routine.
How you start your day is how you will win the day. I’d love to sleep in or have crashing waves on a beach wake me up every morning. But I live in the mountains, so that is not happening. I wake up every day at the same time, drink a glass of water, eat breakfast, and complete my morning marketing. If I do this routinely, I’m much more productive and mentally prepared for the day ahead.
2. Get Out Of Your Pajamas.
I once realized at the end of a week that I had been wearing sweat pants and t-shirts every day since Monday. When I put on a matching jacket to my sweat pants to make a grocery run, it hit me that maybe this isn’t the look I’m really going for! I dress for work daily now. Sure, it’s still jeans and a t-shirt for me, but I get dressed, put shoes on, and feel more like a human who can help people thrive in their careers. So dress the part!
3. Find A Pace That Works For You, Your Team, And Your Family.
Studies show that for many reasons remote workers are more productive than office workers. I let my employees work at a pace that works for them while keeping our deliverables and deadlines our priority as a team. Finding a personal work pace does not mean working all hours of the day. It means taking regular breaks, setting up boundaries, and not pushing too quickly into the next thing. As an entrepreneur, it’s not unusual for me to work a 16 hour day, but if I do that all week long, I know I’ll crash on the weekend when I want to be available and energetic for my family. In an effort to keep a reasonable work pace, I try to leave my work after 5:30 PM until the next day. This allows our family the time and space to cook dinner together every evening, and sit around the table to enjoy it together. It has been refreshing! Keeping this pace has helped me to be more energized and engaged with my team, clients, and loved ones.
4. Create An On/Off Notice
Many remote workers recommend creating a dedicated working space. I have one such space, but I rarely sit at it. That’s just not how I work! Sometimes I work at the kitchen table, sometimes I work in a reading nook, sometimes I work at a larger dining room table with a friend, and sometimes on the couch. If dedicating one particular space to your work improves your focus and productivity, that’s great! But if you’re more like me, it may be difficult for the people around you to know if you are working or not. Especially if I am on a phone call, it can be hard for my kids to know when I’m “on” and when I’m “off.” To help communicate with your family as you work from home, give them a sign or signal for when you are working. I recommend putting a post-it note on your laptop cover– one that says “ON” and one that says “OFF.” Or you can do colors GREEN and RED! This way your family can see visually whether you’re free to talk or if they need to come back later.
5. Embrace Technology.
Last night my kids Skyped with their Grandparents. My team has been using Google Hangouts, and we’ve actually had some of our most productive meetings using this medium! We also use Zoom for many client interactions. The time we live in is truly remarkable for how it allows us to stay connected from afar.
6. Pick Up The Phone.
I encourage my team to pick up the phone and call one another. I use email to inform, text messaging for quick answers, and my phone to connect and clarify. I can get a lot done and communicated through email and text, but now, perhaps more than ever, we need personal connection. Hearing someone’s voice rather than just reading words on a screen saves us from unnecessary miscommunication. It’s an opportunity to connect with clarity.
7. Be Patient– We’re All Doing This Thing Called Life Together.
If I’m working remotely, it’s inevitable that I’m going to do some other things along the way. Of course I am going to take a break to do that load of laundry, be interrupted by my kids, and take the dog out. Guess what? So is your coworker who is also working remotely. The work still gets accomplished. I think it’s important for us to be patient with one another and anticipate life’s interruptions.
8. Snack, Exercise, & Turn The News Off
I’m talking healthy snacking, okay? This is a great time to start new healthy habits and try something new. I’ve been enjoying a variety of nut mixes, drinking more water, and taking walks. I’ve also limited myself to checking the news once a day. I have a much healthier mindset and think more clearly about what’s in front of me. Don’t forget to get up, get outside, and enjoy life!