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By now, your entire office is probably working remotely because of the coronavirus. And if you've never done this before, it's almost certainly an adjustment--for you, your employees, and your organization at large.

How's it going so far?

In the past few years, I've talked to a $2 billion company that is entirely remote, collected tips on how to build great remote leadership habits, explored the challenges of maintaining strong data security when you have people working from home, and gathered tips from founders who manage their productivity and sanity by drawing clearer lines between when they're "in" and "out" of the office. Still, there's a difference between talking about remote work and actually doing it.

So earlier this week, I took an informal poll of my Inc. co-workers, now that we've all been working from home for several days. I asked folks with extensive work-from-home experience for their advice, and relative newcomers for their biggest surprises so far. Their responses generally fell into three categories:

Staying productive

Struggles:

  • "Bewilderingly--even though I have fewer distractions now--it feels like there are fewer hours in the day. It could just be that routine tasks like answering emails are taking a bit longer since all my tools aren't quite as streamlined in my work-from-home setup, and a minute or two per task adds up. I feel like I'm having to be more diligent about writing down and following my daily to-do list, because otherwise I'll fall behind."
  • "I find myself wanting to make small comments throughout the day about work and what's in the news. Instead, I turn to social media and immediately get sucked into a distracting loop. Before, I could just make the joke, hear a chuckle, and move on. Now, I find myself saying, 'Oh, shoot, how did I just spend 15 minutes checking Twitter?'"

Advice:

  • "The one thing I do when working from home: I get dressed for work. I'm not one of the pajama people. Getting dressed and going to my desk--as opposed to sitting on a sofa with a laptop--gives me the sense of a workplace, of punching in, if you will."
  • "Replicate your office experience as closely as you can at home. Structure your day exactly as you would a workday, starting, taking lunch/breaks, and signing off around the same time you normally would. Set up your workspace in a similar fashion, eat the same kinds of snacks, and check your email after hours the same way you would on office days. Also, don't have children."
  • "No TV, no matter what. You cannot get anything done with CNN on in the background. This goes double for Mad Men on auto-play. Save TV for later."

Maintaining communication and connection

Struggles:

  • "I miss making small jokes to my co-workers sitting immediately around me to help break up the day, tedious tasks, work anxiety, etc. Slack doesn't have the same feel, unfortunately. I took that casual workplace back-and-forth for granted!"

Advice:

  • "Take short breaks and call friends who are also stuck at home. They're bored and isolated too, and they'd like to hear from you, even briefly."
  • "If you take 15 minutes to reply to an email in-office, no one notices. The same delay out-of-office sets off a chain reaction of pings and where-are-you's. Successfully working remotely requires a high level of attentiveness to communication, much more than in a face-to-face environment."

Taking care of yourself

Struggles:

  • "I didn't expect to have ergonomic issues. I've got my laptop placed at eye-level height atop of a Scrabble collector's edition box."
  • "I'm surprised by how easy it is to just not wear pants. I'm starting to rethink my wardrobe around the fact that I'm just no longer wearing them."
  • "At the office, I'm good about having a salad for lunch every day and limiting snacks to fruit, granola, etc. At home, it feels like every day is the weekend and the usual rules don't apply. I've found myself making big sandwiches or going through the cabinets for something unhealthy to munch on. Kind of crazy that it takes just a few days at home for something that's been a habit for years to go out the window."

Advice:

  • "Do something physical every day, preferably something that also improves your posture, because you're likely sitting a heck of a lot more than you were before."​
  • "Take a real lunch break. Set work aside for a little while to eat food away from your computer. A break is good for your eyes, your sense of how to do is going, and for your sanity. You should also set aside your phone and stop looking at Twitter. This time is called a lunch break for a reason."
  • "Because you're not commuting, you ought to adjust your working schedule to reflect that you're probably getting more done in less time. This goes back to avoiding burnout. I get online at the same time every morning and log out at the same time every evening."

Those responses are both relatable and helpful. 

Now, I want to hear how it's going for you: Follow this link to send me both your best tips for staying productive and a photo of your new remote work setup. Your response could be featured in photo essay for the magazine and Inc.com.

Published on: Mar 19, 2020