Going into the office every day, I was comfortable. I was in a smooth routine.
I would show up every morning at 8:30 a.m., have a smoothie, eat breakfast, and make my way to my desk. Happily, I greeted coworkers as they filed into our section. At lunchtime, I would enjoy a meal at my desk or in the lobby and work from a different area in the office until it was time to leave.
Then, suddenly, I had to begin working remotely full-time.
I was comfortable with the idea. I'd worked from home a couple of times before, and I'm an introvert. In many ways, this sounded like a dream come true: I could experience a full work day from the comfort of my home every day.
Let's talk about some things to remember when you're transitioning from working in the office to working remotely.
1. Gather all of the materials you need to complete your work.
When you begin to transition to remote work, your work setup will change. For instance, you might not have double monitors. You may or may not have a desk, and it might not rise like your desk at the office.
In order to make the transition more smooth, think about the hardware and software you absolutely will need in order to successfully complete your job duties. Check with your company to see if they have support for necessary hardware.
If you're used to using an external mouse, maybe you can learn shortcuts using the trackpad on your laptop.
Part of the transition is finding solutions that are applicable to your current situation. Remember, you can always use your colleagues as a resource — ask them about any hacks they may have discovered during their transition that you could leverage for inspiration.
2. Reconsider the meetings on your calendar.
Before going remote, there were "unofficial" meetings I would have with colleagues sporadically. For example, sometimes an unplanned coffee chat would happen if I spotted a coworker getting their morning latte nearby. Small, random meetings like these were the perfect way to catch up with associates outside of my direct team.
Going remote, there's less of a chance to bump into your office buddies. Think about adding these coffee chats to your calendar once every couple of weeks. That way, you can still catch up over morning lattes.
Additionally, maybe the in-person standup meetings you have with your team eery morning won't be as necessary as the nature of your job changes. Consider the routinized meetings you'll have on your schedule and if you can rework or reduce them.
3. Let your team know about changes to your schedule.
Remote schedules can be unpredictable. Sometimes, you'll have workdays that go exactly according to plan. But other times, life intervenes, and you might have to modify your schedule due to other things that are shifting in your life.
If this happens, communicate with your team about how your schedule may change. Maybe you and your roommates switch between who gets to use the living room to take meetings during the day, or you have to be away from your desk for a while to care for your family.
You may find that some situations will have to adapt to the way you work. Making the line of communication clear between you and your team would clear up misunderstandings down the line.
4. Set boundaries between your personal and professional life.
Something I've found with remote work is that it's so easy to work outside of my normal hours. I tend to get in "The zone" when I'm working and this leads to losing track of time. Some days, I'll look up and it's 6:30 p.m. — way past how long I aim to be online.
To combat this, I set boundaries that make sense for me in a remote setting. I set alarms that let me know when I should sign off.
I make sure the last hour of my day is devoted to tasks I know don't have to get done until later. So, if I get in my groove, when that alarm goes off at 5:30 I can feel comfortable dropping everything and signing off for the day.
5. Know that the full transition will take trial and error.
Sometimes I have good days and sometimes I have great weeks. But nearly every transition comes with its hardships. It's not uncommon to have rocky days or weeks in tandem with the good. When this happens, remember to give yourself a mental break.
If you're used to doing things a certain way for years, completely changing from where you do that thing is going to take trial and error. You might have to change elements of your workday that you'd never thought would be an issue.
When that's the case, take and accept these changes. Bad days happen, but what's important is acknowledging it and taking care of yourself so you can show up the next day. Additionally, this is another time to lean on your colleagues for advice.
One thing my colleague told me when I first transitioned into fully remote work was that "You can't expect yourself to work at 100% when your entire environment is different." Know that productivity might be hard to find at first, but as you become more comfortable, so will getting back into a groove.
6. Acknowledge cabin fever, and brainstorm solutions.
As an introvert who loves staying at home, I thought I was in the clear. I thought that I wouldn't have to think of ways to get up and stretch because I love sitting in my bedroom and writing.I was wrong.
Stretching, exercising, or moving at all is necessary to your health and productivity. As you're making this change, brainstorm ways you might get stir crazy and proactively brainstorm solutions. This will help you identify the stir craziness when it arises and take the necessary steps to remedy the feeling.
As for me, I had to learn as I went through the motions. Yoga, hourly stretch breaks, quick walks, and cooking an indulgent lunch are all methods I leverage to get up, move, take my eyes away from a screen, and replenish myself before returning to my desk.
The transition to remote work has a focus on productivity, but it also involves adapting to a huge change. Set yourself up for success in every way you can. That way, when curveballs arise, you can handle them.
Knowing you're as prepared as you can be is one of the biggest assets you have when you're transitioning to remote work. Also know that you have people and resources in your corner. So, even if you may be working alone, you're never truly by yourself.