Ten Tips for Working Remotely
Hello BRCC! I hope you are all staying healthy, safe, and sane, and are settling into your new normals.
Like all of you, my classes and my work have transitioned to the virtual sphere. This is familiar territory for me, as I spent five years as a remote employee for two different companies. During the three years that Megan and I lived in South Bend, IN for Megan’s M.Div. I worked remotely for a company based on Portland, OR, and during our first two years here in Providence I worked remotely for a company based in Exton, PA. Through these experiences, I honed my ability to be an effective remote worker. I developed a mix of skills to both help me be productive when working, and to help me from letting work take over my life. Here are my top 10 pieces of advice for how to make the best of a remote working arrangement.
1. Create “work” space
Set up “work” space which is separate from other space to keep your life from being taken over by classes. This can be a hard separation (like a separate room if you’re fortunate enough to have one) or a softer separation (like a certain chair at the table that you use only for classes). In South Bend I had a home office which was the only place that I did work. Create a space that is for work and keep work there.
2. Dress the part
Take the time to change out of your pajamas and dress for a virtual school day, firming up the boundary between virtual school life and other life.
3. Create a commute
“Go” to class. Maybe that means walking from the kitchen to your bedroom. Maybe that means taking a walk around the house. Move yourself to the space in which you’ll participate in class, then leave when class is done. In South Bend, my commute was from the kitchen up the stairs to my office.
4. Get good at mute
Be aware of your microphone status and make it a habit to check it regularly. Stay on mute to keep from interrupting things with background noise, and always remember to unmute to minimize time lost to the all-too-familiar silence followed by “I think you’re on mute; if you’re talking, we can’t hear you”.
5. Don’t hesitate out of fear of interrupting
In virtual meetings, it’s much harder to read body language to know when someone wants to/is about to say something. Don’t wait for others to notice that you want to say something and make a space for you. Speak up when you have something to say, then sort things out after if other people chime in at the same time. And don’t take it personally if someone interrupts you – remember they’re also dealing with technology challenges.
6. Resist the urge to multi-task
Be present in whatever you are doing virtually. Think about what you would be able to do if you were physically in the classroom and try to limit your diversions to those things.
7. Put your stuff away
When everything you do takes place at home, it can be easy to leave everything where it is for the sake of convenience – might as well leave a notebook on the table if you’ll need it for the next time class meets, right? However, putting your stuff away creates another way for your mind to distinguish work life from non-work life. When I’m done with work these days, I put my work bag away in the closet, and I do the same with my school bag. Think of it like you still have to go to a classroom – you bring your stuff there and take it with you when you’re done.
8. When you’re done, be done
Decide when you’re done with something for the day and be firm about it. The work will still be there tomorrow. Shift your attention to your family, your friends, your hobbies.
9. Forgive yourself for distractions, interruptions, and lowered productivity
There’s no denying that remote working is a challenge. It’s harder to be present and easier to be distracted. That’s OK. Deal with it the best you can, and don’t feel any shame or regret if your productivity isn’t the same as what it was when you were doing things in-person.
10. Reach out and connect
Doing things virtually often means only the productive stuff is done together, and all the surrounding social interaction and small talk is stripped away. Make the effort to reach out and connect with others, even just a small connection. When I was a remote employee, I made sure to talk to at least one person on the phone every day. Remember that you’re interacting with people, not just email-generators.
My advice comes from my work experience, and I acknowledge that things are different in college, where the boundaries between work/school/play are much less firm. However, I hope the above points can help you create a structure that keeps you sane and balanced.
One thing that I think COVID-19 separation is teaching us is the importance of physicality and physical space. While we do have the ability to hold classes and meetings online, it isn’t quite the same, and so we need to find ways to adapt and bring a sense of physicality to the virtual situation. We mustn’t forget that we are physical beings, and our God came to us in the Word made flesh, and touches us in the Sacraments.
Michael O'Brien-Crayne sent us this post from Providence, RI.