Working Remotely- Tips and Tricks for Surviving Working From Home

Here at CuroGens, we are somewhat accustomed to working from home as well as in the office. For so many people right now right now, this is a new concept that may prove challenging to get under control. If there are multiple people in your home trying to work, you already know this presents some unique challenges that have not previously revealed themselves. We decided that in an act of humanity, we would share some of our tried and true strategies that have worked for many of us. There are lots different opinions on what is the best way to address our new scenario, but we hope that something helpful and hopeful will be found. There is not one right answer, that is for sure. However, if finding out about someone else’s tricks and tips can help solve even one problem, then the goal has been met – helping each other through a most unique and difficult situation, that we are all in together.

Several questions about what has worked best for them while they work remotely, were posed to our staff asking for their own personal input on how they handle each of a few challenges.

Here is what we have to share:

Q: What advice would you offer right now, if more than one adult is working from home?

A: This can be a little tricky at first, especially when it comes to calls, kids, and containment. Our employees offered some useful and effective tips. Maybe one or two are right for you:

  • Everyone needs their own space, separate rooms if possible
  • Design clear boundaries
  • Communicate as much as possible about schedules, expectations, and availability
  • Coordinate appointment, especially for calls and video conferences
  • Keep your sense of humor

Q: How do you maintain balance while working from home with any children who are home right now, who also have deadlines with eLearning along with your own deadlines? Balance between work stuff and home stuff?

A: This question brought on a lot of ideas as well as some venting. If you are a parent and you are trying to manage your children as they navigate their responsibilities for school as well as your own for work, you might be feeling the heat right about now. Here are some suggestions that may work for you:

  • Make and maintain a schedule, as best you can, but
  • Be flexible and have patience
  • Eat on time and eat healthy and drink water
  • Take brain breaks
  • Share the household workload with your spouse
  • Get some fresh air and sunshine- this is especially important for young children
  • Make time for daily exercise, even if it’s only 20 minutes
  • Make sure your children know when you are available for them, making sure at least one parent is accessible throughout the day the day
  • Get up, shower, and get dressed- we will go back to this in a moment

The key here will be finding what will work for your family. It may take one or two tries before it all works well. Perseverance here will get you through, and if something clearly isn’t working, try something different.

As far as the suggestion about “get up, get dressed,” this is up for some debate. While it may help some people get into work mode, others may find that they don’t need to “get dressed” because it saves them time, and they can dive right in to work. No judgement from over here – just a thought…

Q: Can you make recommendations on a physical set up at home?

A: Depending on the amount of space at home and the number of people in your home all at once, these suggestions can vary. Individual space will really allow for productive work, however, there are few other things that can also help if separate space isn’t possible:

  • Have a good chair or an exercise ball to sit on
  • Stand when needed
  • Have separate rooms if possible
  • Have supplies in one common location, allowing everyone to be self sufficient
  • Find new ways to use your furniture- one colleague turned a file holder upside down and created a standing desk option
  • It’s comes down to personal preference-whatever works in your house- works

Q: How are you avoiding distractions and maintaining focus when it’s necessary?

A: Maybe one of the most common experiences when working from home is the distraction factor. Initially, it may be taxing to manage, but with some practice and finding the right way for your home, it can become part of the routine. Some of our suggestions are:

  • Face a window to allow natural light on your face
  • White noise
  • Coordinate noisy activities in the house- for example the dishwasher or vacuuming, when needing to make calls or be in a virtual meeting
  • Communicate about schedules
  • Close doors when necessary
  • Use a headset or ear buds
  • Turn on music – this works for some, but not others
  • Multi-task so zoning out on one task doesn’t happen – also personal preference

Q: Which apps do you recommend for organization, communication, virtual meetings, etc?

A: There are many digital tools available to assist in being productive at home, our staff recommends these:

  • Microsoft Teams – internal collaboration
  • Zoom – external collaboration
  • Skype –  external collaboration
  • OmniFocus for Mac users for task management
  • Microsoft Whiteboard for iPads

Q: How important is it to establish routines with work time, breaks, exercise, waking up and getting dressed, etc?

A: With children/teenagers at home this is a must! Coordinating family time, shared accessibility, staying flexible and patient is very important to the success of everyone being home at once, all day, every day. Even if there are not small children at home, a few ideas definitely help with making this transition and it’s not a one-size-fits-all recommendation, flexibility is key:

  • 8-5 does not always work, and that’s ok
  • Take advantage of the lulls in time to get other things done
  • Plan menus for predictability and that ever famous question: “what’s for dinner?”
  • Some suggest a “get up, get dressed” approach while others say, “Meh, pjs all day are fine”
  • Dedicated family time and scheduled breaks

Q: Do you have any other ideas to offer for anyone who is new to this idea of working from home?

A: Much of what has already been recommended can be considered personal tips and tricks. The idea overall is to find what works for your family and your household. It may be a combination of approaches that you piece together and make your own.

From a work perspective:

  • Communicate with coworkers and often
  • Take initiative to reach out to coworkers with whom you might not normally interact
  • Keep your tools working for you – one example was to keep your status accurate on Teams so coworkers know when they can reach out to you
  • Video conference with colleagues to keep the social aspect going. Seeing and or talking live to each other keeps connections strong
  • Isolate when you need to, to complete a task or deep dive into something that requires it

From a home life perspective:

  • Have lots and lots of patience
  • Be flexible when you can
  • Take those breaks
  • Go outside
  • Use humor, one person likes to start his calls with a “bad dad joke” exchange to start off positive and personal

Whatever you choose as your model, keep in mind someone else may be struggling with that very thing at their house. Or maybe they just need to hear a friend’s voice, or see a friendly face or a bottle of red wine delivered to their doorstep. The reality is, there is no right way or wrong way to do this. Ask your coworkers, ask your friends, ask yourself – what works for us? Our CuroGens family certainly hopes that their shared ideas can be of some use on a personal or professional level. We extend wishes of health, sanity, and safety during this most unusual time.