I’m frequently asked for tips on working remotely. What people really want to know is how to create work-life balance as well as how to maintain connections with colleagues when there is no metaphorical “water cooler” to gather around.

I’d suggest three areas for you to focus on: developing some personal habits to separate work from home, setting boundaries, and making the time to invest in work relationships.

Personal habits

  • Create routines and structure that help you distinguish between work and off-hours
  • Follow a routine to begin your workday as if you were going in the office – including shower, attire, etc.
  • Designate a workspace that you use regularly (even if you have to pack it up at the end of the day)
  • Take care of your mental health. Work from the patio one day. Stop for a few moments to go outside. Maintain your social connections.

Boundaries

  • Establish then abide by no email/communication dead zones: nothing outside of set hours is to be sent or replied to – give people the “right to disconnect”
  • Use auto-scheduler to send emails only during designated hours to minimize pressure to respond Red, yellow, green signs to help older kids know when interruptions are ok
  • Use your calendar to block out time for project work and lunch

Relationships

  • Allow those introductory minutes for informal conversations and chit-chat
  • Structure team-building questions on the agenda – a bit of relationship-building is as valuable as other content (After a few meetings of sharing your actual workspace, creative use of virtual backgrounds can provide an icebreaker opportunity: picture of kids, where you’d like to be, favorite animal, etc.)
  • Fill people in personally about important developments; don’t rely just on email or minutes

There is no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all answer that will work for everyone. Make tiny steps of progress that fit with your situation and allow you to persevere with sanity.

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