Thought we’d get this conversation going since many folks out there are being asked to work from home. For us on the Shotgun Team, we’ve always been setup as a remote team so it’s our norm We are scattered all over the world, across multiple timezones. We had our dailies today, and a few fun facts came up. Here are some tips to get this thread started.
@brandon.foster: “When you’re on video conference calls, turn off your VPN.” Yup, sometimes VPN’s throttle your bandwidth so it leads to choppy video/audio.
@DavidMason: “Pants optional.” Personally for me, it’s more like yoga pants all day, every day!
@alexaz: “Snacks! I eat snacks all day long!” Definitely stock up on those. @tommy.kiser loves truffle potato chips (I forget the brand he says he was looking for).
How can we help support you working from home? Got questions on how we do it or how others have done it? Let’s share!
I schedule my day and follow my schedule. It’s a habit and habits take time to develop, so make sure you define the habits you want to build and work towards those. I don’t use social media, so that helps.
Having a separate office away from my refrigerator is important!
When I first started working from home full-time 5 years ago, it was a huge shift. Like what Matt said above, habits take time to develop. Some things that I found are super helpful (your mileage may vary):
When on video calls, ALWAYS turn on your camera. So much can get lost in translation via chat and email. Seeing faces helps me connect.
There’s also nothing wrong with spinning up a video conference line with coworkers and just work quietly. Sounds weird but if you’re an extrovert, it’s nice to know there’s another face right there when you need it! Do it if you find it helps.
EMOJIS We have custom emojis in our Slack channel and I have tons of fun with them! It helps to convey intent and lightheartedness that can get lost without seeing a face or hearing tonality. We have custom emojis such as the Cult of the Party Parrot and Long Cat Emojis. We have so many others, I can’t name them all. Of course, it looks silly if you overuse them but I found it helped for my needs.
I agree on the scheduling—I’ve been building in exercise. Today at the end of my walk bought a bunch of flowers, which always lifts the spirits. Gotta admit, I’ve been a bit distracted and I’m not as efficient as I usually am. Squirrel! I’ve been making a short list of “must-do today” tasks so I don’t get overwhelmed by the big list.
Spotify and a beverage at hand! For me to “get in the zone” with work, I always make sure that I’m not too hot or cold, have music playing (my playlists vary wildly, but if I really need to focus, the Brain Food playlist is magic), and have a big glass of water or tea or something to sip on.
Agree with @tram on going on-camera – it’s easy to get isolated, so you really have to make an effort to communicate fully with team members. And take breaks! Get up! Stretch! Walking away from my laptop is when some of my best thinking takes place.
Making a virtual space dedicated to your “water-cooler” conversations is essential. Without the organic meet-ups in places like the break room to strike up conversations, it’s a way to maintain that social fabric with your team.
Our channel in Slack is called the “treehouse” and you might find conversations like:
Who saw the new Mandalorian?! Threading in case of spoilers!
Like many others, when I transitioned from being in an office full time to 100% remote it’s a huge shift that takes some time getting used to.
My top tip (which took me over 2 years to master) is to avoid the temptation to roll out of bed and start working right away. The thought of an extra hour of sleep and jumping out 10 minutes before your first meeting sounds awesome, but for me personally it completely throws off the rest of my day. Once I’ve started work, I’m in the zone, so reverting back to other tasks like getting ready or dealing with personal tasks simply never happens.
You can use not having a commute to your advantage, so you can wake up at your normal time but maybe take a walk , do some stretching , catch-up on that language study you’ve been putting off . For me, it means when I come to start the day, my mind is calm and I feel more energized.
For me, I’m still struggling to stick to the schedule as I support lots of Chinese clients through social media (WeChat). But yay, agreed with Andrew that it’s not a good idea to wake up like minutes before the first scheduled on your to-do list.
Usually, I wake up at normal time, cook the breakfast sometimes and settle the mother-to-be prior to my daily working hours. A morning walk or stretching is kinda luxury at this stage, but I definitely have my be-ready-for-work time in the morning.
One thing I appreciate about working from home is having flexibility in my schedule. As @ATuller mentioned, being able to carve out time for exercise is amazing, and you can generally fit it into whatever part of your day you prefer (morning, lunch, evening, etc), as long as you get your hours in.
Having moved to Spain last year, I really enjoy having a siesta in the middle of my day. So I work later in the evening, which gives me more overlap with my colleagues in North America, so win-win. More time to savor the menu del dia!
Another thing I do, though it may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, is track my time. I use Toggl, I really like their desktop app for Mac. This helps me define my working hours, and be more conscious of context-switching (which is really easy to do too much, when you are getting pinged in Slack right and left all day). While some people worry they would be too tempted to play video games all day, I have found for most of us home-workers that the opposite is more of a problem - it is really easy to work too much when the lines are blurred and you can always be online. Tracking hours helps me make sure I’m not overdoing it. (Of course my 4yo son is always quick to let me know when it’s time to log off at night too.)
Best of luck to everyone doing this for the first time, it does take some getting used to, and can definitely feel very isolating after a while. Don’t forget to get some pants on and leave the house from time to time, and interact with live human beings (of course staying the requisite 1 meter away).
Coming off of a decade in vfx at R&H, I have a lot of friends who are still in the industry. Some wfh and some don’t, but the thing that strikes me is that roughly half of them hate the idea of working from home, feel that they would be too easily distracted. The other half have the opposite problem: knowing when to stop working and relax. To not sit in front of the computer and continue to work while eating lunch. That’s the camp I’m in.
It took me a long time to find the right habits, but I think I have a few locked down now. I’m still guilty of looking at slack and tickets while I’m eating, but I’ve gotten better at stopping to watch an episode of One Punch Man or something with my sandwich
One of the first things I want to share is that it actually does help to change clothes when you’re working from home. However, that doesn’t mean you have to wear slacks or jeans or whatever “I’m a productive member of society” clothes you’d wear during the work day! About half the time, I wear pajama pants during the day, but when work’s over, I’ll put on jeans; just to switch, just to have the mental change of “now I’m done with work”. Making that space, that mental shift between work and non-work time is important! It helps stop the overwork and helps get your brain out of business-mode.
Something else that I do along those same lines is to set myself an alarm about fifteen minutes before lunch and 15 minutes before the end of the day. I don’t have to do anything, they’re just there to remind me “Hey man, your body needs food in a few minutes”, and “Hey, don’t forget that you need to stop working in the next little while”. This helps me start the transition away from work, ahead of time, so that I can keep my work/life balance boundaries and be ready to stop when I should be stopping
I 100% agree with this one, @andrew.lawrence - It’s been a habit for me to develop as well, to wake up a couple hrs before work starts, get some good exercise or self care in, make breakfast, and coffee, then get to work. Helps me to feel invigorated and focussed. And I’m not a morning person, so this has been a challenge, but very helpful. I have my slip up days where my morning meetings might include bed head, but for the most part I’ve been sticking to it this year and it feels gooooood.
I have been working from home back and forth for several years and I am one of those who sometimes dives too deep and forgets herself to work for many hours, without taking the necessary breaks.
So for me tracking is important and one tool I have been using and can recommend is the Pomodoro Technique It is a time management method, making sure to break down work into intervals.
Another important thing for me to keep in mind is to distance the distractions (like whatsapp and social media). So- while working, my phone is always on silent mode and far enough so I wouldn’t be attempted to reach for it without a real need.
I wrote up some of my learned lessons for a friend the other day, so I’ll reproduce that list here for anyone that might benefit from it.
If you’re using Zoom to have meetings and get together with people, there are a couple good Quality-of-Life features:
You can set the camera and mic so that they’re off and muted at the beginning of a meeting, adjust to suit your own preferences, but be cognizant of your settings!
There’s an option to remain muted until you hold the spacebar, this is good for not being the person clacking away at the keyboard while other folks are speaking
Change clothes at some point during the day. If that’s putting on “work clothes” before work and changing into pajamas afterwards to relax, or keeping your pajamas on and then putting on jeans after work – either way, make that change so that it helps reinforce the mental separation between work and not-work.
Comfy slippers are almost never on camera. If you stand up suddenly, your lack of pants will be.
If you’re sharing space with a spouse and/or kids, have a meeting and try to establish guidelines that will work for everyone; stuff like “I’m interruptible unless I have headphones on”, or “If I’m in X space, please wait to talk to me”. But also be willing to have a bat-signal for the other members of your family! When my wife and I need to get ahold of each other, we send a simple “meep” via IM or text; and it just hangs there until the other person is OK to respond. Then, a return “moop” says “okay, my brain’s clear, what’s up?” Obviously, feel free to use “SYN/ACK” or whatever works best with you and the other folks in your household
I’m an introvert and I tend towards overwork – If you’re like me, maybe set an alarm 15 min before lunch, and another one 15 min before the end of your day. You don’t have to do anything when the alarms go off; they’re just there to say “hey man, remember to stop thinking about work in the next few minutes, you need food / you’re at the end of your day”.
Give yourself some time at the end of the day to empty your brain or do something that isn’t immediately diving into whatever needs attention in your household. Take 15 minutes to walk around the block, or just sit in a comfy chair for a bit. Hell, take a power nap. Whatever helps you, do that. Again, increasing that mental separation between work and not-work.
Remember that if you’re suddenly wfh and other people in your house have already been doing it for a while (my wife’s an author, as an example, and was working from home for years before I did), they might be used to having the space all to themselves during the day. Be kind to each other and remember that wfh isn’t something that’s super easy right out of the gate. It’ll take some adjustment as you all get used to sharing a previously unshared space.
Sometimes it can be great to just jump on a call with your co-workers, not to necessarily talk anything out, just to be online ‘in the same room’ together. Work quietly, have some light conversation, whatever works.
If you’re so inclined, change up where in the house you’re working from. Follow the sun through the windows, find a great chair, hang out on the couch with your animals, whatever helps when you’ve been in the same place too long. Avoid bad furniture. I have a couch that’s fine for slumping on, but gives me a terrible backache if I try to sit on it with my laptop.
Figure out how to signal to your co-workers when you’re focusing. If you’re all communicating on Slack, make use of statuses ( for example), and the ‘away’ feature. Don’t feel pressure to always respond right away, that way lies madness.
It’s especially dangerous if you check Slack on your phone before being dressed / having breakfast. It really easy to then just open up your laptop to quickly help somebody out, and before you know it, it’s 1pm…
That’s really interesting, @tony! I make sure I do the 1st part: get into clothes to work, but I’d never thought of the importance to change after work… Thank you!
Like @Linda, I stay away from social media during the work day, and only my wife knows the passcode to my strict 30 minute iPhone ScreenTime limit on social media / entertainment apps
I have a really hard time stopping at 5pm, and often work until it’s time for dinner, then hop back on the computer… But often, it’s because I feel I haven’t “paid my dues” enough during the day: I use the excellentRescueTime app (http://rescuetime.com/) to gameify my productivity, and when I haven’t met my goal, I catch up. But I have to remind myself that folks in an office probably wouldn’t feel that need, even if they had spent 1.5 hours chit-chatting with colleagues throughout the day.
I’ve worked from home on and off over the past 15 years. Sometimes on my own projects for 6 months at a time, so for me it’s something I love. I thankfully don’t suffer from motivation issues like some others. But my tips are:
Treat the day like you would a normal ‘at the office day’;
Wake up at the same time.
Get dressed in the same way.
Take lunch at the same time and for the same duration.
Finish work at the same time.
For me this extends to going for a walk to grab a coffee before I start work for the day. Then, coffee in hand, I sit at my desk and it feels like a normal day, so all of the subtle ‘work triggers’ kick in and I get busy.
Being aware to ‘not work non-stop because work is right there’ was a challenge in the early days, but once I started following the ‘treat it like I’m at work’ routine, it was easy.
Aside from that, I play music out loud instead of through headphone, but otherwise it feels like a normal work day
I really appreciate your tips, as I feel more comfortable seeing I am not the only in need for a strict organization. I tend to set alarms for whatever I need to do (wake up/shower/breakfast/start work/meeting/lunch/etc/stop work), which in turn does not let much room for unexpected events… being now at home with my kids and responsible of their lessons, I am quite on nerves these days.
Anyway, on a daily basis I tend to constantly have a cup of coffee close at hand, and listen to the same albums each and every day (did you hear about new MBR record? )