Adjusting to the New Normal: Tips for Working Remotely

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In a matter of a few short weeks, a new normal was set upon us. Suddenly, a vast majority of people around the world have been asked for the health of everyone to work remotely, from home to the best of their ability. We are all trying to do our part to ‘flatten the curve’ of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why social distancing with your laptop and mobile device are vital. Adjusting to being as productive and successful at home as in the office setting can be challenging. MC+A’s infrastructure and processes were designed for distributed working and the company has supported remote work since ‘before it was cool’ so we compiled a list of tips that we feel can make working remotely a successful experience.

Working remotely in the abstract sounds great but it is not without challenges. It takes an adjustment to how you communicate and work to ensure you are as successful as possible.

How to Succeed at Working Remote

Tip #1: Intrinsic Motivation is foundational

Many people at all levels of business organizations often rely too much on external pressures as their motivation for task completion. To be successful working remotely you need to flip the source of motivation to an internal or more intrinsic source. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that comes from within. It’s the drive to do something because it is personally satisfying to you. Making this switch is extremely satisfying but requires you to adjust your mindset and allow yourself to see things in a new way. Taking ownership of your tasks is the first step. You need to envision a purpose and pride in how you go about your work. This is not a lightswitch sort of change but it is worth the effort.

Tip #2: Schedules are your friend

Routines help us cope with the continual flow of decisions that we face in our everyday lives. Having a schedule for how you work remotely provides a framework of certainty and control that can help focus you in your new distraction-filled environment. Wake up at the same time every day, check your email at a certain time, schedule breaks (and stick to them), and even put some effort into your appearance. If you treat working remotely like working from an office the structure provided by that mindset is helpful.

Tip #3: Be Clear in Communication

When working remotely the majority of your communication with team members occurs over email, chat or another messaging platform (more on that later). Intonation, intention, humor, can and will likely be lost in translation. To avoid this friction take on challenge of clearly communicating. Less is more. If you require or are expecting action from someone you are communicating with explicitly say so. Try and say everything in fewer words and leave out the colloquialisms that can confuse people. Don’t write essays, either your team members will appreciate bullet points. Be upfront and obvious.

This is a two-way street as well. In a distributed workplace your default setting when receiving communication is to assume the sender’s positive intent, even if your brain wants to think it was “sassy.” It probably wasn’t.

Tip #4 This is hard. Use tools to help

Luckily, we are probably in the best position with regard to the availability of tools that support remote work. There are many and the following is not meant to be an exhaustive list but covers the key categories of tools.

Communication is vital to collaborating effectively. Face to face is the best. Video conferencing has been available for years but we can all admit that it has generally been terrible. Zoom video conferencing makes communicating with your teammates, and customers face to face easy and straightforward. They recently added virtual backgrounds too. It is worth checking out. We use Microsoft Teams as our internal communication platform as it consolidates documents and project communication into a single interface and it is included in Office (Microsoft365). Investing in a good microphone and camera should be a priority as well as a service like which using AI to eliminate background noise from both your audio input and the audio from you are receiving. We recently started using it and it is a game-changer.

As we adjust to the new normal these tips should help you succeed in working remotely in the short term and help smooth out the road long term as well. Together you and your team can power through the challenges of working remotely, embrace the possibilities, and be better for the effort.

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