Thought Leadership

Beyond the Basics: How to Really Work Remotely

Working remotely became my day-to-day reality far before the rest of the world joined me at home this March.

When my husband was offered a new job out of state a few years ago, I approached the head of my San Diego-based agency to share our new plans, half expecting her to wish me well and good luck.

At the time, none of our account servicing staff worked remotely, and the thought of being the first was both daunting and enticing. To my delight, the arrangement worked and is still working two years later, but now I have more company — the whole company. 

When COVID-19 struck and the world took pause and headed home, I found myself as the resident remote expert of our office. Sure, we had since embraced more flexible work-from-home options since I first began, but most of my coworkers were not prepared for the day-in-day-out hustle from their homes. “This is harder than I thought,” I heard from many, and it gave me the idea to offer suggestions and tips that go beyond the typical remote working hacks.

As an experienced remote publicist, here are the key tips to help you keep sane, be productive and embrace your new work life.

1. Fake a commute.

No, seriously! Commuting is often talked about negatively, but it can serve as a crucial shift in the brain from home to work. Maybe you would call your mom, listen to music, or tune in to the news as you drank your morning coffee on your drive or public transportation ride to the office.

To transition from home to work I walk from my kitchen to my small office and close the door with my foot — coffee, water, and breakfast smoothie balanced precariously in my arms. Once in my office, I listen to the NPR news “Up First” podcast every morning while checking emails and sipping various beverages. This is my way to arrive at work.

 2. Do that laundry.

There’s lots of talk of distraction while working from home, but I’ve found that I am least distracted when I allow myself to do some of the little household chores throughout the day that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. Laundry is an easy example of something that you can do during the day, between meetings or tasks, as a quick break that makes you feel like you get to “take advantage” of the newness of being home working instead of at an office.

There is a fine line to walk here, however, and it is important to establish boundaries around what quick tasks will make you feel accomplished and which may take you away for too long.

3. Make time to connect with coworkers.

When I worked in the office I loved quick deskside meetings and catch-ups. Sometimes, when creativity struck, or I had a lingering question from an earlier client meeting, I would forgo email and instead stand up and walk over to someone’s desk.

I replicate this remotely by picking up the phone and calling team members, after checking their calendars first of course. I preface my call with “This is me stopping by your desk for a quick chat. Is now a good time?” and most people are very receptive, and I find this to be a big time-saver.

4. Create rituals around ending your day.

I’ve created a calendar invite for myself that repeats at 4:45 p.m. each day reminding me to “wrap up.” I take 15-minutes to send final emails, check-in with teammates on deliverables and read or bookmark my last articles of the day.

This second transition time helps to ensure that the day comes to a stopping point for me so that I’m better able to be present with my family when cooking dinner, putting my kids to bed and enjoying the evening together. This is not to say that I don’t respond to Slacks and emails beyond the end of the day, and I often find myself back at my desk after the kids are in bed, but this creates a more effective stopping place.

Ultimately, working remotely is challenging and magical all at once. After a few years in this balance, I can say firmly that I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon. The brief breaks for domestic duties, the time spent with my toddler and baby at home, and the flexibility this affords me far outrank the challenges that remote work can sometimes present. Wishing you productive days at work, from home — and welcome to our new shared reality.

Whitney Wells is an account director at BAM Communications with 10-plus years of experience. She leads PR campaigns for enterprise technology companies in a wide variety of industries from food to robotics and more.

Photo credit: charles deluvio

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Whitney Wells

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