Bev Hutney is CEO of The Stelter Company and teaches at the MBA level on strategic management of change.
Earlier, I wrote about the basics of optimizing productivity while working from home — covering the first five of our 10 hacks. Read that blog post here. Now we’re ready to explore the clever ways people bring an extra layer of joy and professionalism to their home office. Picking up where we left off …
6. Spruce up the view from your webcam.
Who wants to be this guy?:
7. Once you have collaboration tools, force yourself to use them.
- Have a quick pop-up question? Send a chat.
- Need to work out a complicated issue with a colleague? Call them. Maybe send them a chat first. Some people find cold calls scary.
- Wish you had someone else’s opinion? Conference that person into your call.
- Is the conversation nuanced and nonverbals could be important? Try a video call. (Yes, you look fine.)
- Want to show something? Most collaboration tools have a screen-sharing capability. Practice with yours.
- Wish you had a whiteboard? Try using a shared document (e.g. Google Doc) so you can both interact with the content.
8. Create a Virtual Water Cooler
There is always at least one person in the workplace who plays the role of social chair. Two of our go-to party people are Client Success Manager Betsy Parker and Creative Director Zach Christensen, who seem to win the Halloween Costume Contest at least every other year.
We would count on them to get behind any of these awesome ideas:
Encourage random conversations:
- Launch a webcam hangout room.
- Create a book club. (Actually, Betsy and Zach would delegate this assignment to me.)
- Try DialUp, a free voice-chat app that connects users serendipitously using an encrypted phone line dedicated to a topic or group. Set it up to ring your team’s phones on an automated schedule and pair members randomly in a one-on-one conversation.
Create a virtual bulletin board:
- Choose Padlet for curating employee life updates, photo contests, pet pics and the like.
- Host a Q&A hour
- Present Lunch ‘n’ Learns
- Play an online game together. Quiplash from JackBox is totally addictive.
- Watch a movie or TV program using Netflix + Netflix Party. The combo synchronizes a video and incorporates chat between you and your friends.
- Try Gartic.io, a browser-based version of Pictionary for up to 10 people.
9. Find ways to feel good.
Nobody I talked to would admit to having a candy dish in their home office. But I gathered plenty of tips for a healthy and happy work day. These are a few of my favorites:
- Get outside first thing in the morning. Walk the dog. Enjoy the air. Leave your phone at home.
- Hydrate!! Drink a third of your daily water goal before 11 a.m. Pro tip: Add ½ a lemon and ¼ teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt to your first 12 ounces of water as part of a holistic nourishment plan.
- Prep all your lunches for the week on Sunday.
- Favorite Rewards: a banana with peanut butter; Atkins Endulge Caramel Nut Chews; anything jerky-related.
- Take advantage of being at home to get dinner rolling early.
10. Adopt a shutdown ritual.
According to Cal Newport, author of the bestselling, productivity book “Deep Work”, a shutdown ritual is the key to drastically reducing work stress. To form a good ritual, Newport says you need just three things:
- A repeatable series of quick steps for reviewing upcoming to-dos and getting a handle on tomorrow.
- A phrase you say to mark the end of the ritual. Mine is part prayer, part directive: “Thy will be done.” Newport’s is geekier: “Schedule shutdown, complete.”
- A commitment to avoid delving back into work.
And, finally, here are three fantastic write-ups on managing and surviving as part of a remote team: