Laura B's remote workspace

A week in the life of a newly remote worker: Part one

I’ve got this. I enjoy working from home on occasion, maybe once a week. Working from home for at least a month is going to be a challenge to the way I work, the way I think, and the way I live. My team, and Vanguard as a whole, had been preparing for the possibility of being quarantined, but can you ever be fully ready for such a change to your way of working? In part one of this two-part series, I am going to share lessons learned from my first week at home.

Day 1—The set up

Everyone is upbeat, sharing photos of their new work space. Additionally, they’re sharing articles about a remote lifestyle, juggling children and spouses/partners at home, and how to communicate with teammates. I have an office at my house, but decided to set up shop downstairs on the dining room table so I could keep my dog company. Laura B's German Shepherd, Mia, keeping her companyI have notebooks, pens, two computer screens, as well as a webcam. Luckily, Vanguard recently implemented new software that our entire team can use to meet virtually. To ensure we are keeping up with one another and communicating work stream updates, our team scheduled a daily check-in call, which has been very valuable.

Useful tips:

  • Set a schedule and stick to it.
  • Preserve a space just for work. Bedroom doesn’t count.
  • Take breaks to stretch your legs and eat.

Day 2—Adjustments

Remember how positive everyone was yesterday? We were excited about our new work environment, but we soon saw that everything didn’t go as planned. That’s ok. This is a learning experience for all.

Useful tips for communication:

  • While my team has familiarity with working remotely and communicating with team members in different parts of the country, it can still be difficult reading someone’s tone in an e-mail, or articulating what you’re trying to say. As virtual team meetings become the norm, we are focused on making certain that all voices are heard, project updates are communicated effectively, and we are banding together to reach common goals.
  • Read emails thoroughly before jumping to conclusions.Signs of spring with some purple crocus
  • Ask for clarification if something doesn’t make sense—this will help you avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary frustration.
  • Make sure your co-worker has finished his/her thought before starting to speak in a virtual meeting.
  • Use video, if possible. Participants will be more engaged and less likely to multitask.

Day 3—Staying connected

Useful tips to stay connected:

  • These themes have extended outside of Vanguard as well. I’ve had family members call to see how I’m doing, and I’ve tried to do the same. Personal connections can make a difference when you’re alone all day. I’m in a curling league—yes, that strange sport where you throw stones down the ice—and a large part of the game is socializing afterwards. We had a virtual gathering last night for those of us who wanted to “hang out.” My advice: Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to recently. I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear a familiar voice.Laura B's German Shepherd, Mia, enjoying the sunshine
  • I’ve also observed other teams adopt new means to stay connected. One planned a “walk and talk” meeting to get everyone up and moving. Others have used internal message boards to share everything from technical tips for computer equipment, ways to communicate better with co-workers, and general messages of encouragement to everyone company-wide.
  • Since hallway talk is no longer an option, our team has set aside time each week to catch up on non-work-related items. It’s always fun to see a pet or child running around in the background and how home wardrobe styles differ.
  • Set up non-work “dates” with peers, as well as friends outside of work. It helps to see smiling faces if you’re used to being around groups, but are now at home.
  • Use your friends for motivation! I have an app on my phone that reminds me to keep moving, whether it’s steps, exercise, or just movement. You can even challenge your friends. We’re in this together.
  • Start group documents, such as your own tips for working remotely, allowing teammates to share suggestions. You can even share your favorite television shows to watch.

Stay tuned as I’ll be sharing more insights and tips in the next installment of A week in the life of a newly remote worker.

—Laura B.

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