Know the Expectations
Most employers and supervisors had not prepared for transitioning the bulk of their teams to remote work in the event of a global pandemic. But here we are. And every work situation is different. Even one’s status as a salaried or hourly employee will frame remote work. So, as the opportunities arise, we should have open and frank conversations with our supervisor about what our supervisor expects from us in a remote work environment. What are the hours that we are expected to be available? How are we expected to be available—phone, email, chat service? Do company dress codes apply to video conferences with remote employees? All these issues and more should be discussed openly, and we should not be afraid to bring up the conversation.
Find Your Watercooler
I’m not sure how many people still talk around watercoolers, but it has come to be the emblematic location for non-work-related conversation among coworkers. As remote employees, we still need to take breaks and find our “watercoolers.” In this pandemic, many of us are quarantined with our families. We have the blessing of finding ways to incorporate them into our breaks or lunch hours. Those who are single and working remotely from home may find that their watercooler is a phone call with a family member or a close friend.
Prioritize Your Notifications
For most employees, new work or change orders come in the form of written messages, usually by email. And in our complex economy, much less during a global crisis, emails and messages can arrive at an alarming rate. At the same time, some messages and some senders are far more important than others. How do we separate the signal from the noise? First, we should not turn on notifications for every possible message from every possible person. We can use our computers or phone settings to set selective notifications for only the most high-priority messages or senders. With prioritized notifications, we can still work with focus, knowing that we’ll be interrupted only when it is important.
Even though remote work requires digital connectivity, we can still take time to work using pen and paper, especially if we’ve prioritized our notifications. Working analog has the benefit of reducing distraction and anxiety, which is particularly helpful during a global crisis, when the temptation to obsessively check the ever-evolving news cycle is so strong.
Incorporate a Commute
My commute is the fourteen steps between the main floor of my home and my basement office. While I love the complete certainty that I won’t face any traffic on my way home, I still can’t always transition from work to home easily in the ten seconds it takes me to walk up fourteen steps. For remote employees, work and home are in the same location, so there’s no commute. It might be a healthy ritual to take five minutes at the end of the workday for a virtual commute. We can take a few minutes and record where we are finishing our work so that we can clearly and quickly jump back in the next day. Write down any outstanding problems that still need solutions. Then we can turn our minds toward home and focus on the priorities that God has given us outside of work—our family, our health, and our personal lives. Let us briefly thank God for what we were able to accomplish that day and ask for both strength and direction to continue to serve the Lord as we “arrive” home.
Talk to a Remote-Working Friend
There are more tips for working remotely than can be mentioned in a single blog post; there are whole books on the subject. But the best next step if we’d like to learn more about remote work is to seek out a trusted coworker or friend who was already working remotely before COVID-19. We can ask for their tips and help as we work in a new space. Without question, workspaces around the globe will be forever changed by this virus. But it doesn’t have to be for ill. As Christians working remotely, whether we will continue in that capacity or not, we have a chance to pursue the glory of God in a unique work environment.