With the recent shift to remote work, many institutions are scrambling to get employees up and running in what is truly an unprecedented situation. If you’re left wondering how to make sense of this new normal, don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone! We put together some of the best tips on working from home —whether you’re an extrovert combatting loneliness or a parent facing homeschool— from a full time remote professional! Here’s everything you need to know to win at working from home, no matter your situation.

Work It Out

If your daily operations haven’t been fully ceased, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. If you need to read files for your students, you can continue to read files. If you’re working on pulling data about your advisees who are at risk, grab that data. That being said, it’s worth a daily or weekly email to your supervisor to keep them abreast of how you’re spending your days, since they can’t drop by your office like they might usually. In the same vein, if you’re managing other non-work items (like an entire house full of people who seem dead-set against letting you be productive), communicate openly about what you’re struggling with and how that impacts your workload.

The most important thing is to be proactive in your approach, which may require you to be a little more hands-on than you are in a physical office. Remember: Better to over communicate than under communicate.

Establish Virtual Connections

Working from home means that you have to socialize digitally! This seems silly, but (especially for extroverts), one of the biggest challenges of being remote is managing potential feelings of isolation or loneliness. 

At TargetX, a third of our employees work from home full-time, while the remainder report to offices in either Philadelphia or Oakland. As such, we’ve set up a slack channel for remote employees to talk to one another about… anything! We exchange photos of holiday decorations, ask for recommendations on desk chairs, laugh at Buzzfeed listicles, and basically whatever else is on our minds. We also have separate channels for company-wide communication, for each of our departments, and even one for our pet pictures (shoutout to #pets-of-targetx).

If you’re craving face to face connection, do a lunch break over Skype/FaceTime/WhatsApp/Zoom with some coworkers who won’t mind if you haven’t washed your hair or if your kids are running around in the background. Create a place where everyone can share whatever meme they’re loving at the moment.

Just like your remote work life, your remote social life may take a bit more proactivity. And remind yourself: In an office where nobody works from home regularly, you’re all figuring it out together, so don’t be afraid to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks.

Figure Out Your Normal

You’ve no doubt seen hot takes on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and even some blogs about the best ways to adapt to your new socially distanced lifestyle. Tips like “don’t wear pajamas” and “reserve a space just for your work,” and “always use your webcam on meetings.” Honestly, these things are all great to keep in mind in a typical work from home environment, but they might not be realistic for you and that’s totally fine. Particularly if you have a spouse who’s also working from home, if you’re caring for a relative, or if you have children you’re now homeschooling or supervising.

The truth is, to win at working from home you need to figure out what’s normal for you and only you. If it helps you to feel more productive, then wear some office clothes, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be equally productive in elastic-waist pants and a t-shirt. 

The only hard and fast rule that everybody should follow (regardless of whether you’re at home or in an office) is to get away from the screen every now and again. Put reminders on your calendar to leave your computer and go into your backyard or out for a walk. Also, be sure to eat a snack or lunch! Same goes for when you have to leave: define clear psychological boundaries about when you’re stopping and starting work, even if it’s at different points during the day.

That about wraps it up for today! Stay tuned for a separate post about setting boundaries with your coworkers and your leadership during remote work.

Oh, and one last thing before you go…. Here is a list of suggestions from our full-time remoters that you can take or leave at your leisure!

  • Noisli.com is a great place to stream ambient noise, like coffee shop sounds, soft rain, or a fire crackling if you want a break from your usual Spotify or Apple Music.
  • StayFocusd is a Chrome Extension that allows you to set limits on the time you spend on whatever websites you want, and blocks access to those sites after you exceed your time. You can set “active hours” to make sure that you can still get on CNN or Twitter or play Candy Crush when the workday ends without restrictions. 
  • If you have the resources, consider investing in a second monitor for your desktop or laptop, or at the very least a wireless keyboard and mouse and a laptop stand to help with neck pain. We’ve linked some of our favorites. 
  • Find the humor in the chaos. Share pictures of your makeshift workspace with coworkers (solidarity!), and when all else fails…. unwind by experiencing human life through the eyes of aliens