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By Chris Teague

Tips on Adapting to Remote Work

With the situation surrounding COVID-19, there are lots of people who have suddenly found themselves working remotely. It’s a great way of working, but it’s certainly different to an office job. I’ve been working remotely for 4 years now. At reinteractive, this isn’t a unique way of working for us. Being a 100% remote working company, everyone on our team works remotely by default - in person meetings and on-site work are the rare exception, not the norm. Over these years, I’ve learned a few tricks that will hopefully help you adjust to working remotely, particularly if this is your first time doing it.

Set up Matters

One of the earliest lessons I learned was don’t skimp on your home office set up. You’re going to be sitting in your chair, at your desk, looking at a screen for around 8 hours a day, so make sure you are set up to do this in a safe and comfortable manner.

I find it particularly important to use a chair that has:

  • Good lumbar support
  • Adjustable height (wooden dining chairs are particularly horrible for sitting on full time!)
  • Adjustable arm rests
  • A mesh back (so you’re not finishing your day with a sweaty back)

It’s surprising how poor an existing chair can perform when it’s suddenly getting used full time, particularly extrapolated over the course of weeks or months. If you foresee yourself working from home for a while to come, upgrading your chair should be high on your list of considerations. When starting out, I was using a cheap “executive” style chair that I'd only ever used for a few hours at a time previously. It lacked most of the features I mentioned above. By the end of my first week, I was hunting for a replacement, and my back has been thankful ever since.

If you’re working from a laptop, make sure to use an external mouse and keyboard so you can raise the laptop to an appropriate height. Having all monitors (such as your laptop screen) at the correct height does wonders for your posture and helps keep your daily work routine sustainable. Desk and seat height all play an important part in keeping your posture correct too, so please make sure to read some guides on correctly setting up your workspace - your business may have existing OH&S guides or policy around this, so make sure to ask and consider these as part of your setup too.

Also, I’d encourage you to get your home workspace sorted ASAP. With the amount of people suddenly thrust into remote work, there could be pressure on the supply of good home office equipment, and you don’t want to be stuck for months with an inadequate setup.

Work Environment Matters

It’s important to have a quiet area of the house that you can dedicate to work. As enticing as sitting on the lounge working in your pyjamas sounds, it’s not a good way to get yourself into a productive frame of mind. You really need to have a dedicated area for your work, preferably a dedicated room - it’s important for signalling to both yourself and any others in the house that you’re working and shouldn’t be interrupted.

When I first started working remotely, my wife and I had just welcomed our first child into the world. One of the greatest gifts remote work has given me is the extra time with my daughter, both over lunch breaks and in place of commuting. One of the unfortunate side consequences is that crying children can be a loud distraction. One tip I found that really helped was getting some rubber sealing strips from the local hardware store and placing these around my home office door. Combined with a good set of over-ear headphones, the stress of parenting was, quite literally, left at the door during work hours.

Communication Matters

One of the critical aspects to working effectively with a remote team is communication. This can’t be over-emphasised. If your clients, your teammates and your boss don’t know what it is you’re doing, they’ll begin wondering whether you’re just goofing off instead of focussing on the tasks at hand. Work hard to keep everyone in sync with what it is you’re doing - it’s hard to over communicate in a remote environment, and it goes a long way towards keeping trust high and your team coordinated. Simple things like letting your team know when you’re stepping away from the keyboard for a little while helps everyone.

Don’t Forget to Look After Yourself!

Working remotely is a big change from being in an office with people around, so it’s natural for it to take time to adjust. You may find yourself staring at a computer screen for longer than you’re used to, so remember to take breaks away from the screen when you need them. You’re no longer commuting, so find something to replace the energy you’d usually have burned as part of this. Set boundaries, particularly on working hours, as it’s far too easy to do just one more thing when your office is right next to you. And don't forget to keep up communication with your friends and colleagues!

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