Advice on Working Remotely
Amy Moffatt, Assistant Director for National Recruitment (Co-manager of 17 Regional Representatives), University of South Carolina
As I sit here and reflect on the five years I have worked remotely, I can’t help but think that I have been on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. At first, I hated working from home. I had a serious case of FOMO; it felt like I was missing all the important conversations taking place on campus, missing out on human interaction, office drama, water cooler chats, basic “do you have a moment?” interruptions with staff members, etc. Once I settled down with a routine, accepting my fear of missing out, I soon realized that working from home had its perks. I was productive– really productive. I could flex my hours to take an 8:30 AM workout class or take my dogs for a walk in the middle of the day. I still participated in meetings via webcam, and I still felt like a valued member of the staff.
I say all of this because transitioning to working from home will take its toll. You will laugh when your husband walks in on a conference call not knowing the webcam is on; you will cry because you are missing your in-person interactions; you will yell at your computer when there’s yet another technical glitch; you will talk to yourself (more than you thought was possible); and you will feel accomplished when you finish the multiple/competing priorities that you are presented with in your job.
For a lot of you, this is your first experience working remotely, and I wanted to offer a few tricks that I have learned over the years in helping me stay sane, focused, and thankful.
- Office Space: Not the movie (although a classic), but the area in your house where you can designate an office space. Wherever this may be (bedroom, living room, kitchen, etc.) make sure you can easily shut off work and turn the space back into whatever function it was made for. For example, ideally the perfect space would be a spare bedroom or bonus room, with a door, separated from your everyday living spaces. This will allow you to arrive at work and leave every day, and it keeps you really focused on “turning it off” during non-work hours. However, I realize not all of us have that luxury, so if you have to get creative and use your kitchen bar, dining room table, or living room space, I would encourage you to establish some sort of boundaries to allow you not to think about work 24/7.
- Work/Life Balance or Harmony: “Oh I’ll keep working on this project or check my emails at 9 PM.” It will happen, and this is the most important key to being successful at working remotely. You need to know when to flip the switch or shut it down. It’s not easy; in fact, I am still at fault on occasion, but as long as you recognize it, and do your best, it will help your physical and mental well-being. For those of you with children, working a unique work schedule before or after teaching lessons, during screen time, after bedtime, etc., I applaud you. This hectic schedule is not what you signed up for you. If you can, try to advocate for meeting times or work calls that better accommodate the demands of these new responsibilities. Do what you can; give yourself grace; and stay positive & strong. You got this!
- Flex Your Time: If your employer allows, discuss a flexible schedule option for this interim time at home. Find your productive sweet spot. I work best from 7 AM – 10 AM. After 10 AM, I’ll have meetings, questions from the team, or random tasks that will pop-up and need my attention. Take some time to figure out when that time might be for you, and capitalize on it!
- Take Lunch: It is so easy to work right through lunch and before you know it, it is 2 PM and you haven’t eaten yet. You need this break. Get up, move away from the computer, and decompress. Take a walk; watch a tv show; recharge and refuel. Schedule out your lunch in your calendar to assist you; it may sound simple, but it does help.
- Shower & Get Dressed Every Morning: Yes, you now work from home and you can wear yoga pants and “dress down” for your work day. This is definitely a perk, but take it from an expert, you will start your day off right if you stay in or establish a morning work routine. Also, remember you will be on webcam, and you still want to maintain that professional appearance.
- Virtual Gatherings: As I mentioned earlier, this transition may be hard on some of you (I’m looking at my extroverts), and you need that space to see your co-workers and talk about non-work related things. Our office has been great at setting up virtual social lunches, meditation, coffee chats, yoga, etc. just to have an opportunity to see each other. This has been very successful, and we will continue to explore other options! On a similar note, just because we can’t go to SACAC this year, doesn’t mean you won’t have an opportunity to grow professionally in the field. A lot of companies are promoting virtual opportunities daily, both live and recordings, so take advantage of these offerings to learn HTML code or design a website, watch some how-to videos from your CRM, or brush up on another language. You can rent e-books from the NY city library or take a virtual tour of many of the most famous museums in the world. Close to home, many colleges are also offering virtual visits and information sessions; this is a great time to learn about new options for students! SACAC is also exploring ways we engage members virtually and we encourage you to check out the SACAC professional development page for recordings and presentations.
- Managing Remote Employees: For those supervisors out there, welcome to a new way to manage employees! The biggest advice I can give is to set clear expectations and deadlines; provide clear and consistent communication; establish weekly team meetings and 1:1 check-ins as needed. Some of your staff will thrive in this environment, and some will struggle. Not only is working from home new to them but also their work responsibilities have completely shifted. Show empathy; listen to their frustrations; and be available. Set up Slack, Microsoft Teams, or another IM platform to communicate quickly.
- Flexibility is Key: Many of you are very familiar with being flexible and adaptable by virtue of working in the college admissions field, so I would encourage you to take the same approach with working from home. Welcome interruptions: doorbells will ring; dogs will bark; cats will climb on your keyboard; kids will shake their booties on a conference call; and the list goes on. Be kind to yourself; give grace when needed; laugh out loud; and appreciate the experience.
This is a time of uncertainty, and we hope that you will lean in with one another, connect with your family, engage with your SACAC friends, recharge and refuel your mental health, and stay strong as we get through this together.
If you’d like to share your remote tips or stories, please share on our Facebook page!