Tag Archives: remote work

How to Manage the Chaos of Change

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”
— James Belasco and Ralph Stayer Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

With the reorganization, there is a lot of uncertainty—here are a few ways to manage it. These tips are useful for any changes in your life:

Meditate: There is enough research on the benefits of meditation. For most working parents, the challenge is finding the time to do it. Even a five-minute meditation will have a positive impact on you. Try and find a time that works for you—anytime during the day works.

Exercise: Exercise is as important as meditation. Find the time to fit some cardio, strength training, and yoga into your schedule. Here’s my article on How to Fit in Exercise While You Work Remotely.

Plan your days: Set aside the first 30 to 40 minutes of each day to plan your day. I have used this strategy for a while, but with the changes and everything being a priority at the same time, it has become even more important. I pick the top three items I need to complete on a particular day, both professionally and personally.

Take breaks: Breaks build resilience. After exercising, you need rest; the same is true with work. After some focused work, you need to take a break—even if it is only for ten minutes. As telecommuters, this is harder, but add it to your calendar and stick with it.

Sleep: Stress has a direct impact on sleep. Ensure you are getting enough rest to be productive during the day. If you are having sleep challenges try these poses to help you sleep better.

Be flexible: You need a plan to continue forward, but you also need to be flexible to accommodate the changes. Your priorities can change based on the demands of your project or management needs. Account for that in your schedule. One option is to keep your Friday afternoons open and use that time to catch up or address an urgent request that has come up.

Ask questions: Sometimes, the deadlines imposed on you may be due to someone else’s work style instead of a true urgency. Identify team members who have a tendency to set unrealistic timelines and ask questions. Ask for a specific due date and notice due to other priorities.

What tips have worked for you? Please share at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Tips for Introverted Telecommuters

One of the challenges of telecommuting is being isolated—lack of human interactions. To ensure you stay connected and have face-to-face interaction you have to be diligent about it. As an introvert, this can be very hard. Here are a few tips I use to stay connected:

Your current circle: When I moved to a new city I thought I needed to have the same level of connections and interaction as I had in the past. I continued looking in vain. Eventually, I realized the best option was to connect with the friends I already had in addition to seeking new ones. I was amazed at the satisfaction I felt even with a text or a phone conversation.

Intentional: It is hard to have small talks as an introvert so try joining a book club or volunteer to help with the school or after school activity where you are not interacting with as many people but still staying connected and adding value to the community.

Nature: As an introvert for me the best connection has been nature. I used to stay in my office all day focused on work, and I would be exhausted by the end of the day. I realized that I needed to get out either for a walk, a run or just to write. Now I take my laptop and head to the park. I enjoy the sounds of nature take a walk and work. The park is my version of a coffee shop.

Conversations: It is hard, but I find a few moms that I can connect with and who have the same priorities. I set up a walk or a lunch date. It helps me stay abreast of the activities happening in the area and talk about non-work related items. I plan these on my calendar for once every few months.

Shopping: Sometimes for an introvert to get the human interaction being around people is enough—at least for me. Once in a while I will go shopping—walk around, smile at a stranger or talk to the cashier. Just go to a store and learn. Finding new items sparks solutions for me that I need to find.

Work with your personality and preferences—do what works for you. If you have any tips, please share: info@telecommuterstalk.com

In-Person Conversations to Have During Reorganization Phases

Reorganization means changing how everything works. Change is good, but also creates a reason to be more vigilant about your career, your priorities, and your focus on growth. Change can be a time to ask what you want from your career.

During my recent in-person meetings, we had a few of these conversations that I want to share with you:

What is your new role?: Get clear directions on your roles and responsibilities for the new assignments. Use a Gantt Chart or MS Project for you and your new team. Account for schedule changes, hours of operations, additional meetings, and time zone impacts.

What are the other team members’ roles?: If your new responsibilities entail a leadership role, understand the roles of each person on your team and the extended team. If it is a global team, understand their location, time zones, and culture.

What is the transition plan?: If you are taking over an existing project, ensure that you ask for a transition plan with the latest updates on each section of the project. I have used Excel for this purpose with success.

What is the transition timeline?: In addition to the plan document, you will need to agree on the duration of the transition. If you will be managing a complex project, account for a few months of transition. New items will come up just when you think you have wrapped your head around the various pieces of the project.

When is the transition meeting?: Meet with your manager and teammates involved with the transition. Have the document updated and ready to share. Review the document, and confirm that both managers and employees understand the tasks and approve of the plan.

What communication channels do we use?: Decide on one or two communication channels for urgent situations. Find out what works for the team, and, if possible, come up with one channel that works for everyone.

Please share additional tips that you may have at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Background Information You Can Gather During In-Person Meetings

I’ve mentioned in my previous posts that my organization is going through some changes. As I go through the changes, I am learning a lot and want to continue sharing what I’ve learned with you.

Recently, I had to attend a few Town Hall meetings and strategy sessions in-person, and here is what I learned:

What you hear on the phone may not be accurate: As a remote employee, what you hear on the phone or see via e-mail may be just half the story. Keep in touch with your teammates offline to get additional information.

Example: A friend/colleague was working on the most important project in the organization, and I was convinced that she was having fun. When I asked her how her cool project was going in person, the look on her face confirmed that it was not that great.

All requests are urgent: Changes involve a learning curve and chaos. I would question why I was being asked for the same information multiple times. When I was there, I realized that my management did not have time to find the information in their inbox and things were moving a million miles an hour.

Example: I received a call at 7 am to present to my VP that morning. I also had other important meetings that morning and needed urgent information before the discussions. I could not find the time to text or email my teammate for information. I gathered the information and presented to the VP in a timely manner.

You are monitored: How you dress and how you behave come into play when you go in-person. I think this is the case for all employees, but managers of remote employees need to ensure that you are stable.

Example: Women tend to maintain good attire by default, but managers also take note of your overall appearance, professional behavior, confidence, and interactions. The expressions you might make while on the phone need to be toned down during in-person meetings.

Please share any examples you may have at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

We Need Help as Telecommuting Parents

All parents should set boundaries and ask for help. Not enforcing limits and overcommitting seem to be natural parts of parenting these days, but they do not need to be.

You need a community and lots of apps to manage a family!

Here are a few suggestions:

Meal planning: There are some useful apps that help you with planning and creating grocery lists. Cook Smarts, Pepperplate, Ziplist, and Paprika are a few options. Here is a breakdown of their key features from LifeHack. There are also calendars and services that will plan your meals for you.

Meal Delivery: This is an ingenious idea! Here are some options: Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, Plated, and PeachDish, to name a few. This article from Forbes breaks it down for you. Or, if you are a Tom Brady fan, you can get his meal plan. Enjoy!

Spring Cleaning: You can sell items you don’t need via Letgo and other apps. Here is a list of eight apps that can help.

Cleaning: Hire local help as needed, or ensure that your family has a schedule and a list of household responsibilities.

Yardwork: Hire local help using Angie’s List or your network.
Please share any apps or sites that have worked for you.

Please share any tips you may have.

Setting Boundaries as a Telecommuter

In my recent articles, I’ve mentioned that my organization is going through changes, and my responsibilities have increased as part of the change. I am now working with global team members across multiple time zones. I am enjoying myself, but also have to take early morning calls with background noise!

I need to set boundaries not only personally but also professionally to ensure I have a work-life balance. Here are some ideas I have come up with to set boundaries:

Close the Office Door: When I am working, I close my door and use my “Do Not Disturb” sign that I received during the holiday season. Closing the door adds distance to household responsibilities and informs family members that I am in work mode.

Say “No” Nicely: Running to school to deliver forgotten homework or shorts will stop. I have informed my family that things need to change. This approach will keep me focused on work and teach the kids to be responsible.

Use Weekends: I would multitask during the work week, and it was exhausting. Now, I focus on a single task. When I am working, I am working—no additional chores. I use my breaks as downtime and to walk. Most household-related responsibilities are handled after work or on weekends.

Manage Your Calendar: Take charge of your calendar and the responsibility to set up meetings when possible. Taking the initiative gives you the ability to set meetings based on your schedule and time zone. Use this approach for both personal and professional meetings.

Get Help: Delegate and move on. Assign household responsibilities to your family and hire help as needed. Working from home is the same as going to work—the only difference is that you are wearing yoga pants!

If you have additional tips that work, please share at info@telecommuterstalk.com

Six Ways to Reward Yourself as a Telecommuter this Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! Reward and recognition are necessary to keep most of us motivated. When you work in an office, you can see and feel more of this from your peers and your management. When you work from home, this may be reduced.

I’ve learned to create rewards that are meaningful for me when I finish an important task, project, or presentation. I do need to continue to work on this, since I finish one task and move on to the next without a break sometimes.

Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me:

  1. Lunch with a Friend:This one is always on the top of my list, because I get to connect with other adults face-to-face. By catching up with a friend, I can get updates on the community, like what to expect when school starts, which teachers are coming back, etc. I learn a lot about community happenings during these lunches.
  2. Movies:This is my favorite “alone time” activity. I enjoy going to the movies alone and immersing myself in something that makes me laugh or feel good. Going with others adds pressure to have a conversation, and sometimes you just want to keep to yourself.
  3. Window Shopping:I shop online due to convenience, but I also enjoy going to local stores. That way, I learn what the fashion trends are and what not to wear. If you work from home, dressing up is not a priority, so going out to shop helps me to keep up.
  4. Walk with a Friend:I like one-on-one conversations better than multiway interactions, so I plan to meet with a friend for a walk to talk. This may seem simple, but if you work 9-5 from home, getting out of the house for any reason is a huge accomplishment!
  5. Hiking or Rock Climbing: I go to the local community center and rock climb. It helps me stay fit and gives me great pleasure—which is a reward for me!
  6. Bath:A bath sounds so basic, but for a working mother, taking a quiet bath is huge! Taking a 20-minute bath without being called to fix something or hearing something breaking in the background is better than a trip to the Caribbean for me!

Most of the time, I plan these events in advance. Just having that anticipation encourages me to finish my task on time and keeps me excited.

Share your ideas about rewarding yourself by sending a note to info@telecommuterstalk.com.

Be a Mindful Telecommuter This Year

The definition of mindfulness: 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something; for example, 2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

We need to be mindful in every aspect of our lives. Based on research done by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, mindfulness is good for our overall health. When working remotely, it is easy to get distracted by personal phone calls or the laundry, etc. To overcome such interruptions, here are some suggestions for being as mindful as you can be:

Focus on one thing at a time: When you are on a teleconference, just be on the call. Do not check e-mail or surf the web simultaneously. Staying focused is hard, but if you step away, you don’t have anything to distract you. Have a designated area or a chair where you can go while you are on the call. Close your eyes, if it helps you to stay focused.

Plan your day: Don’t jump right into e-mails or social media. Instead, take at least 20-30 minutes to plan your day and set your priorities. Pick 2-3 big items you need to address that day, and add them to your calendar. I have this time for planning set on my calendar every day, and it works well for me.

Use your calendar: If you need to work on a presentation or document, put it on your calendar so that your teammates and manager know that you are busy and will not respond to e-mails right away. Close your e-mail and chat applications while you work on the document. I usually create a better document when I spend dedicated time on a task.

Take breaks: I’m still working on this one myself! Either set up an appointment on your calendar or an alarm on your phone for a break, and take it when the time arrives. Take it for you, and not to start laundry or clean. Do what relaxes you—read a book in 15 minutes, enjoy an article, go for a short walk, or call a friend for 10 minutes.

Breathe: Do this especially if you are working on a timeline or dealing with a difficult co-worker. Put things in perspective and move on. I know this is easier said than done, but practice makes perfect. Breathing does reduce stress and helps you calm down. Here is a one-minute exercise that can help.

Exercise: This used to be last on my list, but now it is one of the first things I do. It gets me going, and this jump-start helps me to keep moving and working for the rest of the day. Direct sunlight and fresh air are invigorating, and you will carry that energy with you all day.

Shutdown: This includes your computers, cell phones, and any similar devices after your work hours. I have my work phone set to turn off at 6 pm. Unplugging helps me stay focused on after-work activities and obligations.

A great resource I use to stay mindful is https://www.mindful.org.
A great article about ways to be mindful from Happify

Do you have any recommendations for books or websites on mindfulness?

Resolve to Single-Task This New Year as a Telecommuter

Multitasking is exhausting, so this year, resolve to focus on a single task with these tips:

Step Away: During a call, if you are not sharing your computer screen or viewing someone’s presentation, physically step away from your computer. Find another chair to sit on or walk around. Stay focused on the call. If you need to close your eyes to understand the content, do it—no one can see you!

Do Not Disturb: If you got the cool “do not disturb” sign as a Christmas gift, now would be a perfect time to start using it. Use a visible indicator that you need to focus, and inform the family that you are working.

Chat Settings: If you are required to log into a chat service to communicate with your colleague, you can use that same app to show that you need to focus on a task. Use the “do not disturb” setting in your chat app.

Notifications: Turn off notifications that are distracting while you work, like e-mail notifications. This one is a major distraction because we want to respond promptly, but every time you look away from your task, it will take you 15 minutes to get back to where you left off. Instead, set times to check your emails only a few times a day.

If you want to keep exploring ideas, this article on Forbes has additional tips for single-tasking. If you have other suggestions, please share with info@telecommuterstalk.com.

Tips for Managing Your Work Schedule While Kids Are On Winter Break

It is almost Christmas and winter break starts today! Our schedules will be more relaxed, but it will also be challenging to manage both working at home and the kids.

Here are a few suggestions for the next two weeks:

Take a vacation: Plan on taking at least one week of vacation. Taking a break helps you connect with the kids instead of trying to stay focused on two things at the same time—it does not work. Multitasking is exhausting.

Plan the break: Have a list of activities that you can do as a family and a few where the kids get one-on-one time with each parent. It does not need to be fancy outings just something where you spend focused time with them.

Sports Practice: If kids have sports practice during the break attend those practices. It will give you a chance to regroup, finish last minute shopping, your work or just relax.

Daily schedule: Break down the day for the kids—work in the morning and fun in the afternoons. Having a general idea of the day will set expectations with the kids and will help ensure they do not spend all day on technology.

Activities: Keep the kids engaged with holiday fun activities while you are working. Keeping them involved will help you stay focused and get things done in time.

Share: If you have to work during the break see if your partner can take time off or you can take a week off, and your spouse can take the following week off. Breaking up your vacation will help you stay on task and give each parent a chance to spend time with the kids. Each parent can be a stay at home parent for a week while the other goes to work.

I hope this helps you and if you have any suggestions, please send them my way: info@telecommuterstalk.com