Guest author:  Dan Matthews

Working from home is nothing new. It’s been a workplace perk for a while now as everything from writing and tutoring to graphic design and consulting has found a new home in the remote workspace.

Everyone working from home, though? That’s unheard of.

As the coronavirus pushes the entire professional world into a nearly universal remote-work mindset, many people are being forced to make the migration from the professional workspace to an at-home office.

If you’re new to the remote work life, here are a few tips to help you adjust accordingly and make the transition as smooth as possible.

Address the Physical Space

It’s important to start with the physical space itself. Whether you’re working from a cramped urban studio apartment or a sprawling country estate, it’s important that you find an area that can be devoted to work and only work.

In the same way that snacking and binge-watching Netflix in bed can make it difficult to sleep in the same space, if you try to work in the same area that you use for recreation and rest, the two areas of life are going to come into conflict before long.

Strive to set up an office space that is comfortable, focused, and separated from the rest of your life as much as possible.

Brush Up on Your Remote-Friendly Soft Skills

It’s one thing to pop into your boss’s office to ask a question. It’s quite another to seek an answer by shooting them a text, sending them an email, giving them a call, or inviting them to video chat — which are typically your options when you’re working from home.

With that in mind, make sure to brush up on some of the soft skills that are easy to take for granted when you work ten feet away from your coworkers, including:

  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Active listening.
  • Having empathy for others.
  • Critical thinking.

Some of these directly impact how you interact with your coworkers while others will help you simply overcome the new challenges that come with communicating and collaborating with a team from afar.

Set Up Your Digital Channels

Along with honing your soft skills, it’s important to set yourself up with the tools to succeed from a remote workspace. Collaborating in the 21s-century is a tricky business as things like over-communication, delegation, collaboration, and even simply treating individuals like living, breathing human beings can all be difficult when done digitally.

With that in mind, here are a few tools you’ll want to have on hand as you set up your home office:

  • A good note-taking app: If you’re on a video-conferencing call or talking on the phone, you’ll want an app like Google Keep or Evernote to write things down.
  • Google Suite: Things like Google Docs and Google Sheets can be shared with others and worked on simultaneously, making them instrumental for a remote workspace.
  • Communication software: Get comfortable with Zoom, Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, and any other potential communication software you may be called on to use at a moment’s notice.
  • Collaboration platforms: Again, try to gain familiarity with platforms like Trello, Asana, and Podio in the event that your team needs to use them to help facilitate collaboration and workflow while working remotely.

If you can take the time to set up your digital application repertoire before you start, you’ll be able to function smoothly on a daily basis, right from the comfort of your home office.

Maintain That Work-Life Balance

One of the greatest difficulties that remote workers face is maintaining work-life balance.

That’s why it’s critical that you set up boundaries in both directions as you prepare to work from home. For instance, if you have a family living in the same space as you work, it’s important to have that separated home office that is an “uninterruptable space” while you’re working.

On the flip side, it’s just as important to have a sense of closure when you finish work each day. Use a tool to track your hours carefully, and when you reach your goals or complete your work, physically leave your workspace, shut down your work equipment, and generally try to distance yourself from your professional responsibilities.

Pulling Off a Successful Transition

Switching to a full-time remote work environment may feel overwhelming at times. Unforeseen factors like interruptions by family members, walking the work-life balance tightrope, and feeling underproductive and distracted are normal concerns that all remote workers face.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that, when properly pulled off, the remote work life is generally more rewarding than the office alternative.

The essential piece of the puzzle, though, comes in the setup. Strive to go into your remote work efforts equipped with digital tools, a work-promoting physical space, sharpened remote-work soft skills, and an understanding of the boundaries that must be put in place. If you can do this, you’ll be putting yourself in the best situation possible to overcome the challenges and successfully work from home.

Author Bio:  Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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