Remote work (Work from Home, or WFH, as the kids call it): It’s one of the new normals in our era of social distancing.
For the Instinct team, it’s been our norm since day one. For most veterinary hospitals, any form of WFH can be novel and challenging.
How do you keep your teams productive when you’re juggling your job and full-time parenting? What about leading your team? Or accessing practice software?
We won’t go through the full list of questions, but we’ve been asked, how does the Instinct team do it?
So without any further ado: Here are some of our top tips for staying productive and connected while working remotely.
👩⚕️ Treat Remote Work Like Regular Work
Start your day by getting ready, whatever that means for you. For some of us, loungewear is the work uniform we always wanted. Others may feel more productive in their normal work wear. Whichever camp you fall in, aim to create a “getting ready” routine that helps you mark the start of a shift and mentally prepares you to dive in.
Creating mental boundaries can also be incredibly helpful. If you have space available, consider setting up a dedicated place to work. Even if it’s just a corner desk in the living room! This can make a big difference: not only for staying focused during the day, but also for “leaving work at work” at the end of the day.
🗓 Set a Schedule That Works for You
If your hospital’s WFH protocols allow, consider crafting your schedule around when you’re most productive.
For example, if you are most productive in the morning, you can plan for most of your deep work to occur between 6 am and 12 pm. Then, you take your breaks throughout the afternoon to help replenish your energy.
Maybe you’re a night owl, and you need the quiet of the evenings to really dive deep into work.
Think about when you are most energized. Then build your schedule to make the most of that time. Our key tip here is to keep it consistent.
💻 Use Technology to Stay Connected
Video calls, instant messaging, task-tracking apps… When you can’t be in the office, let technology bring the office to you.
Tip #1: Make sure you have access to practice software.
If you use cloud software like Instinct, this one’s easy (just talk to your admin to get access from your home computer). If you use server-based software, it’s still possible. Talk to your IT team about secure ways to access software from home via VPNs and apps like Chrome Remote Desktop.
Tip #2: Find platforms for video calls and instant messaging that work for your team.
Phone calls may work for quick conversations. But we’re big proponents of video calls for those longer, more important conversations. Video calls fill in that ever-important element of communication: body language.
Our favorite platforms for team communication are Slack (the free version includes one-on-one video calls) and Zoom. There are a number of other options, of course, like Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, if Slack and Zoom aren’t your style.
Wondering how to shine on video calls? We have a quick guide for that.
Tip #3: Try a simple task-tracking app to keep tasks on schedule.
We’re big fans of the project management platform Asana. It helps us keep track of tasks, from deadlines themselves to who’s responsible for meeting them. It’s simple to use and easy to customize to the way your team likes to work. Oh, and there’s a free option!
📖 Start a Call or Meeting with a Story
Dealing with video call overload? During calls with your team, make a point to start the call off with a personal story. If you can't think of one, you can always bring up something at random, like “I just ate a box of cookies for lunch. Do you like to bake?”
It’s a great way to get more connected and encourage non-work-related interaction. It also can energize everyone on the call before the meeting even starts!
🌴 Go Outside
Be sure to spend time outside periodically.
Take a quick walk. Sit in the shade with a book. Work on your burpees.
If technology and social distancing allow, take your work somewhere that you can find some sunshine and fresh air. It’ll be a welcome opportunity to reboot and refresh, especially if you’re sharing space with family members or roommates.
📵 Be Careful of Distractions
There’s only so much you can do when it comes to distractions, especially at a time like this.
Our best tip? Control what you can control.
Create a dedicated work space to help reduce distractions. If you find that you’re likely to fall asleep if you work from the sofa, create a workspace at a table.
Need to keep moving? A stack of books can work as a standing desk in a pinch.
Family can also be a big source of distraction, but in most cases, an unavoidable one. Whatever your situation, here’s a great guide with tips from actual parents who work remotely to get you started.
One last tip here: Filter your notifications. If you’re struggling to complete a difficult task, using the Do Not Disturb option on your phone or messaging app can help you stay focused until the task is done. Just make sure your team knows you’re not watching notifications. If you can, give them a way to touch base with urgent requests.
😴 Unplug From Work
Finally, one of the challenges of working remotely is clearly separating work from life. You may find it difficult to ignore the pinging of incoming emails when you are supposed to be eating dinner with your family.
Part of being productive includes taking the time you need to reboot. And during an inordinately stressful time like a full-on pandemic, you may need a bit more rest than usual.
Build that rest time into your schedule. What do you need on a daily or weekly basis to stay productive without burning out? Maybe you need a 10-minute walk in the afternoon or a brief break in the morning to catch up on a favorite podcast. Whatever it is, be sure to communicate clearly with your team that you’re unavailable for that time, and let them know when you’ll be back.
And of course, unplugging from work isn’t always about disconnecting from your team. If you’re looking for ways to boost morale and have a little fun with your team (from a distance), we have a guide for that, too.
We hope this helps!