At Thompson & Co. Public Relations, we have employees in five states and a rotating remote work Friday schedule that prepared us for the challenge of working remotely long term. While some businesses are adapting on the fly, we want to offer some tips that work for us.
As a team, we have applied our tenets and convictions to this newly adapted, full-time, work from home schedule to support each other and our clients. We are here to share tips on maintaining productivity, setting up home offices, staying active, safely social distancing, and most importantly — remaining positive.
Maintaining the same level of productivity at home as in the office can be a challenge. This is an important time to tap into tools employers provide and create check-ins. Our favorite remote working resources are Zoom, Slack and Google Calendar. Whether we’re keeping up with each other through daily video calls or scheduling regular reminders to walk the dog, these different forms of communication are key to having a productive day.
Here are some other tips that help make the most of the workday:
- Designate an area that is specifically for work to help balance working life with home life. Try to stick to your normal work hours as well.
- Communicate and be transparent with coworkers, friends and family. If you’re going to be working late or need to take a break, let someone know because mental health is important.
- Take screen breaks and designate time for lunch breaks and other personal activities throughout the day like a short walk with family members or throwing in a load of laundry.
- Focus on listening. When using Zoom for large groups, it is easy to interrupt and talk over one another. Take pauses between speakers or utilize the team chat function to take turns.
Setting up a home office
One of the biggest factors impacting productivity and attitude while working from home is the area you designate as the home office. It’s important to recognize that your home office may look different than that of your coworker, roommate, spouse or friend. Don’t be intimidated by the adorable home offices circulating social media.
Instead, use it as inspiration and check out these tips for creating your own space:
- Designate a specific home area to work so you aren’t trying to clear a new space each morning.
- Find space near a window. Natural light will keep you alert, motivated and in the right state of mind.
- Stock up on office supplies. This prevents you from having to get up in the middle of a meeting or restart a task to find a pen.
In a traditional office, it’s easy to rack up the steps walking to and from the conference room, delivering a project to coworkers, filling up at the water cooler and running to the printer. It’s important to stay active throughout the day while working from home and avoiding the temptation of becoming couch bound. Exercise causes your body to release chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins reduce stress, improve sleep quality and ward off anxiety and depression.
Here are some tips to keep moving all day long:
- Make a point to schedule activities! Put exercise activities on your personal calendar like any other meeting.
- Set a timer to get up and stretch every hour. Continuing to move all day can keep you from getting stuck in an unproductive rut.
- Find an accountability partner or group. Even if you’re working from home, you can still connect over video chat with a coworker for 10 quick jumping jacks or take a walk with your roommate or office dogmate.
- Get up for food. While we’re all ordering in to support our local businesses, it’s important to still use that time to move away from the desk. Eat your meal outside on the patio, in the kitchen or anywhere away from your typical workspace.
Safe social distancing activities
Staying connected to others is more important now than ever before. Not going into an office, having regular social gatherings and traditional time with family and friends can lead to a feeling of isolation. Practicing good social distancing allows friends, family and coworkers to maintain their relationships and mental health while still working to slow the spread of this virus and flatten the curve.
For Alaskans, practicing safe social distancing means getting outside and appreciating all the activities we can do six feet away from other people. Breakup season has never stopped us before, so why should it now?
Here are some of favorite ways to get out and stretch your legs:
- Strap on mud-resistant boots and hit the trails. We love escaping into Arctic Valley with our companion fur animals.
- Get in one last cross-country ski before the snow melts at Kincaid or Russian Jack Park.
- Even something as simple as a mid-day neighborhood walk can clear your head and reduce stress.
Working from home with kids
Finding the work-life balance between productivity and quality time with kids is challenging. These tips can help create a work environment benefitting the whole family.
- Stick to a schedule. Children are creatures of habit. Sarah Erkmann Ward, president of T&C’s sister agency Blueprint Alaska, says waking up at a reasonable time, getting dressed and eating breakfast are just as essential now as ever for her family. Keeping a morning schedule (including getting out of pajamas) provides a sense of normalcy for the Wards and sets the tone for the rest of the day.
- Take breaks for daily family check-ins. Breaks are shown to increase productivity and improve everyone’s mood. Many gyms and trainers are offering free at-home workouts that could count as recess. Other break ideas include a walk outside together, playing board games or even a quick conversation that creates a break from screen time. Executive Vice President Gary Scott and his family each set personal goals such as mileage challenges on treadmills and bikes. They check in with each other at lunchtime to stay on track. However, keep in mind kids also miss their friends and family, so allowing them to use phones for Zoom or Facetime calls can keep them feeling connected.
- Tackle schedules with teamwork. If your spouse is also working from home, strategize who can watch the kids during certain times (like when you need to take a video call) or take a tip from President and CEO Jennifer Thompson and encourage older siblings to help out. This is an opportunity for them to develop leadership skills and bond with each other. Senior Account Manager Ally Day says to take advantage of naptime, bedtime and other times young kids are preoccupied to make important calls or knock out high-concentration tasks like writing and editing.
- Use a Zoom background for video conferences. Times are tough, and although nobody should pass judgement on a messy home, you also don’t have to air your (literal) dirty laundry. If you simply haven’t had time to pick up the house, or your little one wants to stay close by during a video meeting, block out your background with a custom Zoom background like these from the Alaska Travel Industry Association. Also, keep in mind the mute button can be your friend with family around. Turn it on to cover up background noise like barking dogs or “Sesame Street.”
- Take advantage of online resources. There are countless digital experiences available for kids from Alaska Resource Education, Consumer Energy Education Foundation, Google for Education and others. From virtual Harry Potter escape rooms to bedtime stories from Dolly Parton and NASA astronauts, there are plenty of ways to help keep kids entertained virtually.
Remember there will be bad days and good days together. Be kind to yourself when you don’t meet your own expectations. Take everything one step at time and focus on small victories.
One of the most important things you can do during this uncertain time is remain positive. With so much
information circulating, taking a break from the 24-hour news cycle provides a mental refresh. Making the conscious decision to do something that brings you joy or taking the time to work on self-improvement can make a surprisingly big difference. Most importantly, we have to remember we’re in this together, despite the physical boundaries. You can leave a sweet message for elders through ASHNA’s Alaska Caring Notes’ campaign or spend a little more time playing with your four-legged best friend. If you need a little help remaining positive, take a
sanity break, FaceTime with family or seek out happy content.From at-home concerts and workouts to virtual tours of museums and national parks, the internet is overflowing with people coming together to create something uplifting.
Share a smile, wash your hands, and stay safe.
– Madison McEnaney, Sage Dudick and Caitlin Weaver