Note: This story is part of #ZohoInfluence, a program focused on sharing experiences and advice from our customers, and is written by Zoho customer Bob Sullivan of MedSpa Marketing Solutions. Click here to see more from Zoho Influence.
Many of us are adjusting to the new norm of working from home, and just about all of us are trying to figure out how to make our new setups work. But I'm used to remote work. I run a digital marketing agency called MedSpa Marketing Solutions, we provide digital marketing and advertising solutions for medical spas throughout the country. And for the past 2+ years, I've been working remotely, sometimes even from the RV that's become our mobile base of operations. There's no doubt that remote work has its hectic moments, but whatever your situation, there are ways to improve your work-from-home setup so that you can continue to be productive while keeping yourself sane.
1. Your environment is key.
While it's tempting to work from your laptop on the couch, it's important to have a dedicated space exclusively for work. Many of us don't have the luxury of having an office, and that's more than okay as long as you set up a dedicated space for your work. My office space is in our living room, exposed to household noises with my kids around but I have some tips to make that work, too. For me, noise-canceling headphones and a monitor are necessities. I recommend investing in quality headphones to reduce background noise when you're on conference calls or just need to focus. My pro-tip: Don't get the ones made for airplanes, these just help reduce consistent sounds. The headphones I use go over my whole ear, so even if I'm not listening to music or on a call, they greatly reduce the amount of house noise I hear. At the end of the day, what really matters is creating a work area that aligns with your needs and makes remote work more enjoyable.
2. Invest in equipment...it pays off in the long run.
Once you have a work area set up, be sure you have the right tools to get the job done. For joining conference calls, I recommend using your computer's audio and good headphones rather than dialing in on your phone. This will be the best experience for you and the others on the call. Since we're Zoho One customers, I use Zoho Meeting for all my web conferences, and it allows me to share my screen and show examples when I'm talking with clients or partners. This helps make communication and collaboration a lot more hands-on and visual, as well.
It's also worth investing in a second monitor for your workspace. Monitors are now very cheap, and really help with productivity versus just using your laptop screen. Also, once you have a monitor you can adjust your webcam to see additional perspectives and maintain privacy during meetings. This also allows you to filter what you are sharing. We do virtual training sessions on Zoho ShowTime, which allows you to share content from one screen while you keep notes and other things open on your secondary screen. Having the right equipment to make work as smooth as possible will really make a difference in your quality of work and productivity so trust me, it's worth the investment.
3. Replace office operations with smarter, more efficient tools.
Since you're not in an office setting that has a printer, scanner, and ink readily available, you'll quickly realize you need a way to sign and send back important documents. I used to go meet with partners and clients locally and give my signature in person, however now that's not possible. So I've started using Zoho Sign, which allows me to electronically sign documents whenever I need to. Generally, this is a good time to think about other regular business functions that could be more efficiently done in a different way—think about revamping processes that you wouldn't have time to work on otherwise.
4. Now's the time to collaborate, more than ever. Stay connected!
It can be lonely if you are not used to working by yourself or don't have anyone else in the house. It may seem like extra leg work in the beginning, but it's important to put in the extra effort to increase your connection with others. My internal team, partners, and clients all use Zoho Cliq to chat with each other throughout the day. You can even create group chats mixing all the three types of stakeholders. Pay attention to the small things like chatting with colleagues. This not only helps you feel more connected with people, but it also helps your teams collaborate quickly and effectively.
5. Take breaks, and most of all spend time with loved ones.
It's easy to get laser focused on your work when working remotely, since there are no office interruptions. With that being said, remember to take time out of your day for your family, even if it's a few minutes every hour or so. If any of them are not used to being at home, this change will be challenging for them as well. I make sure to give my daughter and wife a kiss every time I get up for water. Do whatever helps you. This could be going for a walk, hanging out with your kids, playing with your pet, it doesn't matter. Just always make time for yourself and give yourself breaks.
Working from home can seem like a daunting transition for many, but I hope you'll find that it can be just as fulfilling, if not more fulfilling, than working from an office. Even though working remotely has its hurdles, it's also provided me with a lot of freedom. I can now work virtually anywhere, whether that be my living room or on the road in my RV. There's no way I would have this opportunity with an office setting, and while it's unconventional, it's a great way for me to connect with customers while creating wonderful family memories. Over time, you'll find your own personal up-sides to working remotely. There are always kinks to workout early on, but once you establish a healthy remote environment, use helpful tools to ease communication, and give yourself a break, I think you'll find how rewarding remote work can be.