I am Joseph Lieberman, Marketing Director here at Antlion Audio and I work from home. Unlike many affected by the recent Covid-19 outbreak, I've always worked from home. I mean... always. 17 years of professional marketing work and I've never worked in an office. Here are the keys to making it, for lack of a better term: work.
Tip 1: Establish a routine
Look, I know this one is common for all of these articles, and I promise I will get to less common knowledge in a moment, but it's SO vital for your sanity to have a routine and try to keep to it. Get up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, eat lunch around the same time. Have a work start and stop time in there. It's really, really, tempting to stay up late to either work or NOT work. Before you know it your schedule is a giant mess. Establishing a routine will massively impact how energized you feel and help set boundaries with work/life balance.
Tip 2: Front load your data
Working in a virtual environment has a very different information flow and multi-task flow. You'll find that information typically comes in large bursts with potentially large gaps between communication. This means you need to be ready to both take notes and ask a lot of questions, even if they may not be needed in the end. The goal is to prevent you from having to follow up with someone on some minor item and have them be offline or unavailable, stalling your progress.
And you WILL get stalled on items. Things that in an office you could just walk over and solve could end up taking hours to get a reply. Ideally, have a system set up for emergency short questions. Slack is the tool we use for that here. A quick DM can get a response even if someone is out walking the dog.
Still, always have a backup task (or two) ready to go if you get stuck. You don't want to have to "find" something to do.
Tip 3: Voice chat and video chat
It is vital to get voice chat up and running. Having regular voice meetings with your team (We have one at 10:30 AM every day with all staff members) not only helps establish the routine talked about above, but also helps keep everyone on the same page as to what is going on. On these calls you REALLY want everyone to have a good mic.
Yep, here's the pitch: Get a ModMic. Attach it to your headphones. Experience amazing voice quality where you can sound like yourself!
You'll quickly grow annoyed at folks calling in from their cellphone, using a bad headset, or practicing poor online etiquette.
Oh and a quick Public Service Announcement: DO NOT EAT or DRINK while on a call. Everyone can hear it and it is gross.
Tip 4: Work time is work time - But not really.
Every advice column I have ever read says "Set hours and work for those hours" but that is unrealistic. Because you are at home life is going to interrupt you constantly. Maybe you have kids who are home with you, maybe the mailman arrives with a package. The reality is (I am told) even offices have plenty of interruptions. The important part of working from home is to develop a system that lets you pick up where you leave off. For me, I keep notepad open and jot down what I was last doing. It seems so simple to remember what you were doing last, but you'll find that a 5 minute distraction can turn into a 30 minute distraction very easily.
Also, I am not saying you should stop working to clean the bathroom, but plan on your day getting interrupted more often than you're used to and have a system in place to help you restart your engines. Do not take the advice to simply "work and ignore life" because that gets rid of one of the biggest benefits of working from home! If the sun is out, take the kids and dogs for a 30 minute walk when you reach a natural break point. Don't be afraid to take a 5 minute stop to grab the mail and give your significant other a hug.
Our CEO and his offspring
Tip 5: Don't let people interrupt you
There's a HUGE difference between you CHOOSING when to stop and get the mail or take a walk and someone ASKING you to stop. Do not let people (Kids, spouses, roommates) set your schedule. Strange as it sounds, I prefer when my wife writes me a post-it note and puts it on my desk while I am working. Usually it says something like "I need help doing X Y and Z." She knows when I hit a good stopping point I will come help. Ask for these kinds of systems and make it clear with everyone in the house why it is important. Set expectations with everyone, but know that they're going to screw up. Don't get mad, they are adjusting too, just let them know how their interruption has impacted you and find a better solution for next time.
Bonus: Some tips from our friend Blunty!
I don't think working from home is inherently better or worse than having an office. It has big pros: Allows you to be flexible with where you spend time, eliminates wasting commute time, and is usually more comfortable than an office. However, it also has big negatives. You'll need a different social outlet than work, communicating with other staff can be slow and miscommunications more common, and you can get interrupted more often.
In the end, whether you are working from home by choice or by quarantine, you have to find a method that allows you to navigate the downsides while capitalizing on the good things. It's not better, its not worse, it's just different. Embrace those differences and you will thrive.
Oh yeah, and a good mic will help you. I really mean it.