Because WGU Indiana is a fully online university, the vast majority of our employees work from home on a daily basis. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Hoosiers have been advised to work remotely from home as a precaution.
Recently, in an effort to support those who are adjusting to remote employment, WGU Indiana Course Faculty Manager Brent Harrison shared his tips for productively working from home. He recommends incorporating the following best practices when working remotely.
- Make sure you have all of the proper equipment and technology to set you up for success. Think: internet connection, computer monitor(s), printers, telephone, etc.
- Create a physical space and mindset that signals to your brain and body that you’re at work. Think: a separate physical space for your desk, getting properly dressed, allowing space in your mind before work to replace your “commute”.
- Set a routine that you can follow that will bring some structure to your days.
- Keep lines of communication open with your coworkers, with your employer, with your supervisor.
Q: What were your initial reactions to working from home?
I remember coming to WGU not having any experience working in a virtual environment before. I always had the question: how does this really work? I found that, very shortly after starting to work from home, just how surprising it was that it works like any other work environment. Once you lose track that you’re no longer commuting to work every day, which is easy to forget about, it really is about the work that you do and being focused to accomplish whatever it is the task requires.
Q: What are some of the things that can easily be parlayed into being a remote employee?
First and foremost, if you’re a remote employee, you do have to be concerned about the technology. Do I have the internet connection to support my needs? Do I have the computer equipment, the monitors, the printers, the telephone? All of that is a given, but beyond that, it really is about the mindset. The employee really has to have the mindset to turn off. “I’m not at home anymore. I’m at work.” That’s the key, the mindset that you’re at work now is what you need to accept.
Q: What are our personal time management skills when it comes to a day in the life of doing this job?
It really is about your schedule and that schedule is what puts your mindset in place. But in addition to your own mindset, you have to consider the mindset of your family, your spouse, whoever you might share your home with. Getting their mindset in place now that you’re working from home is just as important. But it starts with that schedule and routine. It’s very important. Just like you have a routine traveling to work offsite, there’s a routine that you do before you get in your car and start your commute. You really do need to start your day with a similar type of routine at home.
Q: What is your normal routine?
I get up, take care of family things, get their business taken care of, and then I focus on me. I have breakfast, a cup of coffee, and then I get dressed. I think getting dressed for work, even if you’re in a home environment, is important because you’re starting that transition, and you’re focusing yourself to get ready for work. A person has an entirely different focus when they’re putting on a shirt with a collar as opposed to hanging out in their sweats. I think that’s important; if we’re going to approach work like we are at work, we should look like we are at work.
Q: What was a challenge in your first month of remote work that you had to overcome?
The biggest challenge for me transitioning to working from home after training was establishing that routine. I thought, “Now that I’m here alone, how am I going to transition to this new job with no one here around me to be able to ask questions?”. That’s why it’s important to continue those open lines of communication. Technology is a wonderful thing for that. There are many ways to communicate virtually with your coworkers, with your employer, with your supervisor. And once you adopt those things, it’s just like being in an office space and you really do socialize to being at home by yourself even though you’re really not by yourself. You have your same team that you have in your office space at your home now.
Q: How do you foster productivity in your workspace at home?
For me, I always recommend that you set up your office space, make it look professional, where it fits your personality, where you feel most comfortable. When you’re at work, be at work. I typically don’t pay attention to the home phone ringing or knocks at the door - we have ways to take care of that. Understanding that you’re at work and your friends and family know that you’re at work is important. There are a couple of things that can happen when you’re working from home; you can be very productive or you can be a procrastinator and less productive than you probably should be. We certainly don’t want that last piece. We want to be focused and have it be no different than if you were going to work in an office space here in town.