This post was updated on December 9, 2021.
At the beginning of this extended work-from-home situation, we offered you a few tips to make the most of your time away from the office. Some of us here at Meister followed our own advice, and some of us did not. Either way, we’ve made it this far and wanted to share with you an inside look at what’s become of us.
The best way to find out how everyone is doing at home is to ask. So that’s precisely what I did via Slack. Judging by the twists and turns the threads took, I’d like to believe the answers my colleagues provided me with are honest. The following is a summary of my remote, but nonetheless fascinating investigation.
1. What is your favorite part about working from home?
The most popular answer here won’t come as a surprise: no commuting. It saves time, it saves effort and depending on how you get to work, it also saves you money. The most important thing it saves, however, is the environment and that is probably the brightest of the silver linings we can take away from this time.
The second most popular answer was being able to do more sports, and do them on our own schedules. In parallel to more exercise, some of us at Meister are also eating better because we are cooking all our own meals rather than eating out. Apparently, we’re a healthy bunch!
Because we all have different working styles and preferences, some of us actually thrive at home and are better able to focus in the quiet. For some, working with cat-on-lap only serves to increase that focus. If you thought cats were where we stopped with cuteness, think again. Two of my colleagues even reported that their favorite part of working from home was spending more time with their significant other. I have a funny feeling that would not be my neighbors’ answer.
2. What is the most challenging part and how are you overcoming it?
I’ll start this one off with a direct quote from my boss: “kiiiiiids.” There was no answer to the overcoming part of the question and I won’t be pressing him for it. I’m sure many of you reading this also share his sentiment, so please know that you’re not alone.
Other answers were much as you might expect: time management, keeping a routine or schedule, separating work and private life, not having the optimal work setup at home, the feeling of always needing to be available, virtual meeting irritations, difficulties in alignment and, of course, missing colleagues and chit-chat.
To combat time management and routine issues, some of us have started to work in focused chunks of time, pomodoro style. When in this focused-work mode, some of us are also starting to turn off notifications, which also helps with separating work from private life. Speaking for myself, it’s hard to keep clear boundaries between the two as I now do each and every activity in my life in my living room, but it is doable. Close your work laptop at a set time each day, don’t check your messages, notifications or emails until you start the next day.
Because we know that colleagues are turning off notifications, we’re also cutting them a little slack on Slack (ouch). When someone doesn’t get back to me right away, I don’t automatically assume they are binge-watching something rather than working.
One reason colleagues might not respond is because of the fantastic virtual meetings they are participating in. And the best piece of advice we can give you about how to make those digital meetups better, is just to ask yourself the age-old question: is this really necessary? We are the makers of two excellent web-based tools for online collaboration! Can we not just brainstorm in a mind map!?
As for missing colleagues and chit-chat, we’ve set up online happy hours to have a pub quiz and say, “cheers” on screen. It’s not the same but it is fun.
3. What is your number one piece of advice for being productive while working at home?
The answers to this one didn’t surprise me in the slightest as they are things we value at Meister even when we are in the office. They all lead to keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy.
First up is taking breaks, the most popular being taking midday breaks to get some air and sun. At our office in Vienna, we have a terrace and working outside is always encouraged. So, of course, we don’t have a problem with colleagues signing off for a chunk of time in the middle of the day while they work from home. Some of us run, some of us eat lunch in the park. Whatever we do, that break is important.
When we’re in the office we also have a meditation session each morning and each afternoon. I’m happy to report that some of us are still maintaining this even at home thanks to Waking Up.
Other advice for staying productive includes having a separate room for work-related activities if you can and working in blocks forming a routine for your day. As this routine point appears as an answer in both our challenge and advice questions, you can determine for yourself how we’re faring with that.
4. Have you and/or your team started working differently or using any new tools?
Huzzah, most of my colleagues said no! And not to toot our own horn too much, but we use our own tools heavily when in the office. So working remotely simply means using them more. The only thing some of us have added is a time tracker to make sure we stick to our planned blocks of work time.
5. What’s your most important item except for your laptop that you need?
We’re techies here so the answers are predictable: good headphones, good keyboard and trackpad, and an extra monitor. The other answers are things you’ve probably come to value too during this time: a proper desk and chair. I have none of these things, but my caffeine and I are doing just fine, thanks.
We hope this quick insight into Meister’s work-from-home journey has given you a few chuckles and made you feel slightly less isolated knowing that we’re all struggling. Let us know if you agree with or have any of your own tips on these points, here on the blog or on Twitter @MeisterTask and @MindMeister.