I am always giving my clients tips on how to work online. Here are the key complaints I hear from clients and friends:
- It’s hard to connect with people
- It’s hard to keep productive
- It’s lonely, and
- There’s a tendency to work too much
I feel this happens for several reasons:
- We’re just not that used to it – yet
- We are trying to work using old routines and models that are better suited for face to face
- We still have a few issues feeling comfortable in front of a camera, or with technology in general, and
- For those working from home, this means working from what is/was our personal space. Considering how much of our personal space we want to share on-screen is still something many are struggling with.
But, working online is now the main aspect of white-collar working life. Many office workers who, pre-pandemic, had to commute to work now can work remotely. Even if they go back to the office, you may find it empty, and most of the work you do is still in front of the computer anyway. So for transitional office-based companies, virtual companies, working for yourself, or job hunting, I hope you will find these tips helpful.
I work from home all day, every day. Here are my top tips:
1. Be ruthless with emails
I check them every day, early in the morning and last thing at night. I don’t advise everyone to do this; quite the contrary. I do it because it suits my line of work. It works for me because I have clients globally. I just invite you to consider the following: what email management routine will help you cope with your work? Then apply it daily, and stick to it.
Another email rule is that I don’t answer emails after hours or on the weekend. Many of my clients email me during the weekend because if they are working, this is the time they have to work on their career plans and job search. But I need my break; otherwise, I will burn out. I will still read the emails every morning, even on weekends, because I need to keep an eye on emergencies. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait.
2. GIFs and Emojis are fine
We need to find ways to show emotions when working online. I’ve learned to love to by observing how the millennials and Gen Z use them. I used to think they were childish. But now, I hardly see anyone face to face, and if an emoji will translate my facial expression or emotion and make people smile, then I am a fan. It’s important to be playful and have some fun during work. But keep in mind that you need to know when and who to send them to. Of course, GIFs and emojis are not for every communication. In my case, if you get an emoji from me, it’s because we’re already pals.
3. Videos and voice messages are your friend
I am addicted to Loom, a video messaging platform that has replaced at least half of my written emails. Here is an example: in this video, I am teaching how to disable the “People also viewed” box on LinkedIn. I always recommend that all my clients do this when they’re looking for work.
I copy-paste the link to the Loom video into an email, send it to a client, and this is how I coach between sessions. I also communicate with my family in Australia and overseas with voice messages on WhatsApp. This way, it’s more personal, and I don’t have to look at the screen and type all day. I can record when I’m walking. It’s much more fun for me to receive a voice message from a friend on the other side of the world than read her text.
4. Look good on video
- Show up on camera as much as possible. There’s nothing worse for a meeting organizer or event speaker when everyone’s camera is off. I also believe it’s better for your career
- Invest in a camera with clear image and audio. I will link here the camera I use. It sits either on my monitor or on a tripod
- Have it at your eye-level
- Ensure you have a background that denotes professionalism
- Avoid fake and blurry backgrounds: they are suitable for emergencies, for example, if you’re traveling. Another exception is for corporate branding only, such as when you’re holding a public event or conference.
5. Create fun traditions and opportunities working online
I am a fan of a Zoom open-door policy. It’s like the old-fashion open door, but on Zoom, Google meet, or wherever you hold your online video meetings. I also know that some workplaces are trying new traditions such as trivia nights and drinks. And finally, make the most out of your online work environment by posting, sharing ideas, and contributing to others who take the lead and share. Please, everyone, try to give these a go.
6. Have at least two monitors
Having at least two monitors is an essential aspect of working online. It helps with so many different tasks. Drag and drop, presentation view, and working while checking the Slack activity. It ’s the best investment you will ever make.
7. Find time during the week to have real coffee with a colleague or a walking meeting.
I know that for some people, the comfort of working from home is hard to give up. But it’s really important to maintain connections with colleagues and your professional network. In a few days, I will have a walking meeting with someone I have not seen for over two years. I am happy she reached out and glad that the pandemic has made it ok for us to have a professional conversation while walking on the beach, wearing leggings.
New times, new traditions!
The Job Hunting Podcast
138. How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people
This article was first published on the The Job Hunting Podcast Blog.