Whether you are doing courses online, starting a remote internship, or searching for other professional opportunities this summer, there is a good chance you will be working virtually. If this is new to you, it can be a big challenge to adjust to a new routine while remaining productive and successful. As a virtual team since Diversity Abroad’s founding 14 years ago, being remote is in our DNA. We asked our team to share their tips on how to thrive in a remote environment.
Everyone has their own methods for getting work done at home. Many people suggest following a morning routine, getting dressed for the day, and setting aside a dedicated work area. This advice comes down to being intentional about how you organize your work-life balance. We are mindful that as many people are navigating working or doing classes from home for the first time, there may be additional challenges to balance such as family members, jobs, or other responsibilities at home.
Developing a successful routine for working from home can take some time and will look different for everyone. Set intentions about what remote work will look like for you, being realistic about what your situation allows and the unique challenges of this moment. This could be setting regular blocks of time to devote to work, how you’ll communicate needs with your family or roommates for peace and quiet, where you’ll work, what you’ll wear every day. Working remotely is a major lifestyle change that will require some trial and error. Being intentional about your workday and routine will help take some of the guesswork out of what each day looks like.
...but be flexible
As you adjust to this new reality, be flexible and try out new habits or techniques to see what works best for you. Try out different environments or settings to see where you are most comfortable at home. You don’t just have to be at a desk or in a home office, one of the advantages of working remotely many of us have found is being able to change your location during the day. While this used to mean going to a coffee shop or a library, now it might mean moving to an outside space if the day is nice or standing up at a kitchen counter for a while.
Additionally, be open to new systems for organizing work. Whether it’s an online system like Trello or Google Keep, a messaging platform like Slack, or keeping a to-do list in a new way. Working remotely necessitates communicating and collaborating differently with each other. If you are starting an opportunity like an internship this may involve learning what systems your new team uses.
Be open to your habits changing - it’s all part of the new reality of working remotely. And look at this as an opportunity to re-evaluate how you work best and discover new habits or techniques that can help you in the future.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Working remotely means communication happens differently than in a traditional office. You’re still working, but can’t just stick your head in a colleague’s office or have a face to face discussion. You also may be starting a new opportunity which necessitates a lot of communication and learning.
On a very practical level, you need to make sure you know the best way to stay in touch and collaborate with your colleagues. At Diversity Abroad we have outlined which purposes or situations a communication tool should be used for. Generally, we message each other through Slack to coordinate projects, ask for help, and check-in. Email is reserved primarily for in-depth project instructions or external communications and we also have standing organization-wide and smaller team calls to plan for the week, brainstorm, and provide project updates. Setting these expectations requires intentional communication, as well as discussion and re-evaluation. Ask if you’re not sure or let others know what works best for you.
It’s also important to understand and communicate what your needs are. Do you need to run errands or walk the dog during the day? Or will you be starting work extra early in order to spend time later in the day with your family or exercising? Remote work can offer much more freedom and flexibility so people can make their schedules work to their needs in this moment. At Diversity Abroad, we keep our calendars up to date with meeting times and focused project times (Quiet Hours) clearly marked or mark off OOO (Out Of Office) so our colleagues know whether we have time to talk or if we won’t be quick to reply to a message. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and take the time to make sure you will be the most successful.
While working from home is a highly individual experience, it doesn’t have to be a lonely or isolating one. This is a challenging time for many people, and seeking support or expressing how you are doing is important. You miss out on a lot of casual interactions and conversations from being on campus or outside more often, so set aside time for checking in with friends, classmates, or colleagues.
Many of our team members have standing one on one meetings with each other to review projects and set goals, but also to catch up and see how each other is doing. Take time to connect with and support others, while also checking-in with yourself. Go on a walk, do exercises, or just get up and walk around the house every couple hours. Make an effort to disconnect from email or work during lunchtime or breaks by reading a book for fun or turning off notifications.
We hope these tips inspire you, whatever work you may be doing from home and help make it a successful transition!
Author: Elisabeth Lee
As Administrative and Marketing Assistant, Elisabeth works to support all members of the Diversity Abroad team in a variety of areas. Originally from a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Elisabeth has a Bachelor’s degree in History and French from Mount Holyoke College. Her first experience studying abroad was as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Pune, India during her senior year of high school. It was a transformative experience that sparked a passion for intercultural learning and exchange that has continued to today.