Did you know that CharityVillage staff have worked virtually ever since our organization was founded back in 1995? With so many nonprofit professionals switching unexpectedly to remote work, we thought we’d get our team to share their best tips for managing your workday from a home office.

Technology

Share, share, share. Now is a good time to get your shared files in order so your team has access to everything they need. Cloud-based storage is usually the way to go, along with shareable documents, spreadsheets, and other files that can be edited in real time by multiple team members. Read up on digital transformation with these articles or watch our recorded webinar for tips.

Try free versions. Many teams have made this shift quickly and without time to prepare so you may not feel you have the infrastructure in place to work remotely. The good news is many technology platforms have free versions that can be used for small teams or until you can get more systems in place. GoTo Meeting has announced 3 months of free service for nonprofit organizations right now.

Connection is key. There are many ways to stay connected beyond email. We find Slack is a great option for instant messaging amongst team members and can be useful for team collaboration as well. Skype also has options for instant messaging combined with video calling. Google Hangouts can be a good option for hosting virtual meetings. Ask your staff about tools they have experience with to get more ideas and to discover how your team would prefer to communicate.

Productivity

Turn off the TV. If you want to be productive, the television has got to go! Television can add anxiety and distraction, so commit to leaving it off during work hours. Remember…if you were in a traditional workplace, you wouldn’t be watching game shows all day, so it’s a good practice to avoid this during home office time too!

Remove distractions. Social media can invade your productive time and increase anxiety if you use it without limits. To ensure you can keep up with your network and social presence while maintaining a healthy distance, schedule your social media with content-publishing apps like Buffer. On Sunday evening, set aside 30-60 minutes to schedule your social media posts. Then, during the week, you can schedule 5 minutes (time it!) of check-in time 3 times a day to respond and cross share. With this plan, 15 minutes a day will allow you to stay “in-the-know” and still leave you tons of time to accomplish big work goals.

Make a list.  Identify a few main tasks you want complete each day – it’s easy to get distracted and get pulled into different directions if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish each day.

Set boundaries. At home, especially in a situation where you have others at home as well, there can be many distractions. Family members, including pets, aren’t always aware of your need to focus and you may need to gently set some boundaries. Putting a sign on your office door if you need undisturbed time can be a great option, as can plugging in with headphones. With pets, try to get them on a regular daily schedule so you can plan for when they’ll need to be fed, let outside, and or given attention and play time.

Connection

Connect with other humans. It can be really easy to spend hours and even days engaging solely with technology. If you work as part of a virtual team, reach out and chat with a co-worker to recreate those casual office drop-ins or watercooler discussions. If you work alone, schedule a (virtual) coffee or lunch date with someone in your network. This is important for both your career and your mental health. For some, having the radio on throughout the day can be good company and a way to break up the quiet.

Ask your team for help. It can be easy to isolate when you are physically distant from your team. If you’re having trouble figuring something out, completing a task, or brainstorming, don’t wait too long before reaching out to a co-worker. When you are isolated at home you can easily spend an hour trying to figure out something that a co-worker might be able to help you with in 5 minutes.

Pick up the phone. It might sound old school, but sometimes picking up the phone is the best approach. Not only does it give you a little human connection, but some things just get bogged down with email or messaging.

Be responsive… When quickly connecting with someone in the office is no longer possible, it becomes doubly important that team members commit to being responsive to email or instant messaging. We generally operate with a 24-hour rule of thumb for email responses. If you’ve sent an email and need a more urgent response, pick up the phone.

…But keep your focus. Although being responsive to your co-workers is incredibly important, it is also necessary to carve out time in your day to do focused work. Instant messaging and email have a tendency to eat up time in your day, leaving nothing for other important work. For some people, checking email 1-3 times a day at scheduled times is the right way to go, for others it may be turning off email and messaging notifications for a set period so they can focus. Experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you and your team.

Balance

Move your body. It can be easy to slump in front of your computer for hours on end when you don’t have co-workers around to encourage you to stop for a coffee or lunch break. That being the case, put reminders in your calendar each day or set an hourly timer on your phone to remind yourself to get up and stretch, get a glass of water, and move around. This not only helps avoid back aches, it helps improve productivity and creative output.

Do at least a few minutes of exercise each day.  It can be 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or however long you choose to do, but get the blood and endorphins flowing.  If you can’t think of a couple of exercises to do, there are tons of apps, websites, and videos that will give you some ideas – a quick search will bring up lots of free options. Some CharityVillage staff recommend doing this at the end of your day, to create concrete “break” from work to leisure time.

Dress how you want. This might be contrary to a lot of articles we’ve seen, which encourage remote workers to dress professionally, like they would if going into the office. Us Villagers are a casual bunch, and you’d more likely find most of us working in comfy clothes, yoga pants, or yes, even pajamas! At the end of the day, do what works for you. Don’t be afraid to take a little comfort where you can get it!

Plan out what you’re going to have for lunch/snacks. From our experience, it can be easy to snack all day long when you are working close to your kitchen! If you plan your meals and snacks, you’re less likely to raid the fridge without thinking. You might also want to prep some healthy snacks so they’ll be easily accessible if you wander into the kitchen.

Keep your desk, office, or kitchen table tidy. Some Villagers work from a home office while others work from the kitchen table. If you’re working from home unexpectedly, chances are you don’t have a home office all set up. If you are using a space that typically functions as something else for the whole household, cleaning it up when you are done your workday is a must – and as a bonus, is a good way to ensure you sign off at the end of the day!

Put a hard stop on the end of your day, at whatever time makes sense for you. When you work from home, professional time can easily bleed into personal time. Figure out where your hard stop is and then do your best to shut down. That might mean closing your laptop or shutting down your computer or email. It can be helpful to create an end-of-day ritual to help you transition from “work” to “home” time.

Us it to your advantage. Yes, you can do your laundry or your dishes or prep your evening meal without really taking much time away from working, so do it! This can free up valuable time at night to spend with loved ones.

The CharityVillage team is continuing their usual practice of working remotely, and is here to support your nonprofit work during this difficult and uncertain time. Please contact us if we can be of assistance.