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Tips for Working Remotely

Six years ago, my husband and I made a longtime dream come true. We moved to Maine. I’m a native Mainer and spent summers here growing up. It’s where many of us “Mainers in Exile” long to return to at some point in our adult lives.

The one thing holding me back was my job. I have worked for HTG Investment Advisors since 1998. The decision to move meant that I would not only be leaving a job that I love but also an important family- my HTG family. When I brought the news to the HTG leadership team, something special happened. They invited me to stay with the company and work remotely from Maine. It was the best case scenario. So began my journey to working remotely.

With the current state of the world, offices around the globe have closed their doors, and teams have taken the leap to work from home. With six years of remote working experience under my belt, I wanted to share some of my best practices to help others thrive while navigating the new work-from-home territory.

Create an Office Space

While you might start your work-from-home journey sitting on the couch with your laptop (or maybe others even try working from bed), know that this is a dangerous game, mentally and physically. Create a space that feels separate from your personal space. When you spend the majority of your time at home, it’s important to separate your personal time and your professional time. I’m fortunate enough to have an extra bedroom in my home that I was able to convert to an office. I close my door, and my workday begins. Carve out some designated space as your office and simulate going to work, and set your office hours. It makes a huge difference. Also, if possible, sit at a desk in a chair with support. Your back will thank you!

Get Dressed

While spending the day in your pajamas might sound appealing, you don’t wear your pajamas to your regular office, so why would you wear them to your home office?

Scientists have coined the term “enclothed cognition,” which is the idea that the clothing you wear affects your behavior, attitude, personality, mood, and confidence. I like to lay out my “power suit” before going to bed, that way when I wake up I’m ready to bring my best self when the workday begins.

Plan Your Day

Next, plan your day. As simple as this may sound, I find it helpful to write down a task list for the day. There are lots of digital platforms like Trello and Process Street that can help you stay organized. We at HTG use a cloud-based system designed for our industry, but a good old pad of paper and pen works too. Create a list of tasks that are attainable for you to achieve in your set amount of working hours and then get down to business. There’s something about having a list, electronic or not, and checking off items that increases your sense of accomplishment and helps you stay productive.

Schedule a Daily Team Meeting

Managers or team leaders may want to organize a daily team meeting to help you get organized and stay connected to your co-workers. It’s the next best thing to heading to the office and interacting with office mates before sitting down at your desk to ready yourself for work.

Pick a meeting time and schedule the same time every day. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss various topics and issues you may be having, review project status, or whatever is relevant to your team. At HTG, we use Zoom video conferencing for our daily meetings. Not only are these meetings productive from a work standpoint, but it’s also a time for a personal touch. You may already know your team quite well, but asking a question like “what’s some good news in your life?” or “what’s something you’re struggling with right now?” helps to create the connection that could otherwise be lost when you’re no longer sharing a physical space. This is especially important as we make our way through these trying days.

Schedule Breaks

Schedule time for breaks throughout the day. Most of us step away from our desks when we’re at our regular offices, so make sure you do the same when you’re working from home. Take a 30-minute midday break to take your dog for a walk, go for a run, have lunch, or call a friend. Breaks in your day help you to reset and start again.

Research shows that the average human can maintain peak performance and focus for 90 minutes at a time. Set a timer on your phone for 90 minutes and then get up and stretch, take a bathroom break, or walk around for five minutes. You’ll return from the five minutes feeling recharged and ready to get back to it again.

Closing Thoughts

Working from home can feel like a radical shift in your life when you first start. Give yourself some grace as you chart these new waters. It takes roughly two weeks to form one new habit in your life. You’re introducing many new habits all at once. With some discipline and accountability from your other team members, this new style of work will start to fall into place, and soon it will begin to feel like your new normal.

Good luck, everyone! You’ve got this!

Barbara M. Ollinger, CFP®

Barbara joined HTG in 1998. As a senior advisor, she counsels clients on their financial planning concerns and designs and implements investment portfolios to meet her clients’ objectives.

Barbara has been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner since 2007. She received her BS in Business Administration from the University of Maine and her MBA from the University of Connecticut.
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