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Set up a Productive Telework Environment

Below are some general best practices that will help you be productive when you’re working remotely. Each state of Minnesota organization has specific policies around teleworking. Check with your agency for details. Below are some general best practices that will help you be productive when you’re working remotely.

The Basics

  • Keep to a typical schedule. Continue your morning routine, take breaks to move around and stimulate new ideas, and close shop at the end of the day.
  • Set and share schedules as much as possible. Put a schedule together of when everyone on your team is working and share it with everyone, understanding that some changes may be necessary for those providing childcare or healthcare. You can also do this through Outlook by sharing calendars and blocking time on your calendar when you are unavailable.
  • Know the best way to get ahold of each other. Use the technology tools that we have such as Skype and Microsoft Teams to facilitate phone calls. If you are comfortable doing so, consider sharing a personal phone number.
  • Schedule check-ins. When working remotely, it's even more important to find different times and ways to stay connected. In addition to your regular meetings, consider adding a daily check-in to discuss daily priorities or address questions, like what’s changed in the past 24 hours. It's also a time for you to socialize with your team and check-in on their health.
  • Take time to connect individually. Start a call in Microsoft Teams or Skype, or pick up the phone, and ask your team members how they're doing and what you can do to support them. It's easy to miscommunicate when you're not physically in the room with someone, making this type of check-in a wonderful opportunity for teleworkers to connect.
  • Use technology. If your agency uses Skype or Teams it can help to organize and collaborate on the work you’re doing. Making a Skype phone call or sharing your monitor is easy by clicking the appropriate icons in a chat window.

Your Physical Space

  • Set up a comfortable and designated workspace. Dedicating a space to work during the day helps to separate work life from home life. Even if you are just moving to a different spot on the couch at the end of the day, having a dedicated workspace encourages a productive mindset.
  • Protect your workspace. Inform others in your home about your work schedule. Try to create a visual cue for times when you cannot be interrupted, such as a closed door, a “do not disturb” sign, or wearing headphones.
  • Talk with children who share space with you. With those employees that have children in their home workspace, consider having a conversation with them about how to interrupt when they need attention. Some suggestions could include having younger children craft a sign they might hold up to you or inventing a hand signal that means they need a moment of your attention. Be creative with how they can get your attention.
  • Think about ergonomics. While you may not have access to your favorite chair at the office, find the most comfortable chair in your house and make sure your desk and laptop are at the correct height. You can even fashion a stand-up desk out of a higher countertop. If you have a keyboard and mouse, you should use them so you can raise the monitor on the laptop for your eyes to be level with the top ¼ portion of the monitor reducing you to look down.

Productive Collaboration and Remote Meetings

  • Use your webcam. During remote meetings, webcams allow you to read non-verbal cues and maintain a physical connection to your colleagues.
  • Mute your mic. Unless you are speaking, keep your microphone on mute to lets others speak and avoid echoing issues.
  • Create a visual cue or use chat features when you want to speak. Raising your hand, typing in the chat, or following an established speaking rotation allows for more productive meetings.
  • Take advantage of collaboration tools. Find out what remote meeting or collaboration is the best for you.
  • Pay attention to chat/text fields in collaboration tools. If you are responding to a continuing conversation, use the Reply link, otherwise use the Start a new conversation field to talk about something new. Type @ to mention someone, and they’ll be alerted.
  • Make your meetings accessible. Find tips from the Office of Accessibility in this article on inclusive remote meetings.
  • Set up virtual office hours. Set a dedicated time every day where you are available to answer questions. This helps encourage your team to reach out to you informally, since they don't have the opportunity to swing by your desk.
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