NetGalley’s team is based across six countries and three continents, without a centralized office. As more and more publishers implement a work-from-home policy, we want to share our experiences as a virtual team. Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of trials with technology, the odd dropped conference call, and dodgy Wi-Fi connections, but we all love working from home and hope we can offer you some insights into how to work from home effectively.
Today we’ve gathered recommendations, hints and tips from the NetGalley team – but the important thing is to find a rhythm and routine that works for you. After all, working from home should never be more stressful than working from the office.
Make your own dedicated workspace
When we surveyed NetGalley staff, setting up your own dedicated workspace was by far the most common piece of advice. Amanda, for example, says “It helps me get in the mindset that I’m at work. For me, I have to make sure I have a door, too, that I can shut when I really need to focus on what I’m doing without any outside distractions.”
The same sentiment is shared by Alyce: “I set aside a small space in my home that I use only for work (a little desk by a window). When I sit down at my little work station in the morning, it helps me mentally focus on the work part of my day, and when my work time is done, it’s nice to be able to physically step away from my ‘work place’ and focus on other parts of my life.”
We know this isn’t always easy – as Katie points out, “Not all of us are blessed with a home office, but this doesn’t mean you should be working from your bed” – but we think you will certainly feel the benefit.
Give yourself time to adjust
For those who do not often work from home, the move can be quite disconcerting. Tarah acknowledges, “Working from home isn’t going to feel completely natural overnight – you’ve now merged your personal life with your work life, so you need to learn how to create (and maintain) boundaries.”
In those first few days, make a to-do list and look at what you’ve achieved at the end of each day. Try to think what worked and what didn’t and try to address these the following day.
Maintain a positive routine
As Brianna suggests, “Keep a routine and stick with your regular work hours.” Something echoed by Amanda:
“It’s so easy to overwork when you don’t have to worry about train schedules or beating traffic in and out of the office, and there have been many nights my husband has carried dinner up to my desk without me even realizing how late it got while I was nose-down in work.”
Dana, along with other NetGalley staff members, also notes the importance of having time before starting work. “I always aim to wake up, get ready for the day, and get that first cup of coffee in before the work day begins,” she writes. “It’s easy to fall into the routine of wake-up-and-start-work because there is no commute. Waking up and logging on immediately makes early meetings very difficult and it takes longer for me to be fully productive.
Communication is Key – (also, Don’t Fear the Phone!)
Regardless of which apps you use, make sure that everyone is using the same ones – you will be relying on them more than you’re used to. With this comes a tendency to rely solely on text-based communications. But don’t come to fear the phone, says Lindsey:
“We’re fortunate that virtual communication is easier than ever but the power of a real human voice cannot be overstated. Occasionally, email chains have the tendency to drag out longer than necessary when an issue or question could’ve been resolved quickly with a short phone call. Consider picking up the phone if it appears your words/tone/intent have been misinterpreted or can be easily clarified. Plus, talking through ideas verbally can really help to flesh them out in a way that is different than typing.”
In addition to business communications, Karina suggests that we don’t forget our working friendships. “Try to not only have business emails and work-related online conversations with your colleagues. It’s easy to just stick to those when you’re trying to work efficiently and you don’t run into each other in the office kitchen when grabbing a coffee. But it’s really important not to neglect those types of office-kitchen conversations when working remotely. It can get your mind off a current problem, lift your mood and maybe even bring you the solution to a problem from where you least expected it.”
Fran adds, “While schools are closing and major entertainment and social gatherings are being shut down, we still are human and need social interaction.”
It’s called Working from Home for a Reason…
Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean that you are there to do all the chores. As Tarah says, “Sure, working from home has a lot of perks, including making lunch in your own kitchen, but when you’re just starting out I recommend putting on your blinders so that your work routine looks very different from your usual at-home routine.”
Israel agrees, “If there are other people in the house, they have to behave as if you were gone to the office. No interruptions, no ’quick questions’, etc. Send an email. If you’re not strict with this rule it quickly fails, so no exceptions.”
…But there’s more than one of us working at home!
If you are living with a partner, housemate or parent who is also working from home (or usually stays at home), there are all kinds of possible flashpoints. As everyone works differently at home, it is a good idea to talk about the kinds of routines you are likely to have. Designate areas, and agree on times that you can talk, perhaps having a run-down of times that you absolutely cannot be disturbed. Sharing your calendars is a good idea.
As Stuart suggests, “Do not comment on other people’s methods of working from home, and don’t be disappointed or upset if you suggest lunch together and the other person says no. You are both at work, and must try to maintain the idea that you are not working at the same office.”
Take Proper, Meaningful Breaks
This is one of the most important things to remember about working from home. It’s usual to feel that you need to be at work at all times, but just as you’re not ‘working’ every minute of the time you’re in the office, neither should you feel that you need to at home.
As Maria says, “I find it helpful to go outside (taking a walk, quick grocery shopping, walking the dog, etc.)”
And Alicia focuses on ways to stay healthy: “It’s very easy to slip into a routine that is less than healthy, but there are plenty of easy things you can do… some days I work on either an exercise ball (which is great for the back) or a standing desk. Many days I even add 5 minutes of chair yoga to my workday. Some days it is essential to take just a few minutes to recharge. Work hard, but don’t forget you can not pour from an empty cup!”
At the office, all the equipment is set up for business – ergonomically designed chairs, desks at a recommended height, big monitors – but at home, it’s a bit make-do-and-mend. Be sure you take care of yourself during the working day.
Tarah says, “Use the best chair in the house while working and make sure your laptop screen is at eye level (utilize the books you aren’t currently reading) and use a wireless keyboard and mouse. This will help your line of sight, and decrease the stress in your back. If you happen to have another monitor around, plug it into your laptop to increase your screen space – you’ll feel so much more organized.”
Organization is absolutely critical when working from home. “Get even more organized than you need to when you’re in the office,” Kristina writes. “There will be fewer people checking in on your progress, so take responsibility for prioritizing your efforts and reporting to your team – no matter your job title! Everyone will appreciate a quick head’s up about the status of your projects, especially when multiple people are working on the same project. Come to an agreement with your team about what this looks like. For my team, it’s a quick end-of-day message on Slack.”
Try to enjoy yourself
At the moment it’s an unsettling time and for your own mental health, it’s best to be as positive as you can. Try to stay away from news websites for a good proportion of the day, and don’t let your social media usage increase compared to your usual day in the office. Trust us, this can be important!
Kristina also suggests looking for new opportunities. “Once you log off for the day, consider new ways to be social with friends and loved ones! I have friends who host a Facetime D&D game monthly, for instance. Or consider honing new skills–look around and you may find that there are many music and dance instructors who are offering virtual lessons if you want to get up and move. These types of gig-economists are struggling right now.”
We hope this has been a useful insight into the way we work! Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if there are any issues raised in this article which you would like to discuss with us. If there is anything we can do to help, just let us know.
Thanks to the NetGalley team quoted throughout!
Amanda Delatorre – QA Manager
Alyce Reese – Marketing Specialist
Katie Versluis – Client Relationship Associate
Tarah Theoret – Director, Community Engagement
Brianna Paulino – Email Marketing Specialist
Dana Cuadrado – Social Media & Administrative Assistant
Lindsey Lochner – VP, Marketing Engagement
Karina Elm – Managing Director (Germany)
Fran Toolan – CEO
Israel Carberry – Engineering Manager
Stuart Evers – Assistant Director (UK)
Maria Bodmer – Managing Director (France)
Alicia Schaefer – Customer Service & Community Assistant
Kristina Radke – VP, Business Growth & Engagement