Remote work: What I learned from doing it all wrong

working from home

My first experience working from home for real happened almost 5 years ago when I first started working at Pipefy in August 2015. Before that, I’ve only ever worked remotely as an exception or during emergencies, so when I decided to quit my job at a multinational bank and start my journey at a brand new startup (we were 6 or 7 people in the team at the time), I had no idea what to expect – or how I was going to make it work.

Back then the rest of the team was in San Francisco (during the 500 Startups acceleration process) and I was in Curitiba, working from my bedroom, using Skype to try to reach out to the rest of the team. It’s an exaggeration to say that I did everything wrong, but looking back I see there a lot of issues that could have been avoided if I knew then what I know now.

Pipefy decided to go fully remote on March 16th (a little over 2 months ago) and last week we were informed that we’ll remain working remotely until the end of 2020. So it went from being a temporary measure to a semi-permanent one. The company has been very supportive. Besides letting us take everything we needed from the office (even our chairs), they also helped those that didn’t have a proper setup at home purchase what they needed (in my case, a desk).

That being said, I took some time to think about what I’m doing differently now and decided to share it with you all. I’m pretty sure I’m still doing some things wrong or not following my own advice in some points, but I figured that this was worth sharing. If this helps at least one person I’ll be happy enough.

Have a defined routine

Rule number one for working from home: define a routine. Even if your company lets you be flexible with your working schedule, having a routine is essential for your productivity.

  • Define at what time you’ll start working and what time you’ll stop. I’m not saying you can’t be flexible when needed, all you need to do is have some idea of what your days will look like.
  • Define your lunchtime and please do not, I repeat, do not eat in front of your computer. I manage a support team so we have to stick to our lunch schedules otherwise we’ll leave customers unattended – which we don’t ever do, by the way. If you can, take some time off-screen during your lunch hour. Focus on eating and resting for a bit, you’ll see how that’ll boost your energy for the rest of your day.
  • Resist the temptation of rolling out of bed minutes before you start working. Get up properly, take a shower and get into “work clothes”, eat breakfast, or at least a cup of coffee before you dive in. I know it adds some effort, but do your best to avoid working in your PJs every day (some days is okay in my opinion).
  • Add pauses to your day. Get up, walk around the house, make some coffee, or go to the kitchen and grab a snack. Back at the Pipefy office, we had a fully stocked kitchen, so we had the habit of taking a couple of minutes every now and then to get up and go get something to eat, talk to whoever was there and, you know, just relax for a bit.
  • For the first couple of weeks working from home, I was a bit lost, so I decided to write down everything I did during the day so that, when I stopped working I wouldn’t feel like I achieved nothing that day. To my surprise, I was doing a lot more than I thought, I just couldn’ see it. Also, if you’re a list person like myself, try working on your to-do list for the next day. It’s very helpful, even if you end up completely changing it during your day. 

Have a dedicated workspace 

This is just as important as having a routine. I know that having a dedicated “office” room is not a possibility for everyone but if you can, avoid working from your bedroom. At least have a desk and a good chair so your mind can process you’re in “work mode”.

It was not an option for me for the first couple of weeks, by the way. I live in a very compact studio (30 square meters) with my boyfriend and we only have one table – the same we used for eating – and there just wasn’t enough room for both of us to work there at the same time.

Thankfully we had the ability to move temporarily into his mother’s house, which is way more spacious. As I mentioned before, Pipefy offered us financial aid to purchase a desk and let us bring our chairs home from the office, so this is what my workstation looks like now. It’s still right next to the bed, but you won’t hear me complain about it.

Communication is essential!

There’s no such thing as too much communication, especially when you go from working side by side with your team to working remotely.

Before the team went remote, the Engineering team (that already had a lot of remote team members) worked on a guide with best practices to help the rest of the company adapt to the new scenario (you can click here to check it out). One of the topics was over-communication.

They instructed us on how to use the best channels for each message. We learned the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication and when to use each. It was super useful, especially in my role as a team leader.

Take care of your health (physical and mental)

The whole reason why we’ve had to go into this “new” situation is a rapidly spreading disease, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to take care of your health. I’m well aware I’ll sound like a cliche right now, but I’ll say it anyway:

  • Drink plenty of water (no, coffee does not count as water, neither does Redbull in my case).
  • Eat as healthy as you can. Eating fruit and vegetables is essential for providing your body with all the nutrients it needs to keep your immune system strong.  Avoid the temptation of ordering junk food all the time or eating unhealthy snacks;
  • Exercise, even if just for a few minutes each day. There are a ton of virtual exercise classes online to choose from and it will make a big difference once you get used to it.
  • Social distancing can be hard on our mental health, especially if you are a “people person” and love being around people. It’s okay not to feel okay in the situation we’re living in, as long as you talk to someone about it, whether it’s your leader, a colleague, a therapist, or a friend.
  • Keep in touch with your friends and family through whatever channel you prefer. Have virtual happy hours over zoom/google meets, get “together” virtually to play games, etc. Even though we should remain physically distant from each other, it doesn’t mean we should isolate ourselves.

I guess that’s all I had to say for today, which ended up being way too long – sorry for that, I can’t stop writing when the inspiration hits me. Do you have any other tips that are helping you get through the days? Let us know in the comments section below.

We’re all going through this and we’ll come around together. Stay safe, wash your hands, and, if you can, please stay home.

* Isabelle Wuilleumier Salemme is Head of Customer Support @Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to help users make the best of Pipefy via support and writing informative content pieces. Besides being in charge of support, she’s an avid reader, a coffee lover, and a professional photographer.

Written by
Isabelle Wuilleumier Salemme
Head of Customer Support @Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to help users make the best of Pipefy via support and writing informative content pieces. Besides being in charge of support, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover, and a professional photographer.
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