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13 Tips for Working Remotely

Category: Alliance Blog
A desk top with a laptop computer and smartphone laying out on it
Working remotely requires good planning and boundaries to be productive. Hear from AAM's network of seasoned independent professionals on how they make it work. Photo credit: Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash.

With the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation in the US and elsewhere, museums may begin allowing employees to work from home. For those new to this type of work life, the Independent Museum Professionals Network compiled this list of tips for working remotely—something we are very used to doing! We hope these provide some guidance for you as you navigate the coronavirus situation in your museum.

  • Set aside a designated workspace. As tempting as it is to work on your bed, better to have a (reasonably) clear space to set up your computer that is comfortable yet gives you the idea that “this is a work environment.”
  • Get dressed. We’d all love to work in our PJs, but your brain may still think you are lounging. Dress comfortably—but get dressed.
  • Take some time to find a work pattern. You may realize you don’t like quiet, or you need white noise, or you work better with music in the background. Experiment—for a bit—then settle into your new routine.
  • Keep track of your hours. Even if you’re not required to, an honest tracking of the time and task on which you are working could help you understand your peak productivity times, what tasks you spent the most time on, etc.
  • Keep set hours, as if you were at your workplace. Knowing that you can work at all hours could lend itself to procrastination. Keeping to a regular work schedule will help you maintain a better work-life balance.
  • But be flexible about your schedule! If a 9-to-5 schedule never really worked for you, shift your work day earlier or later, as long as you can be available to co-workers.
  • Use the time you might have spent commuting for self-care. Go for a walk, practice yoga or meditation, read a book…then go to your at-home workspace and get to work. Or take a longer break midday and extend your workday. You’ll be amazed at how empty the gym and grocery store are at 11 a.m.
  • Schedule regular “virtual check-ins” with colleagues. If you’re used to stopping to chat with a colleague, working remotely can be isolating. Schedule a meeting or “eat lunch” virtually with a colleague to help you still feel connected to those you are used to seeing on a regular basis.
  • Sign up for and learn to use tools such as Zoom (there are free accounts for short meetings), Skype, Google docs, Dropbox, etc.
  • Don’t tell your friends and family you are working from home! People have a distressing habit of not respecting the work demands of telecommuters. If the people in your life are not used to being able to reach you during the workday, keep it that way. If you get a call or email that you wouldn’t answer while you are at work, don’t answer it when working from home.
  • Share childcare. Don’t try to work and take care of your kid(s) at the same time, if you can help it. Share responsibilities with your partner or another caregiver—take turns working for a few hours while the other person watches the child(ren), then switch. A shorter block of concentrated work, child-free, is better for getting things done.
  • Plan now for what you can do from home, particularly if your work generally requires access to collections, galleries, or other on-site facilities or tools. Is there a writing project you’ve been putting off? Online training you haven’t completed? Publications you haven’t had time to read? Remember, your colleagues’ work is also disrupted. Maybe this is the right time to have those thoughtful conversations (virtually) you never seem to have enough time for. Create a work plan; having a concrete set of things to work on both ensures accountability and reduces anxiety that time out of the office cannot be spent effectively. Also, developing a work plan in advance with your manager can help “bookmark” where you are on projects right now so you come back ready to hit the ground running. 
  • Have work available to complete offline. In case you’re unable to access the internet, have work you can do without being connected. For example, have some documents printed that you can work from, or read professional journals/books and note connections to your current projects.
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