be a remote rock star

Find your sweet spot
Thursday, March 19, 2020

Considering social changes afoot in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked our team of virtual-office veterans what advice they would give to someone new to remote working on six hot topics. Choose a topic below:


Focus is a joy when we can find it. This is one of the many places where working from home can give much more than it takes—you are the master of your space, the only royalty in the room. If you act with purpose and thoughtfulness, you can find focus like never before. Here’s what our team has for you:

You have to make a plan that works for you, not something that works for someone else. Just because your friend gets up and works for three hours in their private office space, does not mean that has to be your schedule.Take some time to think about how you work best. What times of day are you most productive? If I don’t have to be up and at an office at 8 am, I love working from 4 am-7 am, then going back to sleep for a few hours. Bottom line is, make the schedule work for you.

Jeremy Lucas | Strategist
Staying focused on your duties and tasks at hand is extremely important. Keep a routine and schedule as it makes it easier for you to follow and others will get to know your availability. Be confident you can do it.
Rich Shawen | CFO
Avoid distractions, sometimes. Turn off the TV, close chat, and Facebook. However, if I’m distracted, it is okay to allow a few minutes for Twitter or the news. Then, refocus back to your work. It’s the same as grabbing coffee or taking a walk. It’s not a bad thing.
Ben Carmel | Learning Designer, Facilitator
Focus can sometimes be a challenge between the dogs, cats, and kids all present in the house at the same time. Ensure that you sit down for a family meeting and create some clear boundaries.Bloomberg just released a study noting that 67% of workers in the EU have never operated from home. While working from home in the US is more prevalent, it is not shocking to find out that we are all being challenged. It’s almost never a team of one operating at home! Most of us parents are also navigating digital learning with our kids right underneath us as well. These are unprecedented times we are living in today.

It’s not just about keeping your sanity as you work remotely, it also about ensuring your kids get the education that they need on a daily basis. Here are 5 things I have found helpful as a working mom:

  1. Pack lunches, snacks, and water bottles for everyone, including yourself. This is one less added stress you will have to think about as the day wears on.
  2. Create boundaries and goals—post some rules of engagement for the home. What rooms will everyone work in, what are their goals for the day, what’s the reward for achieving those goals? Yes, you need these too.
  3. Invest in headphones for yourself and your kids. 4 people on a conference call at one time is a lot of noise.
  4. Take breaks to go outside. Social distancing doesn’t mean we cannot get fresh air in our lungs.
  5. Practice getting some silence each morning before the day begins. Center on the things that are important to accomplish and let the rest of it go. You will need to be patient with yourself and others.
Natalie Born | VP of Innovation
You might be surprised how much you can accomplish working remotely.With no interruptions, deep focus is very possible. But don’t expect to be able to sustain it all day long. Try to identify the times of day when you are most productive and set those aside for focus. Set aside the other times for meetings and workaday tasks.

If you just can’t focus, step away. Do something else. Or take a brief nap (experts suggest 10–20 minutes). It’s one of the benefits of working remotely and I swear by it.

Matt Morasky | Head of Client Services
Be engaged. It’s very easy to be distracted while sitting in front of your computer with nonstop notification pop-ups and the Internet at your fingertips. Lend your full attention and be present at the meeting as though you were sitting at the same conference table: practice active listening, take notes, draw, document the meeting’s objectives and goals, and always circle back around to summarize next steps before hanging up.
Annie Pomeranz | Director of Operations & Project Management
Two words: time blocking. One of the silver linings of remote working is flexibility, so figure out when you’re best at doing specific types of work and adjust your office hours to fit it. Schedule and protect focus time. For example, I’m most productive early, so most days I have focus hours before normal office hours, providing more flexible availability to my team through the rest of the day.
Matt Adams | Head of Creative Services
This will differ for everyone but what works for me is isolating myself and zeroing out any potential distractions, even things like windows aren’t ideal for me to work around as I can easily get distracted by the allure of the outside world. For others that I know, it’s the complete opposite. In college, while I preferred to do my work tucked away in a corner facing the wall, my friend would always set up shop in a cafe, surrounded by people. People can have widely varying needs when it comes to focusing so it’s important to test things out for yourself and see what works. Finding out how to get yourself to focus will help tremendously with your productivity and efficiency and improve your remote work experience.
Joey Kenney | Director of Business Development
Distractions are everywhere. Set a routine and stick to it. But don’t be afraid of breaks—especially having social or water cooler breaks. I have found that my focus improves when I simply “get out” so my mind is free to free-associate on the problems at hand.
Parker Lee | Managing Partner
If you haven’t read all of the articles about the inadequacy of multi-tasking, now is a good time. Keeping focused is an even bigger challenge when you’re working from home; and multi-tasking works—if this is somehow possible—even less well.So chunk your time. Set aside large chunks of time to focus on one particular task. Go all-in. Work to your time limit. And then come up for breath. If necessary, schedule those chunks clearly on your calendar, and if you can, communicate expectations with your co-workers. If you want to be left alone except in case of dire emergencies, tell them!

Also, there are tools that help me with focus. I use an app on my Mac called Self Control when I’m having an especially difficult time focusing. It simply shuts down certain websites (for me it’s Twitter and ESPN) so they don’t work at all for a set period of time. I often find myself, when I hit a lull, just opening Twitter by reflex. But the problem is, once I’m in, I’m usually in for much longer than I want. So—for me—it’s sometimes better to just shut everything down so I can hammer away at a problem.

Jeremy Varo-Haub | Lead Strategist, Senior Designer

Squid | Home Office Destruction Expert

Squid, a rescued street cat living the high life in the Varo-Haub household, loves long naps, walks on the counter, and chasing a toy BB8 down the hallway. She'd be a heck of a strategist if she could talk. She's delighted Jeremy works from home so she can climb up his back, walk on his keyboard, and throw things off of his desk.

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