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Andrew Macdonald’s pro-tips on working from home

April 3, 2020 / Global

Companies around the world have implemented work-from-home policies to help flatten the curve during the ongoing pandemic. The shift to full-time remote work is an adjustment for everyone, and those who are completely new to working from home may need to find a new routine or change old habits.

Andrew Macdonald, Uber’s Vice President International Rides and Platform, is currently leading our cross-functional taskforce in response to the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring the safety of our employees and the cities and communities we serve. Based on his years of experience working with remote global teams, he has shared some invaluable advice with Uber’s employees for being productive at home.

1. Make a concerted effort to talk live more.
One risk of working in isolation is you default to long emails or extended Slack chats instead of live discussions which can be quicker to resolve issues. Additionally, tone is often lost in written communications, so resolving tough or emotional issues is often easier with a quick live discussion. Pick up the phone or hop on video chat to get things sorted quickly, or have virtual coffee and meals to stay connected with your team.

2. Be 100% present on video conference.
Video conferencing is the closest thing we have to an in-person conversation, so prioritize staying engaged the same way you would if you were meeting someone live. My advice, keep your camera on – it helps drive self discipline – unless you’re tending to kids or have to step away. I also tend to expand the video to fill my full screen – this helps avoid the temptation to be looking at email or responding to chat pings as a meeting is unfolding. Finally, save yourself clicks and unmute yourself briefly by holding down the space bar. 

3. Create physical boundaries between work and life.
You might have spent the last few days working from home on your sofa. Places like the couch or bed might be comfortable, but those are places your mind associates with relaxation, not productivity. You risk making work time less productive and down time less relaxing by not being deliberate about where you do each. Pick a physical space at home for you to mentally connect to work and stick with it. This is important for your mental health too (more on that in a bit).

4. Keep a checklist and have a plan.
With less face-to-face time with your manager and coworkers, you have a bigger responsibility of keeping yourself on track. Managers, for you this means keeping your team on track. Keep a checklist of things you need to do, maybe sorted into four categories: now, today, this week, or later. If you’re already a checklist person, try upleveling your system with one of the many journaling or note-taking apps out there. Personally, I still use my notebook and a pad of paper, but everyone has their system. Whatever medium you use, crossing items of a checklist is a satisfying activity (I’m even guilty of adding things I’ve already done that day to a list and then crossing them off!).

5. Don’t slouch. Sit up straight (or stand)!
I am naturally terrible at this, but I’m working on it. Slouching today will cause you back pain tomorrow. I recommend sitting in a chair, investing in a task chair, or stacking a few books and standing at a table. 

6. Share your status and availability on chat.
Whether you’re walking your dog or are in a meeting, change your status on chat to let your coworkers know to stop pinging you when you’re busy. This will save you having to write a distracted “sorry just in a meeting but will read and respond later” response when you start getting a series of quick/long pings!

7. Build in breaks away from your workspace.
When you’re in the office you take walks to get a coffee, go to a meeting, or simply to step away for a moment to stretch your legs. Do the same thing at home. If you can, go take a walk outside (and remember social distancing). Want to stay inside? Do some stretching exercises or light yoga or push-ups. Which brings me to….

8. Exercise.
During this crisis, I’ve switched from going to the gym every morning to going for long runs before my meetings start. Whatever you like to do – keep doing it. Exercise helps you fight stress, sleep better, boosts your immune system, improves mood, and makes you more productive.

9. Eat healthy, and eat with others (even if it’s over video chat).
At the office, we try to provide balanced food options for everyone. When you’re home and more sedentary, it’s important to do the same. On top of that, consider using the time you’d spend in the cafeteria to enjoy lunch over video conference with your coworkers, friends, or family. I know this is all hard to do – I can identify with the many tweets I’ve seen on COVID-related weight gain. Do your best to keep your diet healthy, but the occasional “we’re going through a crisis I need this” treat is probably ok to justify too!

10. Be mindful of your mental health.
Bo Young Lee, our Chief Diversity Officer, covered this in her recent message, but if you’re experiencing anxiety, just know you’re not alone and we are in this together. Stay connected with your loved ones, meditate (there are so many apps now you can try), learn something new, lean on our employee assistance programs, and support each other.