Coronavirus has turned many people into telecommuters. Adapting to working from home, however, isn’t easy, particularly if you have a spouse who is also working from home and children who are transitioning to a remote learning environment.
Everybody works differently and, therefore, not every work-from-home tip is going to apply to everybody. But if you’re one of those people searching the internet to figure out a way to get to work and socially distance from MASH reruns or online shopping, here are a few tips from us folks at Equivity.
- Set your working hours. Having well-defined working hours where you commit yourself to your work as you would in an office will help you stay on track. Working from home also allows you to decide when you work, and many remote employees take advantage by personalizing their hours of operation to when they’re most awake and productive. Ideally, if you’re a morning person, you’d want to start early and, if you’re somebody who gets off to a slow start, work into the evenings. But circumstances (for example, assisting kids with school work), may actually squeeze your availability. If that’s the case, it’s even more important to block out the times you are likely to be available and make the most of those opportunities.
- Act like you are going to work. Most of us relax and unwind when we are at home, which is great for our comfort and well-being but not so great for getting work done. Instead of sleeping late, rolling out of bed, and starting work while still in your pajamas, treat your at-home pre-job routine as you would if you were actually traveling into the office. Get up and give yourself enough time to actually wake up; make coffee, take a shower, and change into some different clothes to kick-start your body and brain into work mode.
- Prepare your work environment. Having an organized space in your home where you work, whether it’s an office or a desk in your living room, can help avoid procrastination by indicating to your brain that this is a workspace. By setting boundaries between your relaxing home space and your dedicated working space, you decrease your chances of getting sidetracked. Be prepared by making sure your environment has everything you need to get the job done including good lighting, a comfortable chair, pens, printer ink, coffee, and anything else you might anticipate needing so you don’t have to run out to the store during working hours. If you’re looking for some more tips for setting up your office, we’ve written a blog about that too.
- Minimize distractions. Make it clear to those around you that you are working so friends and family can resist the urge to distract you. If you enjoy listening to music while you work, don’t spend hours creating the perfect playlist. Instead, pick a radio station or album and leave it alone for at least two hours; or use Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, Songza, or Radio Paradise to select your music. With pets, an occasional scratch behind the ear never hurts while they sit quietly at your feet, but having your cat crawl onto your keyboard or a dog jump in your lap can seriously impede your productivity. Many remote employees keep their pets out of the rooms they are working in.
- Stay connected and communicate efficiently. Staying in touch with coworkers, clients, and employers is critical to effective remote work. Because you can’t just pop by your colleague’s desk to ask them a quick question or bump into a client to remind them of a due date, it is important that you stay on top of effectively communicating with key people. Email is best used for formal check-ins and sharing or requesting resources, data-heavy information, or documents. Instant messaging is great for informal check-ins and updates, as well as when you need quick answers to simple questions or concerns. Conference calls are ideal for discussing ideas or participating in meetings when you cannot physically be there. Video calls using Skype, Google Hangouts, and similar software are great for when you want to connect using the additional personalization of being able to see someone face-to-face.
- Take well-defined breaks. Taking a break from work might seem counterproductive, but according to studies, the most prolific workers tend to focus for 52 minutes then disengage for 17 minutes. Periods of rest allow people to return to their duties refreshed and better prepared. During these breaks, you can use your free time to check Facebook, make lunch, play with your pets, or step outside and stretch your legs, just be sure to return to work when your break time is over.