With COVID-19, or the coronavirus, disrupting our lives and businesses, many of us are now finding ourselves in uncharted territory -- working from home.
Fortunately, mobile technology and cloud-based software make the transition from the workplace to the home office something that can happen pretty easily in most cases. Sitting down to actually complete work is where things can get tricky.
Working from home effectively requires a mindset shift coupled with structure and having the right resources.
Here are 5 tips for when your residence becomes a satellite office for your employer:
1. A Time & Place
Set a routine and stick to it -- Without something of a daily regimen, it gets easy to slip into habits that are unproductive and full of distractions. Working from home doesn’t necessarily mean working whenever you want from home, most employers expect you to maintain your regularly scheduled office hours. Nor is it a time to slip into weekend mode.
- Wake up at your normal time on weekdays
- Dress for work.
- Set workday hours (this includes breaks) that are strictly for working. Tasks like washing the dishes, starting dinner, processing laundry can happen on your off hours.
- Set a time to stop work for the day
Setting a routine is critical if you’re a parent with kids at home. Remember: kids need structure to their days -- even the older ones. While it is challenging to work in the same place as your family, maintaining a schedule gives a sense of normalcy and allows everyone to accomplish what they need to.
Dedicate a space just for work -- For those with home offices, this is an easy one. Get in the mindset that aside from location, there’s no difference between your workspace at home and your desk back at the office.
Tip: Set up your home office to resemble your work office as closely as possible. This makes sitting down to actually complete work easier.
If you don’t have a home office, try to find a space -- or spaces -- at home where you’re relatively undisturbed. Key considerations include:
- Away from noise makers, such as a TV
- Out of high-traffic areas, like the kitchen
- A place where work-related materials won’t be disturbed when you step away
Tip: A good pair of headphones is a useful tool to allow you tune-out potential distractions around you.
At the same time, it’s important to keep your workspace separate from your living space and be able to step away from it at the end of the workday. Under normal circumstances, both facets of your life are not under one roof. Setting a healthy boundary between your workspace and the rest of your home allows you to better maintain that now important work-life/homelife balance.
2. Set Rules
This goes hand-in-hand with keeping a routine. Just because you’re now working from home doesn’t mean you’re available for everything that comes up. You also shouldn’t feel like you’re suddenly working in a noisy college dorm.
It’s OK to let the people you live with know there are things they can and can’t do during work hours, e.g. playing loud music. It’s also OK to let friends and family know that during work hours you’re working -- you probably won’t be able to answer a phone call to check-in.
Being in close quarters while working can test even the best of us. Having rules during the workday ensures that everyone in the same spaces feels respected, comfortable, and able to tackle their workloads.
3. The Right Tools
For many of us, the time has come and our your boss has already announced you’ll be working from home. Hopefully, you grabbed everything you could think of that you’ll need from your office. Laptop, charger, important paper files -- whatever will help you meet expectations and deliver. If not, see if you can make arrangements to find ways to get these materials.
In setting up your home office, some useful tools to help stay productive and in touch with your colleagues include:
- Video conferencing: Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts
- Intra-office communication software: Slack, Workplace by Facebook, Microsoft Teams
- Production software: Google’s G-Suite, Microsoft’s Office 365
- Team management software: Jira, Trello
4. Staying (Responsibly) Social
Self quarantining shouldn’t translate to completely cutting yourself off from the world. In fact, absolute isolation might be one of the worst things you can do. Ever see The Shining?
Many of the ways you communicate with clients or coworkers can easily be adapted to stay in touch with our friends and families. Video conferencing can be a great way to have a virtual lunch with a friend or your normal lunch crew. The age-old phone call -- or conference -- still works, too.
5. Staving Off Cabin Fever
Before diving into this one -- we strongly encourage social distancing.
Being cooped up inside all day can be draining. During your scheduled breaks, remember you are allowed to take breaks, get outside. Even a 10-minute jaunt around the block can help you clear your mind and allow you to refocus when you do get back into work. If going outside isn’t an option, consider a guided meditation in a room other than your workspace. There are countless free resources -- like the Calm app -- for these types of tools.
When choosing a solution to stave off cabin fever, consider some of the following tips:
- Don’t start a task that you know you can’t complete.
- Always try and do something that awakens a different part of the brain. If your job entails heavy analytical thinking, try a creative activity.
- Try to do something that makes you feel good, be that mentally or physically.
Staying the Course & Looking Ahead
Though working from home has its challenges -- especially when it’s for the long-term -- it can be done and have minimal disruption to your company’s day-to-day operation. Once you adjusted to the home office, you might find yourself being just as productive as ever.
While working from home, keep track of what worked and what didn’t. Your list might prove itself an invaluable tool should you find yourself working from the home office again.