Our March 2020 blog examines some of the essentials of working from home. Working remotely had already been a popular subject in business publications. Currently, due to the COVID-19/novel coronavirus pandemic, working from home has taken on a more vital purpose for many. For the uninitiated, getting used to working in your home environs can take some time to perfect. With a little preparation, patience and a sense of humor, you can create a place for productivity. Everyone varies in preference when it comes to figuring out where and when to work, and with creating boundaries with their personal and work lives.
First and foremost, make sure that your technology is in order. It may seem obvious, but be sure to have your laptop and charger when you leave the office, or have a computer at home to set up shop. Make sure that you have the software your team will use for remote work, and familiarize yourself with it before needing to use it. Also, be sure that you have the bandwidth necessary with your internet service provider to do video conferencing or remote teaching – these activities typically require a strong connection to carry out. If you’re unsure, shut down unneeded programs on your computer, and ask others at home not to hog that internet connection with online streaming activities or gaming while you need it. Staggering video meetings with family members if they have online work obligations is an aspect to con- sider as well.
Your normal workday structure is typically influenced by others, that structure will be lacking with remote work. Plan a regular schedule ahead of time and stick to it as best as possible to help maintain your productivity. Don’t get discouraged if your first try doesn’t work, no one is an expert on their first attempt. What’s important is to develop a routine at whatever time of day is the most productive for you, which will get you to your workspace to get started and avoid dis- tractions. Productive times of day vary for everyone, as some are up early, while others excel in the evening. Other possible considerations for optimal work time are to confer with coworkers that may be in different time zones, or coordinating the schedules of those in your home life. While schools are out and many parents are dealing with kids remote learning at the same time as work, making a schedule can be a godsend. Consider planning your day with Google Calendar as a useful option to help with developing structural habits.
With whatever time of day works best for your workday to begin, get up, get cleaned up, put some comfortable clothes on – pajamas may work for some, not so much for others – and have some coffee. You likely have a pretty good idea of what you need to get into a professional mindset and ready for the day mentally and physically. These things affect the quality of your work.
Take breaks and eat lunch where you get away from your computer screen and phone for a few minutes, and take them in their entirety to help prevent burn out. Set an alarm or an onscreen timer for these breaks, because, for some, the propensity to plow through until tasks are completed is tempting. There are several apps out there that can help, such as TimeOut for Mac and Smart Break for Windows, to block access online for a set amount of time so you can give your brain a rest. Then get up and move around – stretch, go outside or play with your dog, because sitting for too long isn’t good for your overall health.
Developing a place at home where you can work has several facets that can help the transition go more smoothly. Designate a space solely to do your work where you feel comfortable. Not everyone is tidy, but an organized area, no matter how big or small, is immensely helpful. Be sure to have a spot where you have good lighting, whether it’s from sunlight or a lamp. Have water on hand to stay hydrated as it will aid with your overall mood and energy throughout the day.
Have a conversation with those at home about respecting your space while you are working. Let them know that there will be times where distractions need to be kept to a minimum and quiet is essential to do work or to participate in a video call. Be clear about the time you will need in the “office.” Have a signal that lets them know, for example, go into a separate room or wear earphones to let them know that you need time to work, as uninterrupted as possible. A sign on the door – red to stay out and green for available – is an easy way to help those in your house know when not to come in. Keep in mind that it’s also important to set a definitive time to end your day. When you work from home, the workday tends to bleed into your personal life, so ending the day at a particular time can help maintain the work-life balance.
Whether it is your regular gig, or you have to because of the pandemic, working from home provides flexibility. With a small amount of planning on your workspace, schedule, and boundaries, it can be a gratifying experience. You can keep the life and work equation in sync, even in these highly unusual times.