Best Tips for Working From Home Effectively During the COVID Pandemic
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, more people are working from home than ever before. If you’re a work-from-home newbie, you’ve already noticed the transition isn’t as easy as others make it seem. Especially for all the working parents when you add virtual learning into the mix!
With this new lifestyle, you will definitely need to change some of your habits and routines in order to make working from home successful. Rest assured, you’re not alone as there have been a slew of articles written on this very topic in the last few months. So, instead of overwhelming you with an extremely long ‘how-to’, here are a few basic tips that I’ve been sharing with my clients to get you started on this new virtual journey.
Establish a Dedicated Workspace
Did you notice that I used the term ‘workspace’ instead of ‘office’? That’s because not everyone has a separate office or vacant room in their home. Whether you’re in a single family home or a 1 BR apartment – a desk and a few peripherals, dedicated for work use only, is all you need. Make sure you have a reliable pair of earbuds and good lighting to conduct virtual meetings with clients and colleagues. If you’re employed by an organization that supports your work-from-home set up, be sure to request the equipment you need to comfortably get the job done. Many organizations that are accustomed to remote employees often have a budget for home office equipment or have offered a stipend during the pandemic.
Another good rule of thumb is to set boundaries to distinguish work from personal time. For example, when you’re at your desk, it’s time to work. When you’re on the sofa with your laptop, that’s personal time.
If you have other people in your home, be sure to set some ground rules for when you’re working. Everyone should know what they can and cannot do while you’re working. Also, you may want to discuss how the responsibility of errands, pet care, daily chores, and other household maintenance will be handled and shared. Often times it can easily be assumed that you’ll have the bandwidth to handle some of these tasks since working at home, but that won’t always be the case. Trying to take everything on just because your home can be extremely overwhelming and may cause your productivity to suffer. The same goes for boundaries on when you won’t be working. Working from home can sometimes lead to feeling like you are constantly connected. Even though you aren’t physically going to and leaving from work, it’s still important to find balance.
Establish a Morning Routine
Since a morning commute doesn’t really exist for most folks these days, you’ll need to find another way to mentally prepare yourself for the workday. Maybe a morning jog? Or meditation, perhaps? It could be something as simple as actually taking the time to savor a fresh cup of coffee before you start reviewing your to-do list. Now, some still prefer to jump right in as soon as they wake-up and that’s ok. However, for others, a routine can be more stimulating than an alarm clock to help get you going each day. The best part is having the option to choose what works best for you!
Maintain Regular Hours
You will need to establish clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it day. It is best to set a schedule and stick to you it…at least most of the time. That said, one of the benefits of working from home is flexibility and sometimes you need to start earlier or even extend your day to accommodate clients and colleagues in different time zones. In the event that you do, just wrap up a little earlier or start a little later the next morning to compensate.
As you get nestled into your workflow, don’t forget to take breaks. Breaks are a good way to avoid daily burn-out. Give yourself 5-10 minutes breaks between meetings to get up from your desk. Stretch, walk around, get some water or re-coffee. Even if it’s just for a mental break or to give your eyes a rest from the monitor. Now, we’ve all had days of back-to-back meetings where you don’t even have time for 10 minutes. It happens. So, when it does, make sure you schedule time to take a full lunch break to refuel and re-focus. Remember to always balance productivity with self-care.
Connect with Your Colleagues
Transitioning from the office to working from home full-time can sometimes create feelings of loneliness, disconnect and isolation. The good news is, there are several ways to overcome and even avoid these common problems associated with remote work life. Companies with a remote work culture usually offer ways to socialize, such as chat channels, virtual happy hours, and virtual coffee to name a few. The main way people socialize at work when they are working from home is via business messaging/video platforms, such as Slack, Skype or Microsoft Teams. Interacting with your team via video chat can make a huge difference. It really does simulate someone walking up to your desk within a traditional office environment.
It also helps to have a work buddy. This would be a colleague you can ping during your break to see if they’re available for a quick, non-work-related chat or maybe a virtual lunch.
Not only do you want to connect on a social level, but you want to remain “in-the-loop” as to what’s happening in the organization. Attend all meetings (virtual or phone) on time and remain engaged throughout the discussion. This includes virtual 1:1’s with your manager and/or direct reports. You should also consider attending optional meetings when your schedule permits.
Get Outside of the Home Once a Day
Yep, leave the house – to the extent that its allowed where you are during the pandemic. Take time to temporarily change your surroundings, provided you can maintain social distancing of course. Fresh air and natural light work wonders. Take a walk. Run an errand. Do some gardening. Or just sit outside and relax – far away from your desk!
Enjoy Your Perks
Since you’re already home, you can get head start on things that would normally have to wait until arrived home from the office. Since you have extra time to prepare dinner, why don’t you throw in a home-made dessert? Get a jump start on the laundry so you won’t have to do it over the weekend. See what I’m saying? Working from home comes with many unique perks. Do yourself a well-deserved favor and take advantage of them.
So, there you have it. The most basic factors to consider when working from home. As remote work is rapidly becoming our “new normal” I’m certain the list of tips, tricks and best practices will continue to grow. However, you’ll find that making the minor adjustments to your habits will nicely accommodate a remote work lifestyle by helping you stay productive and maintain a balance specific to you. Start small and work your way up. A little can go a long way.