For those of us who’ve transitioned to working from home, the range of emotions that come with this change run the gamut. On one hand, we’re free from infuriating commutes, annoying gum-chewing co-workers, and shared office bathrooms. On the other, we’re faced with the fact that we’re working in a vacuum, stuck at home with tons of potential distractions, and our co-workers have now become our families and housemates. Thanks to COVID-19, our personal and professional lives have suddenly become uncomfortably intertwined.
Given all the possible pitfalls, how do you REALLY work from home? Below are some tips to help you successfully – and productively – work from home:
1. Minimize Distractions
Don’t situate yourself in a space where you know you’ll be distracted from your work. Whether that’s noise, family members, roommates, hobbies, or chores – ensure solid boundaries from these distractions. Make it a sanctuary. Ask your family, friends and loved ones to give you whatever kind of space you need to be productive.
2. Maintain a Regular Schedule and Routine
This is an important one, but can be tricky – if not impossible – if you have children or dependents at home.
For those without children or dependents: Don’t sleep in, don’t stay in your pajamas, and don’t work past quitting time. Pretend like you’re getting ready to go into your office. Wake up at the same time every morning and commit to your regular workday schedule. Take an hour lunch break. Take small breaks as you would at the office (grabbing coffee, chatting with a co-worker, etc.) End your workday at the same time that you would at your place of work. Basically, trick your brain and your body into thinking that it’s “business as usual.” This will help you maintain focus and a general sense of well-being, which can help you be more productive.
For those with children or dependents: Try to establish some kind of regular schedule within the household. Whenever possible, enlist the help of your partner and take turns watching the kids. Take a look at your priority list for the day and for the items that need your full attention. Schedule time to work on them while engaging your kids in activities that don’t require hands-on supervision. When you take breaks, spend time with your kids and let them know that there are times for play and times for work.
3. Start Your Workday with a To-do List
When you sit down with your first cup of coffee, write down a list of priorities for the day. Besides your own action items, this can also include calls to clients and vendors, or having a catch-up meeting with a team member. Before the clock strikes 5 p.m., what do you absolutely want to get finished?
4. Use a Time or Project Management Tool
Keeping deadlines and staying on task is crucial to successfully working at home. Most project management tools will let you set notifications and alarms for pending and overdue tasks, as well as provide you with a monthly calendar that allows you to see deadlines weeks and months out. Great examples of these are Trello, Monday, Teamwork, Asana, ToDoist, and Basecamp.
5. Check-in with Your Team Daily
When working remotely, it’s easy to focus solely on yourself and your workload. Quickly, you can find yourself completely out of touch with your team, company projects, and even new business. Touching base with your teammates is essential for keeping projects on-track and on-time, as well as making sure everyone is comfortable with their work and timelines. Daily check-ins with your team via conference calls or live chats help everyone stay accountable, motivated and on-task.
6. Don’t Be Afraid of Video Meetings
Video calls in particular are a great way to connect on a more personal level. Having face-to-face interactions not only helps with team building, it can also foster a sense of community during a time when people are feeling especially isolated. There are several apps you can use to facilitate this kind of meeting, such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Join.me, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams.
7. Save Social Media and News for Later
Social media is a double-sided coin. It can be a great way to connect with others and the community, especially now. But it can also be a huge distraction from your work life. The news can be just as distracting, and at times emotionally taxing. If you’re the type of person who is especially susceptible to digital distraction, try limiting yourself to check-ins during what would have been the time spent for your commute to the office, during your lunch hour, or after you’ve stopped working for the day. You’ll still get the interaction, but not at the expense of work quality.
8. Avoid Household Chores
The temptation to finish that last load of laundry, dust the living room, or make a small batch of cookies is strong, but you should try to resist – no matter how good you think you are at multi-tasking. It’s one thing to take a quick break, and quite another to completely shift your thinking and energy to a whole new project. In most cases, you just wind up making both projects take longer. Give your chores and your work the full attention they deserve – separately.
9. Get Out of the House
While a lot of us have been mandated to shelter in place and practice social distancing, getting out of the house even for a few minutes can be incredibly re-energizing. Use your lunch break to take a walk in a nearby park or even just around your neighborhood. This can be an especially rewarding activity for those with children at home. Physically removing yourself from your computer screen is really the name of the game here. When we’re working in isolation, it’s very easy to chug through the workday non-stop. For your sanity, and your family or housemates’ sanity, try getting out of the house for a bit.
10. Shut. It. Down.
This was touched on before but it’s important enough to mention it twice. When it’s quitting time, it’s quitting time. You respect your boss and your co-workers’ time, so you should in turn respect your own. Since you don’t have a commute anymore, it’s very easy to keep working well into the night. Don’t fall for it. Maintaining a firm stop time helps foster a healthy routine, both for yourself and for your family. Even if you’re single, it’s still important to maintain this sort of schedule. When you work late, you tend to go bed later, which in turn tempts you to sleep in a little late the next day, which starts to eat away at your daily routine. Respect your mental and physical health and make quitting time a priority.