While working from home certainly is not a new concept, it has become the new normal for many employees of companies forced to close their doors to minimize health risks of COVID-19 and comply with social distancing initiatives. According to a 2019 Gallup survey, 43% of Americans worked from home occasionally. While this data has grown exponentially over the last decade, there are still many employees that are sailing into unfamiliar waters and beginning to work from home. Maybe a month ago working from home sounded great, until your daycare provider closed and most trusted babysitter has a waitlist of parents seeking help. Here are some tips for you to cope with the changes, and keep up with the continued workload.
1.) Stick to your morning routine.
Whether that means rolling out of bed and giving your shirt the sniff-test, or showing and eating breakfast before starting your day, keep your usual morning routine. Setting an alarm to wake up at the usual time and getting ready will help you mentally prepare for the day, rather than fighting the temptation to jump back in bed for an extra hour or two.
2.) Plan your day.
Having a list of items you want to get through will help you stay on task and make the best use of your work time. Making sure to plan appropriately is important too. Are you a morning person? Planning to knock out that difficult or time-intensive task first while concentration is high would be the best way for you to plan. Do you need some help motivating yourself? Schedule a few smaller tasks right away to build your momentum and get you in the proper mindset to take on a more challenging project later in the day.
3.) Take breaks.
It is recommended to take a break every 90 minutes, so give yourself that break time to completely walk away from your workstation and think about something else, or nothing at all, for five minutes. This will help you keep concentration during blocks of work time.
4.) Create a home workstation.
Even if space is limited in your home, finding a place to set up a workstation is important. If you have a dedicated home office space that is great but for many, it may just be a dining or living room coffee table. Find a place where you can take phone calls without distractions and can set up your device with access to the internet, power, and can type comfortably. Nobody has time for a cramp in their neck.
5.) Set ‘ground rules’ for those at home with you.
For those without roommates, family or pets at home during the day, this tip may not apply. (But if you frequently chat with your house plants, please continue reading.) Everyone under the same roof during the day must understand and respect one another’s expectations to have a successful working from home experience. Remind them that just because you are physically at home does not mean you are available to them. Check-in with kiddos or take the dog for a walk during your break, then remind everyone that you are back in your ‘office’ when returning to your workstation. Wearing headphones or shutting the door to a room can help provide a more obvious indication that you should not be bothered.
6.) Keep a notepad handy.
In a perfect world, our focus could only be broken by the Kool-Aid man crashing into a wall yelling “oh yeah!” Realistically, working at home can remind us of all the things on our to-do list. Are you down to the last clean spoon? Is your laundry basket overflowing? Make a quick note to yourself and get back to what you are working on. Keeping little notes and reminders when thoughts pop in your head helps to prevent you from breaking concentration while working.
7.) Use tech resources to stay connected.
Transitioning from the daily social interaction with co-workers in the office to working from home can certainly cause us to feel disconnected. Make the most of collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to stay connected with your team - even if it’s to vent about your noisy neighbor mowing their lawn in March, your teammates will be happy to hear from you. Quick questions between cubes can easily be replaced with instant chat messages or video conferences; continuing to keep the communication open is essential to business functions and your morale.