Covid-19 has led to many changes in our day-to-day lives, both personally and professionally. Many people have dreamed about how great it would be to work from home. Having it suddenly thrust upon them, the reality is setting in for a lot of those same people that it is more difficult to work from home productively and happily than they ever imagined. To help, here are a few tips to keep yourself accountable and productive while working from home.
I know. Spending the day in your pajamas sounds really appealing, and if you do not have to get on any online meetings with webcams, who would know, right? Veterans of the at-home work day will tell you that the days when they gave in to the temptation of staying in their pajamas were days when work got off to a slower start and they were less productive.
When you work at an office, store, warehouse, or any other place of work there are things that you do that tell your brain it is time to prepare for the work day. Taking a shower, getting dressed, grabbing a coffee, and driving to work are all examples of these “triggers” in our brain.
Obviously, you are no longer driving to work, but the act of getting dressed can be a signal to your brain that the work day is starting. You do not need to dress as formally as you might on a normal work day, but this simple act helps to mentally set an important divide between your work day at home and your time off at home.
Completing other simple tasks that relate to your appearance are a good idea. Brush your teeth, take a shower, do your hair, and put on makeup. Perform the same task you would normally do before going into work. It is not necessary to put in the same level of effort that you might have been putting into how you look before going to work, but taking care of your appearance helps to feel like you are taking care of yourself.
Create A Designated Workspace
Another important thing to do is have a designated work area at home. If previously commuted to work, the divide between your work and home life has been physical. That division can erode and become blurred when you are working from home.
Having a designated workspace can help to create that separation between work life and home life. Having a room all to yourself is ideal, but not practical for everyone.
If your own room is not an option, turn a part of another room into your workspace. No longer having a commute to and from work means you lose out on time you previously spent outside on your commute. Picking an area of your home that has lots of natural light can help make up for this.
Kitchen tables and islands, which tend to be places people gather around at home, should not be your first choice and usually will lead to distractions. Sitting at the kitchen table or on a couch in front of the TV will make it harder to get your work day started and to keep it going throughout the day.
Have Defined Work Hours
Again, your physical division between work and home is no longer there. Instead, you need to try to artificially create that division as much as possible. It is important to have hours designated for when you are on the clock at work and when your work day is done.
When it is done, shut it down. If there are work-related open tabs in your browser, close them or even shutdown the computer if you only use it for work. If you let yourself continue to dwell on work and work related tasks, you start to feel like you are always working and like you are putting in more hours now than you ever did when you “went to work”.
If you have roommates or a family at home, it is important for you to explain to them when you are working and when you are not. If there are children at home, this is even more important. As much as possible try to make everyone understand the difference between something that really requires your attention right now and something that can wait until you are done with work for the day.
When work is finished, completely disconnect from work and give your family all the attention they deserve.
Most people who work from home would say that distractions are the number one problem they face. Everything that you would normally like to be doing after you get home from work is right there in front of you.
Be realistic. It is going to be impossible to completely eliminate all distractions from your day.
When you were previously going to a place of work, you probably took a few 5 or 10-minute breaks. That is fine to do at home too. In fact, you should take frequent breaks and get up and walk around no matter where you are working from.
By all means, take advantage of the fact that you are home. Do you want to take a break and throw a load of laundry in the washing machine? Go for it. Want to unload the dishwasher? No problem.
What you need to be wary of is the things that potentially can lead you into something that turns into a much bigger project than you are anticipating.
You know that kitchen sink that has occasionally had a slow drip for the past 6 months? You have tolerated it for 6 months. While you are in the middle of your at home work day is not the time to start investigating it.
Be Social In The Age Of Social Distancing
One of the biggest adjustments people are facing in suddenly working from home is missing out on a lot of social interactions that they have become accustomed to throughout their day. Those interactions may have seemed rather ordinary in the past, but they do help us to feel less lonely and certainly break up the work day.
Working from home does not mean you have to drop your work social life. Many companies today are using tools such as Zoom or Slack for communication. You can also utilize these tools to interact with your co-workers the same way you normally might have.
Did you find yourself talking to a specific co-worker on Mondays about the previous night’s The Walking Dead episode? Schedule a 5-minute Zoom call to chat or shoot them a private message on Slack.
Of course, always follow whatever guidelines your employer has laid out for everyone to follow in using work related devices and software.
Many managers are gathering their teams on a group call each morning to get the day started. If your team is not doing this, suggest it to your manager or if you are the manager make it happen. Seeing everyone that you normally would see at work for a few minutes to talk and catchup can really help to not feel so isolated working from home.
Working from home is likely going to continue for at least a few more weeks, and potentially much longer than that, for most people. These tips can help you to adjust to this new normal.