Switching from working in an office or at your business to working from home can be a harsh adjustment for some. Many people have found themselves doing just that in recent weeks due to the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.
Do you find yourself suddenly working from home and wondering how you can stay productive? While the list of Coronavirus cancellations shows no signs of slowing down, life goes on in other ways. Work for many Americans is business as usual, albeit in a slightly different setup.
Outside of pandemics, working from home is becoming increasingly more popular across the United States. The amount of people who work from home at least once a week has grown by 400% since 2010, and 99% of people report they’d like to work remotely at least part of the time for the rest of their careers. If you want to make the leap – or if you find yourself social-distancing due to the novel coronavirus, follow our seven tips to set yourself up for success from the start.
1. Establish a Morning Routine
When you work from home, it might be tempting to recoup your morning commute by hitting the snooze button. However, disruptions in your regular schedule can harm your productivity over time. Regardless of whether you’re telecommuting or actually commuting, make it a goal to maintain a morning routine to keep yourself on track.
Use the extra time in your day that otherwise would have been spent in the car on things like personal development, meditation, exercise, or anything else that will contribute to a more successful day. The key to productivity is consistency, so continue to wake up, shower, get dressed, and start work at the same time every day.
2. Create a Home Office Environment That Works for You
It may seem like a good idea to work from soft and comfortable locations. However, working in bed or on your couch damages productivity. It can also cause harm to your relationship with sleep and the ability to separate work from home.
Pick one spot where you can consistently work and setting it up the same way as your desk or cubicle. Creating a home office environment will help ramp up your productivity and ability to step away at the end of the day — even if it is just to walk three feet away to your living room.
3. Get Your Tech Together
Double-check that you have all the necessary pieces of technology to successfully work from home. This probably includes your laptop, charger, mouse, keyboard, etc. Don’t forget the software, too.
Privacy and security are often major concerns for teams that telecommute. Ensure that your home setup is configured to your company’s standards for online security. Ask your supervisor for a checklist of all the applications, VPN, and program logins you may need at home. Preparedness is important at the best of times, but especially during crises like a pandemic when you won’t want to run back to the office for something you forgot.
4. Limit Distractions
Distractions are abundant at home — both online and in-person. Your pets might be overjoyed to have you at home more now, but this can’t always translate to more playtime. It might also be tempting to fire up Netflix in the background while you work, but this might prove to be too distracting and prevent you from getting any real work done.
Limit distractions by removing them from your workplace. Out of sight, out of mind should be your goal. It also helps to set scheduled 15-minute breaks and a lunch recess on your calendar. When it’s time for a break, step away and take a minute to pet the dogs, read, stretch, and do whatever you need to give yourself a mental break. When break time is up, head back to your home office to refocus.
5. Keep the Kids Entertained
With an abundance of long-term school closures, you may find yourself working from home with a few new co-workers. Granted, your kids can’t help you get any work done, but you can keep them occupied with a few different things.
Build a plan for both education and entertainment by stocking up on books, puzzles, games, and streaming services. As much as you can, clearly communicate your needs and expectations to your partner, kids, and whoever else might be in your home. While you can’t expect toddlers to understand the separation of work and play, having a plan for how to keep them entertained while you work will help.
Also, cut yourself some slack as you and your family transition to an at-home office setup. Major changes will always come with bumps on the road!
6. Establish Clear Communications With Your Team
Just as you need to clearly communicate with your family, you should do the same with your colleagues. A culture of clear communication cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to remote work. Keep the channels open, whatever they may be. Slack, Zoom, Skype, and Google Chat are all great tools to check in with your team and supervisor.
It’s easy for directions and tone of voice to get lost in the world of emails and chat threads. Embrace video chat and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to avoid any misunderstandings with your co-workers.
If you think downloading the appropriate apps to your phone for work will help you stay connected, feel free to do so! But beware that making yourself available at all times can damage your work-life balance, which is hard enough to maintain when working from home. So do what feels best for yourself – and don’t be afraid to adjust or change things if they don’t work.
7. Stay Connected
It’s undeniable that the one thing you can’t replace while working from home is the social aspect of the office environment. It’s a lot harder to have casual water cooler chat when there is no water cooler. In fact, 19% of remote employees report loneliness as their biggest challenge.
To stay connected, make it a point to ask how they’re doing rather than jumping straight into work talk. You can also have video chat lunch dates with friends and colleagues to catch up on non-work related matters. Our marketing team even had a virtual happy hour to keep us connected while being sure that we’re all still safe at home.
While nobody can know with certainty how long companies will have their employees work remotely, it’s best to prepare for the long haul. As you transition to working from home, know that you’re contributing to fighting the spread of Coronavirus. Keep these tips in mind to set yourself up for success and keep your spirits up!