These tips for working from home may help you be more productive, especially if you aren’t used to telecommuting.
Working from home isn’t everyone’s favorite. Some people do love the social atmosphere of the office; others need the structure. It can feel strange, exhilarating, or even scary to work from your kitchen table. Below are my five best tips for working from home during the national COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID-19 Crisis and the Workplace
As of today, March 17, 2020, almost the entire United States has issued a warning to stay at home and enact social distancing policies to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
What began as the new flu from the Wuhan area in China has now swept the globe, straining healthcare systems and making many sick.
Most companies in the United States have asked employees to work from home. Some reading this are shrugging; it’s nothing new. They’ve worked from home during previous disasters including Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy, for example, or like me, after 9/11. (I was in New York City on 9/11.)
But for those new to working from home, you may feel like you’re losing your mind without the structure of the typical workday. Where’s the commute? The line at Starbucks? Dropping your kids or your dogs off at daycare? It’s gone. Normalcy is gone!
I’ve worked from home for the past 13 years. And, although I don’t have children, I do have tips for working from home that will apply even if you do have kids. These tips will help you remain productive despite the lure of Netflix binges, the ever-present refrigerator, and everything else calling your name.
5 Tips for Working from Home
Tip 1: Establish a daily routine.
This is so important! Routine and structure are what people rely upon to get through their days. Even if you consider yourself a spontaneous person, your days do have a structure to them when you commute to a job outside of the home. Among my tips for working from home, finding your own personal schedule is of utmost importance.
Tip 2: Get dressed as if you are going to work.
Among my tips for working from home, this one might seem silly, but it works. Dress as if you are going to work for the day or at least going out of your home. Shower, dress in business casual or nice casual clothes, comb and fix your hair, put on jewelry and makeup if you wear it. You’re ready to be productive, greet the mailman, or hop onto a video call without a problem.
Tip 3: If you can, set “quiet hours.”
Quiet hours are the time slots in my day when I might ask my husband to look after the dog. These are the hours when I have to jump onto a conference or video call and I don’t want Zeke to start barking or jumping onto my lap (a 100-pound German shepherd leaping into the video conference can be distracting.) My spouse takes him outside and looks after him (he also works from home.)
If you have children and they are old enough to understand, enforce quiet time. Close the door to your office or the room you’re in; if you’re working from the kitchen table, put up a sign that says QUIET TIME and let them watch a movie or whatever with headphones on.
Tip 4: Take breaks.
When you’re new to working from home, it’s often all or nothing. You may be all work and no play or the opposite — you can’t focus on your work and just want to enjoy that book or movie.
Schedule blocks of time for yourself during the day. It’s okay to get up and walk around your house or apartment or step outside (keep to the social distancing requirements though!). Make a cup of tea or coffee. Rest your eyes.
It’s okay to take care of yourself and not be a slave to your computer.
Tip 5: Stay connected.
Working from home can be lonely. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I looked forward to my weekly choir practice session and church service. It was my time to be around people I liked in a place I love doing things I love. Now, however, I’m at home with my husband, dog, and seven cats. I work alone except for a handful of freelancers and right now, none of them are working on a project with me.
So what do I do? I stay connected with friends, former colleagues, and family. I make it a point to pick up the phone or Skype someone daily. It’s a great time to reach out and check on someone especially the elderly and vulnerable.
Make it a point to stay connected. Tips for working from home may include utilizing channels like Skype or Slack to drop quick notes to colleagues, video hours when you can all collaborate or just be there for each other, or phone calls.
Just because you must physically distance yourself from others doesn’t mean you need to be emotionally distant, too.
The Bottom Line: This Too Shall End
Just like you, I’m eager to know when this whole thing will end and the world will return to normal. None of us have a crystal ball, so any predictions you read, hear or see about when the “stay at home and don’t go into crowded places” rule is relaxed are just guesses.
If you’re working from home for the foreseeable future, it will soon feel normal. Not everyone will enjoy it. Some will yearn to return to their daily commute and the structure they once enjoyed. Some people love the socialization of an office; I’m one of them, actually, and often miss working with colleagues I know, like, and trust.
But in the long run, we don’t have a choice. To keep others healthy and safe, we must make concessions.
We Are Making Small Sacrifices for a Larger Goal
My dad was a World War II veteran, drafted at age 18 into the Navy. He spent his 19th birthday aboard a Navy communications vessel in the Pacific Ocean, far from his family and friends.
He never complained about the sacrifices he made during wartime and often looked back with pride at what he and the others had accomplished during that time of global crisis.
Someday, we’ll look back at the coronavirus outbreak with the same feeling of pride that my dad had for his war contributions. We’ll be happy that we contributed to the solution, not the problem. We stayed at home and became telecommuters. It’s not much of a sacrifice compared to blood, sweat, and toil of the Greatest Generation during wartime.
But it’s something, and it will save lives.
Written by Jeanne Grunert, President and Senior Consultant of Seven Oaks Consulting. Jeanne offers marketing and writing services to agencies, corporate marketing departments, and companies worldwide.