During the past few months, as the world continues to fight against the pandemic COVID-19, more and more companies have switched to working from home. In fact, in many countries, the government has made it compulsory for firms to allow their employees to work remotely. While the initiative of self-quarantine and social distancing is necessary, for those of us who are not used to working from home, this can be quite a challenge.
This is especially true if you don’t have a designated work station at your home. How does one stay productive? How to stay on top of things when a thousand things are distracting you from working? Luckily, this article has the answers to all such questions.
If you are new to the concept of working from home, it will be slightly time-consuming to adjust to it. However, making even the slightest of adjustments can go a long way.
So without any further ado, here are ten useful tips on working from home during COVID-19:
1. Confine Your Work Space
The best way to work from home is to dedicate a separate work area for yourself. By doing so you can establish that you have to be in your “work zone” whenever sitting in this area. As a result, your work will not intrude with other parts of your house and vice versa. Keep this area neat, organized and away from all distractions – which means not reaching for your phone every 5 minutes. Confining your workspace into one particular room will slowly get your mind accustomed to working when in that area. As a result, you will be way more productive.
Never mix up your rest and work areas. Hence, avoid sitting in front of the TV and checking your emails or working in your bed or chilling on your couch. It is always recommended to sit at a desk. If you don’t have a separate room to make it your work area, try finding the minimally invasive corner of another room and set it up there. But it must be an area where you can find solitude and concentrate easily.
2. Stick To A Schedule/Routine
Since COVID-19 has led everyone to work remotely, many managers are concerned whether their employees will be as productive from home as they might be at the office. The best way to tackle such a situation is to stick to your schedule or daily routine. If you are used to waking up at 6 am then wake up at 6 am. Find time to do everything as you normally would. Plan out your day, task by task.
Avoid lazing around in your bed. If you have to start working at 9, do not wake up at 8:55 and open your laptop in bed and start working. Many people tend to do that since they don’t have to commute to work. So they don’t care to wake up early. Waking up on time and planning your day will surely give you a productive start.
3. Focus On Your Goals
Another thing to remember while working from home is to not lose focus of your goals. Yes, the world is fighting against a pandemic, but you are still responsible for delivering what you promised. Do not hesitate to reach out to your manager and ask for resources that you might need. Not only will it be the responsible thing to do, but it will also set a great example for others to follow through.
Divide your day into timely slots and write down your goals in a schedule. Break down your big goals into smaller everyday tasks. Set a time limit for each task to keep yourself productive and efficient. If you hit a slump, take some time off or migrate that task to the next day.
Taking responsibility and ownership of your work is necessary for each of us to make sure our work is not affected by these unusual circumstances. It will give your management a boost of confidence, that their employees are coming through and being responsible.
4. Stay Connected
Since your entire team will be working from home, communication might not be as easy as working in the same office space. However, thanks to the advancements in technology, you can always stay connected with your team regardless of where you all are working. It is easy to get locked away in a bubble of your own, so keep in touch with your teammates through slack or hangouts or any other instant messaging software of your choice. You must ensure as a team that each one of you is on the same page and updated about everything.
Also, don’t forget to check with your manager about any changes or updates in your work. Keep them informed about everything you are doing so that they are also aware of the status of your tasks and goals. A good way to keep everyone informed is to maintain daily tracking spreadsheets. This way, each of the members can update their daily tasks at the start of their day and end the day with the current status of each task.
5. Replicate Your Office Setup
If you are someone who has a hard time working from home, then this is a helpful tip for you. Try to replicate your office environment or office setup at your home workspace. What this means is, you will be essentially creating a setup that works for you at home as well to give a sense of similarity to your work pattern or environment.
For instance, if you are used to working with two monitors, then try to accommodate the same at your home as well. This is one of the reasons why setting up a desk in your work area is very important. There is no way you will be as productive working from a couch as you will be at a desk.
Another example is dressing up for work. If staying in your PJs is making you sleepy and distracted, change your outfit! Dress up just like you would when going to work. There is no rule which says you cannot put in an effort in your outfits while staying at home.
6. Define Your Work Hours
Just like defining your workspace at home, you should define your work hours as well. It is better to stick to your regular schedule to make the transition – when you go back to work – much easier. Also, if your work is more of a collaborative nature, keep your work hours the same as the rest of your team so that you all are available at the same time and can work remotely together.
Also, many people tend to work for longer hours thinking they need to work extra since they are working from home. This cannot be farther from the truth. While staying productive is a necessity regardless of where you work, working extra long is not the answer to productivity.
You can be productive in your regular work hours and check off every item in your to-do list by the end of the day. On the other hand, if you lack productivity then even if you sit for long hours there is no guarantee that you will get your work done. Instead, you will wear yourself down. So make sure you work for sufficient time and then put your work away to recharge, get a good night’s sleep and get back at it the next day.
7. Work-Life Boundaries
When you are working from home, it is easy to diminish the work-life boundaries and take on too much on your plate. You want to do every chore at home and every task at work. This is the fastest way to burn out your fuel. Learn to define your work-life boundaries and realize when you have had enough. There is no harm in saying no every once in a while. It is better to say no instead of saying yes to everything and then failing to deliver.
Discuss your workload with your partner or coworkers and negotiate terms to execute it better. If you do not define your work-life boundaries, you will risk getting caught up in chaos which can be very overwhelming. Try to come up with a system with your partner. If you both are working from home, find flexible work hours and divide the household chores accordingly.
8. Take Breaks
Just like if you were working at an office, remember to take frequent breaks. When you are at your workplace, a break can be a colleague stopping by or a visit to the coffee machine. But when you are working from home, it is easy to lose track of time and forget to take a break. Set up an alarm for regular breaks for meals, coffee, little non-work related tasks, or simply to get up from your seat and walk around for a bit.
Taking regular breaks is important for your mental health as it keeps the stress from building up. Some people prefer to take less but long breaks while others prefer to take smaller, more frequent breaks. There is no particular rule to it, just do what works best for you.
If taking some time off to have a cup of tea near your window helps you in recharging, then go for it. If reading a book for fifteen minutes takes your mind off of things, do it! Whatever helps you stay productive and calm at work, you should practice that more frequently.
9. Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
It is okay to aim for big things and highly productive days. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it right the first time. Productivity is a lifestyle and cannot be on a hundred percent mark on your first day. Give yourself some time to figure out what works best for you. Make a schedule accordingly and divide your goals into achievable tasks. Give your brain some time to adjust to working in a different surrounding.
If you don’t hit the mark on your first go, do not be disheartened. Take some time and get back on it the next day. If you feel confused and stressed about working alone, just remember that you are not alone. Nobody is expecting you to achieve your goals in one day. You are allowed time to figure out the methods and work environment that works for you.
So don’t be too hard on yourself or feel discouraged. Seek help from your colleagues or manager when things don’t seem to go the right way. It might not be easy to ask for help, but it is better to ask for help and come through instead of failing to deliver what you promised. You are getting paid when you work from home, so doing your tasks and achieving your goals is a responsibility that you have to take.
10. Keep Your Spirits High
It is understandable that working during these tough times can reduce your morale and induce stress. It is easy to lose track of everything else and feel overwhelmed about the pandemic hitting the whole world. As a manager, you can help your team’s spirit stay up. Check-in with them frequently, especially the ones who are self-isolating and living alone.
Getting in touch with your friends and colleagues also helps. Video calls are a great way to get in touch and talk it out. It doesn’t always have to be work-related talk. And if video calling is not your thing, then you can audio call or simply text a person you miss. Try to not lose a sense of reality in the middle of all of this.
You can set up some ideal work situations. For instance, you and your friend can take a break at the same time and catch up on a video call over a cup of coffee. You need people around to keep yourself in touch with everything and not let your anxiety take over. Looking after your mental health is as important as your physical health.