The global spread of COVID-19 is keeping people at home. And working from home too. Companies around the globe have rolled out mandatory remote work.
If you’re a newbie or WFH veteran, you’ll need to change some of your habits and routines to make working from home a success.
Everyone who works remotely has to figure out when to work, where to work, and how to create boundaries between work and personal life.
Treat it like a real job
Don’t stay in bed just because you can
There are also some timeless WFH tips to call upon. For example, just because you can lounge around in your pajamas doesn’t mean you actually should. Take a shower and get dressed. Treat it like a real job.
Instead of lying in bed with a laptop, try something more deliberate.
The fix could be something as simple as moving a nightstand into a corner far away from distractions, plopping down your computer and sitting in an upright chair, like you would at your office desk.
Set a schedule, and stick to it
Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many remote workers maintain a work-life balance. That said, one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, and sometimes you need to extend your day or start early to accommodate someone else’s time zone.
Automatic time-tracking apps, such as RescueTime, let you check in on whether you’re sticking to your schedule. They can also help you figure out what times of day you’re most productive versus when you slack off. You can use that information to your advantage by reserving your hours of high focus for your most important tasks.
Set a Morning Routine
A routine can be more powerful than a clock at helping you get started each day.
Believe it or not, your workday starts before you sit in your chair and lay hands on your computer. It starts with your rework routine, the things you do that set your mind in a working mode. It might be making a cup of coffee, returning home after a jog. It might be getting dressed So think about what is your morning routine that indicates you’re about to start work. What is the thing that tells you, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore?
Don’t skip the lunch break
Know your company’s policy on break times and take them. If you’re self-employed, give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. Don’t skip your lunch break and don’t short-change yourself during it. You can use an app, such as TimeOut for Mac and Smart Break for Windows, to lock yourself out of your computer for 60 minutes. This will help you imitate your usual work environment. And it will do wonders in setting your brain into working mood.
Set up a functional workspace
Stay inside of your work bubble
Not everyone has a designated home office, but it’s critical to have a private, quiet space for your work. But not everyone has a separate office in their home, and keeping two machines isn’t always realistic. Instead, dedicate a desk and some peripherals only for work use. For example, when your laptop is hooked up to the monitor and external keyboard, it’s work time. When it’s on your lap, that’s personal time. You may want to go as far as partitioning your hard drive and creating a separate user account for work.
Communicate with your boss and team regularly
Having a 10-minute call to kick off the day and wrap up the day can make you more productive.
The key to working from home is clear communication with your boss — and knowing exactly what’s expected of you. “Have really clear-set expectations for communications day to day,” advised Barbara Larson, a professor of management at Northeastern University in Boston who studies remote working. Having a 10-minute call to kick off the day and wrap up the day can make you more productive.
When you do communicate with your boss and the team from home, it helps if as much of it as possible can be “richer” communication that’s face-to-face and instant, Larson says: such as video calls, Skype or Zoom.
“Out of sight, out of mind can be a real problem for remote workers,” says Sara Sutton, CEO, and founder of FlexJobs, a remote job listing site. “The very best remote workers will reach out to coworkers and managers regularly” through a variety of tools.
Keep your spirits up
Remember that you are not alone
Last but not least keep a positive mindset. Make no mistake, these are stressful times. Negative headlines, worrying about sick or elderly loved ones and fighting the urge to go panic buying for toilet paper can all put answering work emails on the back burner. But the more effort you put into communicating with colleagues, the better chance you have of avoiding feelings of isolation, which can lead to depression.
As much face-to-face interaction online as possible through video calls, regular manager check-ins — especially to those employees who live alone and might feel more isolated — and regular meetings with no agenda, like grabbing coffee or a drink.
If you’re a manager, it’s on you to provide clear communication and it’s also crucial to keep up morale. “It’s easy to be stressed out or depressed these days,” Larson says. “If you’re a manager, acknowledge all the stress and difficulties of this situation. Your job is to be a cheerleader for the team.”