As governments respond to the threat from coronavirus (or COVID-19), nearly a third of the world’s population has been placed under lockdown.
To survive in the coming months, many companies are depending on their employees to work remotely. For people used to having an office to go to, however, this can be jarring transition to make.
Here are five tips on how to work effectively from home:
5 working from home tips
1. Have dedicated work times and places
As soon as you step into your office you know it’s time to go into work mode, but when you’re working from home it can be hard to flip the switch.
Try to schedule time periods where you are ‘at work’ and to do your work in specific places: for example, if you’re on your laptop at the dining room table, you’re at work. If you’re sitting with it on the couch, that’s your time for browsing or gaming.
If you’re applying for business school and studying for the GMAT or GRE, or you’re a student pursuing an MBA or other degree, try to assign your studies dedicated periods that are separate from your time at your job.
Communicate your working arrangements and schedule to your family and ask them to respect them. It’s not a bad idea to schedule your ‘off’ time too: it may be easier for your child to leave you alone until lunchtime than it would be if they don’t know when they will see you.
Depending on your deadlines, you might be able to schedule playtimes or extended mealtimes you can spend with your child and give yourself until later in the evening to get your work done. On that subject…
2. Accept that you may be juggling your responsibilities
It may be unrealistic to expect eight hours of uninterrupted productivity from yourself, especially if you’re sharing your space with other people. You may also find yourself juggling your work with responsibilities that didn’t overlap before, such as housework and childcare.
Don’t get hung up on the way you usually do things. Yes, it may be better to knuckle down and complete a task in one sitting, but it will still get done if you break it up into sections so you can check on the kids. Adapt according to what works for you now, and don’t beat yourself up about the little things.
3. Keep in touch
In isolation it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, so make an effort to maintain contact with your co-workers. Not only will this help you keep track of what needs to be done and to co-ordinate priorities, but a reminder of who’s relying on you can be a big motivation boost.
Try to communicate via video calls rather than text, and at least once a week try to hold a team meeting. A conversation with some familiar faces will help you feel connected in a time of isolation.
Plus, knowing that your boss is keeping an eye on you will give you a reason to get out of your pyjamas!
4. Take breaks
Don’t fall into the trap of feeling that, now that you’re working from home, you need to work extra hard to prove you’re not slacking off. Even at the office, a coffee break now and then improves your productivity. Your work will speak for itself.
If you’re worried that once you sit down on the couch you’ll stay there, try to schedule your break to end when you have to return for meeting or task. Alternatively, set an alarm and leave it at your workspace—that way you have to go back to turn it off, and once you’re there you might as well get back to work.
5. At the end of the workday, stop working.
It sounds obvious but again it’s psychological: it can be hard to leave your work in the office when there’s no office to leave. Don’t sit in front of the TV feeling guilty that you aren’t putting the final touches to that report. If it can wait for tomorrow, let it.
To signify to yourself that your day is over change clothes and maybe take a shower. Take some “me time” or strike up a conversation, whether face-to-face with your spouse, child or roommate or with a friend or relative over the phone or video-call.
Above all, remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t burn yourself out trying to “just get it done” as quickly as possible. You have the time to develop strategies that will work for you: take it.
Take care of your mental health
Don’t underestimate the mental toll this situation can take on you: not only are you facing the stress of a global pandemic, but it’s been proven that isolation can take a serious toll on the human mind.
The USA’s Center for Disease Control recommends the following methods of self-care:
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.