7 Essential Tips for Working From Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic
This might be the first time you’ve ever worked from home, or at least the first time you’ve had to do it for several days, weeks (hopefully no longer)
These tips will help you make sure that you’re successful, both at getting your work done and at maintaining your mental well-being:
It might seem like a simple tip, but it’s a crucial one.
It reminds you that you’ve got a routine to follow and work to do, just like normal.
So, don’t wear your pyjamas all day. And have a shower, brush your teeth, etc
Designate a Workspace or Home Office
Try, as much as possible, even if you only live in a flat share, to create an area that is just for work and as separate from your non-work life as possible.
Try to make your workspace comfortable with a chair you can sit in for eight hours a day and a few decorations. Find an area with good natural lighting if at all possible. Even if you don’t usually spend a lot of time outdoors, losing out on the time you spend outdoors during your commute can start to weigh on you quickly, and it will only happen faster if you don’t have natural light coming in.
Entering your workspace will help you turn “on” at the beginning of the day and get down to work. On the flipside, leaving your workspace will also help you turn “off” at the end of the day and fully disengage. That’s why it’s also important not to spread yourself across your home—while it might seem great to be able to move from desk to couch to bed, if you let your laptop creep into your downtime space, it makes it harder to keep your work separate from your home life.
If you’re working at a table you need to use outside of work or a room you spend a lot of time in, pack up your work each evening to make the end of your day decisive. When I worked remotely in my last job, I was working on my personal computer, so I’d make sure to close all the tabs and programs related to my job as soon as I was done for the day. The key here is to do whatever you need to do to “leave” your workspace.
Keep Clearly Defined Working Hours
Just as you designate and separate your physical workspace, you should be clear about when you’re working and when you’re not. You’ll get your best work done and be most ready to transition back to the office if you stick with your regular hours. Plus, if your role is collaborative, being on the same schedule as your colleagues makes everything much easier.
If you live with other people, this separation is even more critical. Communicate with the people you live with to establish boundaries so you can cut down on distractions during the workday—and then disconnect and give the people you care about your full attention. Having a separate time and space to work will allow you to be more present in your home life.
Build Transitions Into (and Out of) Work
Your morning commute not only gets you to work—from one physical location to another—but it also gives your brain time to prepare for work. Just because you’re not traveling doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carve out equivalent routines to help you ease into your workday.
Maybe you usually read or listen to music on your commute. You can do that at home. Or maybe you can spend some time with a pet or loved one. You can even add in a workout (preferably at home because of the new coronavirus, but see what is being recommended where you live) or spend some time on a hobby (again, make sure it’s appropriate given the health recommendations where you are).
Give yourself something that will signal the end of work and serve as a buffer. When I worked from home, I made it a habit to take my dog for a long walk as soon as I was done for the day. It helped me decompress with something physical and fun, and the habit was self-enforcing since my dog would lie in front of the door when it was time to go or would come looking for me if I was taking too long.
Don’t Get Too Sucked in by the News—or Anything Else
Right now, one of the biggest distractions is the news. And if you’re working remotely because of the new coronavirus, checking in on COVID-19 updates is going to be at the front of your mind. It’s good to stay informed, of course, but it’s also easy to scroll yourself into an anxious mess.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
If you don’t usually work from home, chances are there will be some bumps in the road if you have to suddenly go fully remote. The key to steering through these bumps is communication—especially with your manager and direct reports. Either before you make the switch or as soon as you know it’s happening, come up with a plan that lays out expectations for how often you should check in and how you’ll convey any changes or new assignments to one another. Do the same with anyone you usually work collaboratively with throughout the day.
And you don’t have to stick with only text-based communication. Do not only use email if you would normally have spoken to a colleague face-to-face while in the office.
Don’t Forget to Socialize
When the whole office suddenly starts working from home, you’re cutting off a lot of the casual social interactions you’re used to having throughout the day that help you feel less lonely and break up the monotony of work.
Combat this by talking with your colleagues throughout the day through WeChat, calls, text, etc.. If you usually ask your colleagues about their weekends, keep that up. If you’d usually comment to them about a specific topic, reach out. These little interactions go a long way.
If you usually spend time, lunch for example, with a particular colleague, keep that going by taking a video break at the same time as them.
You can also schedule morning video call kickoffs with your whole team so you make space for that first-getting-into-work small talk, or carve out time for other check-ins throughout the day.
Because this situation is unusual for all of us and many of us may be anxious or afraid, it could also help just to check how your colleagues are doing, that they’re not being too badly affected by the situation and news and are handling everything okay.
We need to stay connected with each other and help each other as much as we can.
Adapted from an article by Regina Borsellino of themuse.com