Like many professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been working from home in order to maintain social distancing. Shifting from working with others in an office setting to working at home remotely is a big change. I prefer to communicate with coworkers in person: Whether walking over to a fellow employee’s office to talk about a project or having an impromptu meeting in the hallway to review creative pieces, physical interaction is a regular part of my job. And, honestly, it also is a more effective way of communicating not only because it is more immediate than email, but there is also less chance of miscommunication. With personal interaction, you get so much more input/feedback than via email. But with the current crisis, that is no longer an option. So how can we maintain our productivity when we are all quarantined at home? Here are some easy tips to make working remotely feel seamless.
Create a separate workspace
There needs to be a clear line between home and work. To do this, find a space dedicated to work. A separate office or room would be ideal. If not, set aside one area of the house just for work. Preferable a dining room table or kitchen table. It’s tempting to work from the couch or bed. Try not to do that. A separate workspace allows your mind to be in “work mode.” Leave places you relax for when you are in “home mode.”
Maintain the same schedule
It’s important to keep your same routine. Start work the same time every day. Get dressed, shower, eat breakfast. Whatever your morning routine is, continue to do it. It’s tempting to stay in pajamas since you are not going anywhere. But doing the same tasks you normally do will make you feel mentally ready to work, instead of just in limbo around the house…not to mention when your teammates, or worse, the client wants to switch on video during that web meeting!
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Working from home can feel isolating. Make sure you are talking with coworkers and clients. We are social creatures and crave human interaction. Emails are fine but there is nothing like hearing someone’s voice. There are many ways to stay in contact. Conference calls through Skype or GoToMeeting with screen sharing help multiple people review projects. Video or phone chats through Slack, Google Hangouts or Zoom allows for quick conversations to talk through daily tasks. Maintaining that communication will be helpful for your productivity as well as your sanity.
It’s easy to be in the groove on emails or a project and suddenly realize, it’s almost the end of the day! Breaks are important and it’s ok to take them occasionally. They are a mental refresh and allow us to recharge. Take your lunch and take it away from the computer. Go to a different part of the house, go outside or take a walk. Stepping away from your work for a short period of time allows you to be more productive when you come back.
Speaking of walking, don’t forget the importance of exercise. Many of us are accustomed to running around the office all day. Well, now you are stuck in a chair in your home office (or in my case, my kitchen table). That’s not good for your health. Be aware of sitting for too long. Get up, stretch, move around, go for a run or take an exercise class. Many studios have moved their classes online. So, whether you like to spin or do yoga, there are numerous virtual options now. Exercise helps you both physically and mentally. And in this stressful time, it’s essential.
Not getting distracted is easier said than done. With everyone working remotely and schools closed, your home is full of people. How do you make sure they don’t become a distraction? Set up ground rules with your family or roommates. Talk through how best to live and work together. Every household is different and will have a different strategy. But establishing rules will keep everyone on task. People aren’t the only distractions. There is plenty around the house that can derail your productivity. Try to keep the TV, radio, music or other potential distractions to a minimum wherever possible. But at the same time, accept the fact that some distractions are simply unavoidable. Kids, deliveries, dogs barking, etc. Recognize that we are all dealing with the same challenges and try to roll with the inevitable distractions that may pop up.
It’s very easy to keep working into the evening when you are at home. But there needs to be a separation between work and home life. When the workday is over, shut down your computer and walk away. Your family life is just as important as your work life. And in these crazy times, spending time with friends and family is key to reducing our anxiety. That holds true for those living alone as well. Shut down your computer and go call someone you care about.
We all need to do our part during this crisis and stay at home. But it doesn’t mean we can’t continue to work effectively and efficiently. Just remember, we are all in this together and this too shall pass.