The COVID-19 Coronavirus has us all making changes to our lives. For many, that means working at home for the first time ever – and can be a tough adjustment! I know a few people who are already going a little stir crazy after just a few days of working at home. And the idea that they may have to work at home for the next few months is overwhelming. This blog post is for them, and for anyone else who is suddenly working at home.
I’ve worked from home for the past 19 years. I was laid off from a high tech job in May, 2001, and started my own business in September of that same year. Yes, THAT September! The September when Americans freaked out after the World Trade Center buildings were attacked. We weren’t in fighting a virus like we are now, but there are many similarities between then and now. I remember the fear, uncertainty, and stress I felt. Even so, I pushed past it and focused on my work. I’m doing the same thing now, and you can, too.
Working at home suits me well, but even so, it took me a while to get into the groove. I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but I’ve learned how to make it work well for me. So, I thought I’d offer some suggestions that will hopefully help those of you who are work-at-home newbies.
Keep a regular routine
Do you normally work 9-6 with an hour break? If so, try to keep that very same schedule.
Get up, get dressed, and go to work – this is a biggie! Act like the only difference is that your office has moved. It can be tempting to stay in your comfy jammies all day, but getting dressed will go a long way with your mindset. You’ll feel more like you’re in work mode rather than Sunday morning chill mode, which will make you more productive. (Disclaimer: I’ll admit that I do have all day jammie days now and then. It happens!)
Set up a dedicated work space
Find a place in your home where you can set up a temporary workspace. Make sure you have good lighting, a good chair, and enough room for all of your work supplies. Ideally, this will be a place away from communal living areas if you have a family or roommates. Make sure it’s comfortable, but not too comfy! You don’t want to fall asleep on the job, or be tempted to watch TV all day.
You may think that working at home will give you the chance to dive into work and stay at your desk for hours on end. It’s not healthy to do that – both physically and mentally. So schedule regular breaks and be diligent about taking them.
Be careful with social media
Without the boss (or the IT geeks) looking over your shoulder to see what you’re doing, you may be tempted to see what’s going on with your friends on social media. Just don’t! If you normally only check in during breaks or after work, keep it that way. Sitting in the quiet of your own home, it’s easy to get sucked in and have hours (or the whole darn day!) fly by. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise though, since just about everybody has been sucked into that social media black hole.
Get out of the house
Because of what we’re facing right now, if you live in a densely populated area, this may or may not be easy to do. If possible though, go for a walk alone, walk your dog, take a drive, or even just go stand outside your front door, or on your balcony. The idea is to get out, stretch your legs, feel the sunshine, and get some fresh air.
Set boundaries for others
If you have family that will be home too, let them know when and where you’ll be working. Give them guidelines as to when they can and cannot interrupt you. I know that can be tough with kids in the house, so be sure to have activities they can do while you’re busy. This goes for family and friends who don’t live with you. Make sure they know that even though you’re home, you’re still working and need to have time alone.
Set boundaries for yourself
You’re working at home and little things in your home will call out to you. Yes, it’s true – I’m pretty certain it’s been scientifically proven! And believe me, your home can be super loud at times. It might be the laundry you washed last night but haven’t folded yet, that nagging little home project you keep putting off, or it might be the smudges on the mirror you walk past on your way to your desk. You’ll be tempted to just do one little thing, then WHAM! Before you know it, it’s 10:30pm and you realize you haven’t finished that project you told yourself you would finish up with before lunch! So, set those boundaries for yourself, and stick to them.
Lists can be extremely helpful. At the end of the day, make a list for the next day. Having that list to refer to at the beginning of your work day, will help you get focused right off the bat. And remember to cross things off as you do them. It’ll give you a sense of accomplishment.
Are there co-workers you normally take some time to chat with during the work day? Just because you’re both working from home, doesn’t mean that has to stop. You can do Facetime, Skype, or even just an old fashioned phone call.
Find new ways to socialize
This isn’t directly related to work, but it’ll definitely help your mindset – working or not. Stay connected with non-work friends and family. Make use of video to get together for a virtual cup of coffee, to workout, play games like Words With Friends, read books to each other. With as much tech as we have at our fingertips these days, there are many ways to stay connected.
Think of it as a new skill
Whenever we start something new, there’s a learning curve. I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I wanted to learn something new, but when I started, I absolutely sucked at it! After plenty of practice though, I got better. Working from home can be just like that. So think of it as a new skill you’re learning, and accept that it’ll take some practice.
Close the door
If other people are around, be sure to close the door to the room where you’re working. This reinforces the fact that you are indeed working – to you and anybody else in the house. When you’re done working, close the door behind you. If that’s not possible because it’s a bedroom or other room you’ll use later for a different purpose, do something to signify your work day is over. Turn your computer off, straighten up your desk, or push your chair in after you get up.
Working from home can be very lonely at times, even if you’re an introvert (like me!). At first it can be easy to get off track. If that happens, don’t beat yourself up about it. Walk away, take a break, or call a co-worker to get back in work mode.
I hope some of these tips help, and I hope you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy during this scary pandemic.
Do you have some tips for working at home? If so, let us know in the comments.