Is working from home your “new normal” – at least for now? The COVID-19 outbreak and new social distancing measures have led to many workplaces allowing or ordering, employees to work from home. For the more vulnerable, working from home is not so much a choice as a necessity.
If you haven’t worked from home – or WFH, as the cool kids in the office call it – before, you’ll quickly realize it’s not all wearing your PJs and knocking off early. Being thrown out of your routine can leave you feeling unbalanced and alone. And suddenly, filing your nails or doing your laundry can seem like the most important item on your to-do list. If you’re a known procrastinator, now is the time to work on those issues!
It’s not all downside: a 2019 study found that many workers consider themselves more productive when working from home. You just need to take a few steps to set yourself up for success. Try these tips to stay productive, stay focused and keep yourself from climbing the walls.
A lack of structure is the first thing that can send you off the rails when working from home. Set yourself regular start and finish times for your working day – sticking with your regular work hours if possible. If you usually get up early to work out or walk 30 minutes to your office, stick with that same routine. If you head to the gym after work, turn off your computer and do your home workout to put a full stop on the workday. These familiar cues or segues will help you maintain the divide of ‘work time’ and ‘home time’.
And remember, working productively at home doesn’t mean staying at your desk for several hours after you normally would. You still need to rest so you can come back fresh tomorrow.
Working with a laptop from the comfort of your bed may sound great, but it’s not really sending out professional and efficient vibes, is it? If you don’t have a home office or study, create a designated workplace for yourself, even if it’s just one end of the kitchen table. Make sure it’s all ergonomically sound. If you can’t shut the door on your workspace at the end of the day, pack it up and put it away, or cover it over – let your home be home again.
Moving from a crowded, buzzing workplace to a quiet home environment can feel quite isolating. Social interaction is essential for our mental well-being and for team bonding. While your watercooler chats with Emma from accounting may seem unimportant (did arguing the merits of the Game of Thrones finale help you get that project done?), after a few days of working from home you’ll really start to notice that lack of interaction. Connect with a coworker online or on the phone – it’s likely they need someone to chat with too.
As for your workload, maintaining open lines of communication with your boss and your team is essential. Many offices now have group chats, but a 10-minute phone or video hook up at the start of the working day could help clarify what is expected of you. As with government orders and travel restrictions, the priorities of the company you work for may be shifting daily in this situation.
Does your commute home from work help you switch off, or a lunch walk in the fresh air help you reset? Your brain and body still need this room to breathe when you’re working from home. Structure some breaks into your day and find ways to work within your local social distancing guidelines, i.e.: if you can only get out for essentials, split your drug store/pharmacy and supermarket visits morning and night so you can get out twice during the day. If you can’t go any further than your backyard or balcony, do a few laps to stretch your legs or sit and feel the sun and breeze on your face for a few minutes. Make the most of any outside time you can.
We all need to be a bit more flexible and understanding right now, but that doesn’t mean your time should be a free-for-all. No, it’s not going to completely derail your workday if you make your child a sandwich or message a friend with a hot tip on where to buy toilet paper. However, constant interruptions will see your productivity levels – and the quality of your work – drop.
Set some ground rules with any family in the house (“When I’m in the study, I’m at work”) and tell friends who may be at a loose end that you’ll call them after hours to stop a constant stream of ‘dings’ on your phone.
Remind yourself that this new and strange situation isn’t permanent. Don’t just stick to online chats, but use video and phone with your team when you can for a more human touch (no hand sanitizer required.) Cheer your colleagues on a job well done and remember to mark special occasions.
You may find yourself getting more done, and faster, than you usually would, too: enjoy the lack of distractions, wave bye-bye to commuting stress and traffic jams, and hit mute on the office politics. Ahh.
Centr has a workplace wellness program that your team can access anytime, anywhere. Reach out at email@example.com to find out more.
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