Make Working from Home Work for You

The spread of coronavirus is affecting everything from travel plans to the supply of toilet paper, and the workplace is no different. As we try to mitigate the spread of the virus, many employees have found themselves suddenly working from home. It can be challenging and stressful to figure out how to make working from home work for you. Here are some tips to make your transition from the office to home a little easier.

Set the Stage for Work Create a space that looks and feels like your office. It doesn’t have to be a separate room, but a designated spot in your house that is dedicated to work. Bring home your desk chair, decorations, second monitor, office supplies…whatever you need to help you be productive, comfortable, motivated to work. By designating a spot in your home and sticking to it, your brain starts to associate that area with work, which helps keep you focused. While it may seem great to be able to move your laptop from couch to kitchen to bed, it blurs the lines between work and home life and makes it harder to turn off at the end of the day.

Now that you have set up your home office, dress for the occasion! Get ready for work every morning like you are actually going into the office. Get dressed, do your hair, your makeup — whatever you would normally do to get ready. It is tempting to stay in your pajamas all day, but it’s harder to be productive when you’re dressed for leisure. Keeping up your appearance boosts confidence and sets the tone for your day.

Avoid Distractions Distraction is one of the biggest challenges when working at home. A lot of people who dreamed about working from home are now finding out how hard it is to actually focus on work when you are at home. It’s easy to get caught up doing household chores, entertaining the kids, binge watching the latest Netflix series or scrolling social media. Staying productive at home takes a lot more effort than it does in the office.

Know what gets you off track and try to minimize your exposure to it while working. Right now one of the biggest distractions is the news. If you are someone who gets side tracked by news alerts, turn them off during work hours. Instead, set up calendar alerts for breaks, stretching, a walk or lunch. Try to eat your meals at the same time and rate that you would at the office. It’s important to take breaks, but set a timer to ensure you don’t lose track of your day.

“Think outside of the box while you work ‘outside of the box’,” Erin Bakker, principle at The Hive Creative Consulting, said. “Use your new setting as an opportunity to see things from a different angle and come up with creative solutions and innovative ideas.”

Use Technology to Stay Connected Use technology to replicate the personal interactions and collaboration you have in the office. This is a new work experience, so we need to create new processes. Regular communication is important to maintain relationships with colleagues, supervisors and direct reports. Video conferencing is a great way to keep your team connected and engaged. Using shared documents like Google Docs makes it possible for multiple people to work on the same document in real-time. If you miss your office whiteboard, Trello is a great tool to share to-do lists. It is also a great way to improve accountability when you are working remotely.

“It’s important to touch base regularly,” Ali Wiel, principle at The Hive Creative Consulting, said. “It’s hard to know who is working at what times as we all try to balance work and home life, so it is helpful to update everyone with your schedule and what you’re working on.”

If you miss the social “water cooler” time in the office, make an effort to connect with coworkers via text or over the phone during the day to have conversation with no agenda. Maintaining these social interactions helps to break up the monotony of your day. Likewise, consider picking up the phone or hopping on a video call to discuss things you may have typically done in person rather than through e-mail. Not only will this cut down on miscommunication, it also helps to break up the isolation that comes with working remotely.

Be Flexible Have grace for your team members and yourself as we all navigate through this new work landscape. Everyone is going to be less productive during this time. This is uncharted territory for many companies and employees, and it doesn’t help that we have a global pandemic going on at the same time.

“We all need to have more patience and flexibility right now,” Sarah White, director of public relations at The Hive Creative Consulting, said. “It’s going to take time for all of us to adjust and develop new routines.”

Set yourself up for success by scheduling your day the night before. Be honest with yourself (and your supervisor), and set reasonable goals for what you can accomplish. Once you have a plan, set deadlines for tasks, even small ones, so time doesn’t get away from you. Figure out a routine that works for you. Make adjustments as you go; it will probably take some trial and error before you get into a groove.

Parents, go easy on yourself; you’re essentially performing two full-time jobs. More screen time is inevitable and it’s ok. If possible, adjust work hours to fit in with your children’s schedules and/or schooling. If two parents are working from home, consider working in shifts. It’s not feasible for most parents to work eight hours straight.

“If you’re homeschooling while working at home, try homeschooling first and then starting your work a little later than you normally might,” Bakker said. “Doing both simultaneously is sometimes more stressful than productive.”

© 2018 The Hive Creative Consulting