Before the pandemic, working from home for most people only happened when there were extenuating circumstances: the kids got sick, you were getting repairs done on the home, or there was a mid-day appointment and your home was closer than your work location.
Over the past month, we’ve certainly learned a lot. Some days, or even weeks, have been busier than others. We have created schedules only to have them broken, and we have participated in more video meetings than we can count. The transition may not be everyone’s favorite, but we’ve included some learnings that may help you during your at home work days to make them better!
Have a start and end to your day
Having a clear start and end to your day can help with balance. Start your day with a 15-30 minute video call with your team. During this call, talk about what you accomplished the day before, what you are working on today, and if you need anyone’s help with tasks. This meeting should be one of the first conversations you have during your day. It is an easy way to see your co-workers each day and help everyone stay on the same page.
The end of the day can be a bit trickier since you’re not at an office and need to physically leave to go home. One way to signal the end of the work day is to send a picture, gif, or video in your team’s communication channel. It could be a funny gif about going home, theme songs to well known TV shows, or funny end of movie credits or bloopers.
Create the Right Work Space
With your workspace being steps away from the bedroom or living room, it can be hard to stay focused. Creating the right workspace for you will help combat that and let you focus during the day. If possible, dedicate a single room or area in your living space as your “office.” That could be a spare bedroom, empty corner, dining room table or a basement. If you have a job where you will be on the phone or meetings frequently, try to pick a space that has a door that you can close.
In addition to picking the right space, do your best to choose the right furniture! Nothing is worse than sitting in an uncomfortable chair. With more than 40 hours per week dedicated to work, choosing the right furniture is beneficial both physically and mentally.
Lastly, your work space should also be free of clutter and mess. Treat this area as if you had coworkers. Don’t leave dirty dishes at the end of the day, and make sure you tidy up before closing down the computer. Here are some other tips on creating the ideal home office.
Keep the Company Culture Alive
Staying connected to co-workers outside your departments can be difficult while everyone is working remote. Here are some ideas that you can do to help stay connected to coworkers until you can be back in the office together.
Have a company bingo or trivia night. These are easy to organize and host. Send out an invitation after work hours or do it over a lunch break. Make sure everyone has the materials and enjoy! This is a fun, non-work activity to do to bring co-workers and families together.
Have a way to signify “wins.” At our company, every time we do something good — make a sale, save a client, have a personal win — we use our team chat and send a celebratory GIF to the team’s chat feed and let everyone know what you “won.” It is fun to see everyone’s success until you can get back in the office and hear the drum in person.
Other ways to keep culture alive is to have a group fitness challenge. A fitness challenge is a great way to motivate your co-workers to exercise and come together at the same time. It doesn’t need to be fancy, simply do a walk, bike or run challenge and have people log their miles. At the end of the challenge, have everyone submit their miles and the winners will receive prizes. To spice it up, you can have people submit pictures or videos to your team chat.
Not Everything Needs to be a Video Call
One of our partners said it best the other day “not everything has to be a video call.” While chatting over video is great and it allows us the opportunity to see each other and share screens, it also confines us to a single spot.
If your meetings are able to be taken via phone and not video, jump on that opportunity every once in a while. Throw in some headphones and take a walking meeting outside. The benefits are great. It will help you get up and move around, and walking is proven to help you think!
Schedule your day
When working from home, it can be very easy to get distracted. While breaks are beneficial and welcome, distractions like social media, TV or house chores can easily consume your day. Making a schedule at the beginning of your day will help minimize the distractions, especially if you have kids.
First, communication is key. If you have children or family members that need your attention during the day, communicate and set clear upfront expectations of when you will be available. This will help minimize disruption.
Next, fill your calendar up! When you have pockets of time during the day, add tasks on your calendar to specify what you are doing. You can block 30 minutes for lunch; an hour window for working out; or if you have kids, time to help them with their school work. Share this schedule with yourself, your family and your team so everyone can see when you’re working and when you’re not. Circumstances are different now, and it’s ok if you don’t work your normal 9-5 hours.
Last, we all know that things happen that are beyond your control. But, if you communicate clearly and outline your day, you will be able to control your time as much as possible.
Breaks are Ok and Welcome
Since working from home, many of us have found ourselves working more. With your laptop sitting only feet away, it is easy to pick it up and do some work while watching TV at night or after you put the kids to bed. They need to feel like you have to be working, or the thought of “I can spend 30 minutes on that and knock that out” have to stop.
Breaks are ok and welcome. There will likely never be another time where all of your family is together in the same house as much as this stay-at-home order. Make sure you take full advantage of it. Instead of taking lunch at your desk, eat lunch with a family member. Is the weather nice in your area? Take a 30-minute walk or bike ride in the afternoon. Spend the night playing games or watching a movie. Taking breaks and stepping away from the screen will ultimately make you more productive.
It is easy (and normal) to mindlessly scroll through social media, get lost in a Netflix series and to let your phone and email inbox go unanswered. Don’t let a global pandemic stop you from reaching your personal goals. Try these 5 practices to stay on track.
Stick to a Routine
Having a daily routine (at least Monday-Friday) will help keep yourself in order. This looks different for everyone. It could be as simple as waking up in the morning by 7 a.m., working out and having a coffee before your work day, or extensive as an hour-by-hour daily plan. Whatever works for you, do it and own your routine.
For Personal Growth, Take up a New Hobby
Nothing says personal growth like starting something new. With potentially more time on your hands at home, this is a perfect time to pick up a new activity. Have you always wanted to learn how to play a guitar? Awesome! Order one! Do you want to learn a new language? There’s an app for that. Learning something new will challenge you and help you get out of your daily comforts and rut.
Exercise your Body and your Mind
It might sound odd, but exercise directly correlates to your level of rest and relaxation. It doesn’t always have to be physical exercise either. According to Harvard Medical Center there are many ways to control your stress and anxieties. Performing aerobic exercise is as key for your head as it is for your body. It provides stimulation to help counter depression and anxiety.
Exercise your mind, too. Don’t let yourself get caught scrolling on your phone or lost in TV. Journal, listen to educational podcasts, read a book, do a puzzle, or take on that new hobby I mentioned above. These are all ways to exercise your mind and help reduce anxiety.
Give Back to Others
Give back to others if you have the means to. Giving back is a powerful path to self growth and happiness. Give your time, provide your skills or expertise, or give monetarily. Having a purpose and helping to give back will help you align and continue your personal growth journey.
The news is constantly breaking on devastating stories. Friends and family might be sending you articles and pictures they find online about the pandemic. Negativity can lead to depressing thoughts and lack of motivation to accomplish your goals. However, reframe your thinking and nip negative thoughts in the bud before they start creeping in. Follow these other tips to help transform your negative thoughts.
The lines between work, school and home have grown closer for much of the workforce. Balancing all three is no easy task.
You now have to face many distractions on a day-to-day basis that aren’t present in an office setting: children or spouses working (or not working), the family pet needing love and attention, or the all too familiar Netflix show just waiting to be binged. Use these 3 tips, tricks and tactics on how to tackle working from home and be successful at it.
Maintain “Boundaries” as much as possible
When working at an office, or away from the home, there are physical and social activities that occur on a daily basis. Examples include getting dressed in the morning, driving to and from work, or packing up your desk. Those are all queues that you are beginning or ending your work day.
Maintaining these boundaries when working from home will allow you to stay focused and keep up your normal routine. Instead of your daily commute, try taking a walk around your neighborhood or do a quick morning workout. Change your clothes in the morning, even if that means changing into a new set of lounge wear! Getting dressed in the morning before beginning work will help signify the “start” to your day. Lastly, “pack” up your desk when the day is over. Put your laptop in a bag, or shut the door to your office space to help identify the end of the day.
Minimize Distractions when Working from Home
Minimizing distractions is easier said than done when household chores, kids, and easy TV access are always present and easily accessible. Creating a set office space will help alleviate some of these distractions. Having your own designated office space will make it easier to focus. It should be away from the TV and have a door you can shut. Shutting your door will help tell your kids or spouses that you are busy if you need to concentrate.
In addition to having an office space, treat your day as if you were at your physical office. Just because no one is around to watch you, doesn’t mean you can scroll on your phone all day. Minimize your phone use, and listen to music or podcasts instead of watching Netflix. If you’re having trouble with this here are some apps to help limit smartphone use.
Take a Clear Break
Lunch breaks, coffee breaks, or water cooler chats all happen while at the office. Those small breaks help you relax and recharge throughout the day to help you get your work done. Do the same while working from home. If you normally go out and grab lunch, take your hour lunch break. Take a couple laps around your house or yard as you drink your coffee. It is important to get away from your desk during the day to avoid burnout and mental fatigue.
These are crazy times. People who never had the option to work from home suddenly are finding themselves trying to learn how to be productive with the kids at home, the dog barking, and that pile of dishes and laundry calling them away from work. It’s not easy. But, there are ways to make it better.
Have a dedicated workspace at home
It’s tempting to bring your laptop into bed or flip on the TV while you try to work from home. The key word there is “try.” Avoid that pitfall by setting up a dedicated space in your home. Having a space away from distractions will help you stay engaged and tick tasks off your to-do list!
Maintain normal work-from-home hours
Set a schedule and follow-it. It is easy to start to blend work life and personal life. Following a schedule will help relieve that stress. Start work at the same time each day and try to get ready as if you are going into the office. Get out of your pajamas. It helps set the tone for the day.
One WFH (work-from-home) veteran picks up her purse and carries it down to her basement with her to start the day, just as she would when going to an office. At the end of the work day, she brings it back upstairs to signal work is over. She’s got a short commute!
Keep in mind, you may need to set boundaries with your co-workers, clients and bosses who are bored and using work to cope with self-isolation. Make it clear an 8 p.m. conference call with no emergency interferes with the children’s bedtime and suggest a morning call instead.
Email, IM, text, video call; however you decide to stay connected, lean into it. Overcommunicate, even if it feels like too much, everyone will appreciate it. It’s easy for coworkers to become isolated and lose track of what the team is doing or for customers to lose track of deadlines and next steps in this unprecedented time. Make it a little easier for them to manage by keeping them in the loop.
Many people who work from home regularly end up having faster response times to messages, mainly because they want to prove they are, in fact, working. That’s why it’s so important to take small breaks and set a schedule. (See above!)
Show Compassion to Coworkers Working from Home
Understand that your team has kids, spouses, animals and other family members that aren’t used to them being home. Show compassion and be open to the fact that work hours might not be “normal.” If you need someone urgently, call or text them. They may be busy feeding the baby or taking a walk to keep the dog from ripping the house apart and not watching email like a hawk. Give them the graciousness you would like in return. We can all use a little grace right now.
Our world is not the same one we knew a short time ago. We’re coping with working from home, becoming our kids’ teachers, economic pressures, job losses and countless other stressors brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Be kind to yourself and set yourself up to stress less and achieve more.
Have a Routine
The days of social distancing are running together with no commute or school for the kids to mark the days. The solution: make a schedule that everyone can get on board with and try to stick with it, as much as is possible. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t always work, and it’s sure not to work some days! This will free up some mental bandwidth and ease strain on the entire household.
Declutter Your Home or Workspace
Piles of clutter are mentally exhausting. Now is the time to get to work and clean your home or workspace. Cleaning your surroundings offers a sense of control in the face of uncertainty.
If you have the time, reorganize and toss or donate the items you no longer use. Many charities are closed right now, so ready items for donation and put them in a designated space like the car trunk or garage if you can’t immediately take them out of the house.
Maintain Community and Social Connection
Don’t just text or email. Pick up the phone and call! FaceTime, Skype you name it. Hear a familiar voice, see their face. Social connection is key during this time.
Miss your friends or co-workers? Throw a virtual cocktail party on Zoom or another virtual meeting app. You may even set a dress code so everyone has a reason to get dressed up and put on makeup! Spend time talking about what you’ve been binging on Netflix (Tiger King!) and stay away from talk about the pandemic. The key is to relax and have fun.
Meditating or breathing can drastically reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Our team’s go-to apps are Calm and Headspace, but there are many good apps available.
Practice mindfulness by taking a walk outside and really listening to and observing nature. Don’t feel like a walk? Just sit and look at the birds and plants. When you do, the coronavirus stress seems further away.