Studies show that working from home can increase productivity and lead to happier and healthier employees, which is good for employees and for their employers. But those studies didn’t take into account the kind of telecommuting so many of us are doing now — the kind forced on us by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As more companies move their workers home, others in our households might be in the same boat. Not to mention that since many schools and daycares are closed, young children need caretaking, older children may need home-schooling, and our attention can become divided. So, how do we stay productive, healthy, and sane at a time like this?
There’s no shortage of tips from experienced telecommuters, employment sites, and mental-health experts flooding the internet, so we’ve rounded 10 of the best to help you survive — and thrive — in the coming days and weeks.
Talk to your employer about expectations, and share with them the challenges you face if those expectations are unrealistic. If you’re self-employed and new to working from home, make a list of expectations for yourself and reassess them as you navigate the new challenges. Also, ask for help when you need it.
Plan a meeting where everyone stuck at home can discuss commitments, needs, concerns, and frustrations. Work together to coordinate schedules, technology, and workspace needs, and set boundaries to ensure that you can meet your goals.
02 Get organized.
Make sure you have everything you need for work at hand, and if you’re suddenly a home-school teacher to your kids, make sure they have everything they need to complete tasks. Create a master calendar and daily structure with an age-appropriate plan for each day to keep them (and you) on schedule.
03 Establish a comfortable workspace away from your living space.
This will help you more quickly get into “work mode” when you’re in your workspace, and to step away from your work for breaks and when your workday is done.
04 Be comfortable, but skip the “PJ-all-day” rut.
It can be easy when you work at home to sleep a little later and “go to work” in your PJs. It’s fine once in a while, but avoid making it a habit. Preparing for work like you normally would if you typically work outside the home improves productivity and mental health.
05 Set goals and track progress.
Different people have different work styles, but working from home can throw a wrench into things. For some, it’s easy to procrastinate or get distracted by non-work tasks and activities. Others end up working around the clock without needed breaks. Set daily and weekly goals, check in to make sure you’re on task, and regroup when you’re not.
06 Take regular breaks.
Don’t just consider breaks as rewards for staying on task, but as necessary breathers to help you do so. Plan a few 10-15-minute breaks throughout the day to stretch, breathe, take a quick walk or meditate to help relieve stress and anxiety and improve productivity. Schedule these breaks on your calendar, if you use one, to remind yourself.
07 Log out of non-work-related social media accounts, and turn off the TV.
Few things can be as distracting as social media. Save it for breaks and for after work so it doesn’t interfere with your productivity.
08 Stay connected.
Working at home can feel lonely, so find ways to stay connected to friends and colleagues. Make a phone call, set up a video chat — whatever feels comfortable. It’s important to avoid social isolation.
09 Wind down each day.
At the end of the workday, take time to briefly assess what went well and what didn’t, make a plan for addressing the latter, then step away and do something that makes you feel happy and contributes to your wellbeing. Spend time with family, get a workout in or listen to music. Take time for yourself.
10 Know things won’t go quite as you plan.
Prepare for and accept that there will be interruptions. Set up and explain nonverbal cues to let others know when you can’t be interrupted — a closed door, a sign on the door, holding up your hand — but otherwise be prepared to “go with the flow” when it comes to unanticipated schedule changes and interruptions. Take a deep breath, deal with the matter at hand, and regroup when you can. Take it day by day (or minute by minute if you have to). Go easy on yourself and others when things don’t go as planned. Most of all, follow recommendations for social distancing and other guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19 so you can stay well – and productive!