The world is in unprecedented times and as governments all around the globe urge their citizens to stay at home, more and more people are having to adjust to working from home. The Coronavirus Pandemic is still growing and it seems we will all have to make severe adjustments to our daily routines for many weeks (maybe months).
For many the challenge will be working from home full time for the first time, but even experienced remote workers are facing new challenges with kids being off school and partners or house colleagues occupying the same working space.
These tips are designed to give guidance for being successful while remote working and also maintaining your mental well-being.
1. Try to continue your morning routine
You may be tempted to set your alarm later as you no longer need to travel to work, you may feel as though you no longer need to get dressed as you normally would because you are not going into the office, you may log onto your laptop or tablet straight away and leave your breakfast a little later than normal or may take a longer breakfast because you no longer have the time limitations before you leave the house.
By changing your routine to one which is more sluggish will generally result in being less productive and could have an impact on your success and well-being. Try to stick to a similar routine as you would if you were commuting into the office. Set your alarm for the normal time, get up, shower, get dressed and have breakfast as you normally would. If you would normally read a book, watch a series or scroll your social platforms during your train or bus commute then continue the same routine whilst working from home. If you would usually cycle to work, then create a riding loop that is the same time and distance as it would take you to get to work; if you would normally go to the gym before heading into the office then try to create a similar workout schedule in the morning; or (if you can’t leave the house) why not exercise at home? Whatever you would have done before try to continue these in the same way possible whilst working from home.
It will be tempting to sit in your pajamas or slacks all day as you’re now working in the comfort of your home, so what’s the point. Getting dressed in the normal or similar clothes to what you would wear to the office is important. It will help you mentally prepare for your working day and will not allow any laziness to creep in. So get up, get showered and get dressed people!
2. Create a designated work space
People who have been working remotely prior to the pandemic will most likely have a designated area at home for work, but many now face the challenge of sharing this space with their partner who is also working from home or home colleagues. Some of you may be working from a shared apartment or house and may not have a separate space to set up your workspace and maybe tempted to work from your bed. If space is limited you may need to just set up a workspace in another room or share the space with someone else, but it is important to have your own space, which should feel separate for work commitments. Make the area as comfortable as possible with a nice comfortable chair, a table or desk to fit your space and maybe a few photos or similar decorations you have on your desk in the office (your company should supply the necessary equipment for you to work from home, including a monitor, mouse and keyboard, any needed cables, etc.). If your company have not yet supplied these essential materials it would be wise to contact your manager or HR department so they can get this process started as soon as possible.
If you have the option, set your home-office in an area with good natural light as this will help you feel less enclosed while at home and will certainly help towards your mental well-being.
Having a dedicated workstation to switch on for work will help keeping you as productive as you would be in the office. Having yourself centralised for work activities will also help with your downtime when you switch off. Keeping the two spaces separate is more important than you might think in maintaining a good work life balance when working from home.
3. Set up a daily planner
Setting up a schedule will really help you to stay focused. Include tea or coffee breaks as you would normally take, and a lunch break at the normal time you would if in the office. During these breaks if you would normally get some fresh air make sure you do the same at home too. If you don’t have access to a garden, but you have a balcony use this in the same way. If no outside space is available in your home then go for a walk, keeping within the guidelines set by your government. Setting up and keeping to a set schedule will help you stay in a similar routine and will help you stay successful and keep your well-being intact.
4. Staying focused while your kids are off school
This will apply to many people now adjusting to working from home. Setting clear boundaries with your kids will help you stay on track with your work commitments. Allocating time within your daily planner to spend with your children is very important as they will not understand what is happening in the same way you do.
Adjusting your working hours and calendar (and if possible align these with your partner), is very important. Allocate a slightly longer lunch break so that you can spend time with them. Create a morning break to do some home-schooling activity. It’s also important to discuss these changes with your line manager.
Make sure you set clear boundaries so that your kids understand when you’re working and are not to be interrupted – especially if you are on calls. Creating a physical schedule that everyone can see will help, but you may also want to create a sign which you can hang on the back of your chair for example. The sign could say stop when you’re working and go when you’re available or something along those lines. Again, aligning your agenda with your partner is key so that both of you can have some productive working time.
The challenges of working at home with your whole household will of course depend on a number of factors, age of your children, how many are in your household etc, but by setting a clear agenda there will be a clear plan in place. The more organised you are the more productive you will be.
5. Transition In and Out of Work
We discussed in a previous tip around continuing your morning routine, but it is just important to build in your transition out of work. Set yourself the same finishing time as you would normally do at the office. It can be difficult when working from home to switch off. Many of us would use the time during our commute home to unwind from a hectic day or prepare mentally for our evening routine so try to give yourself time at the end of the day to hit the reset button.
If you would normally go to pick the kids up from school take them out for a short walk or if you would normally come home and take the dog out for a walk continue the same routine. It will be different of course, but doing these little things at a similar time as you would normally will go a long way to sustaining your mental well-being.
6. Maintain a strong work connection
When you are working from home it is easy to feel isolated and when you are away from a working environment you can feel alone in your work. Make the decision to speak with your colleagues over the phone or via video call instead of sending emails or messages over chatting platforms. When you are in the office you would walk over to a colleague’s desk or pop your head up from your cubicle, you would have chats in the communal areas and now, all of a sudden, you are no longer seeing these faces or hearing these voices. Allocate time into your schedule to catch up with your colleagues, just like you they are having to adjust so there will be plenty for you to chat about.
If your manager has not yet organised a regular connection to you and your team, make a point of mentioning this to him or her and request individual and team catch ups be put in place to lift moral and continue productivity.
7. Tone down on your social media usage
It is easy to get sucked into reading everything that is being published online, on social platforms and reported in the news. This is an unprecedented time and as such there will be lots of people posting, commenting on and sharing information that will consistently clog up your feed. Switching off your non-work related social channels during key hours of the day is highly important. If you were in the office you might browse through your social media during lunch or breaks, so do the same while working at home. The same information you are reading in the morning will still be there in the afternoon or in the evening. You can have the TV on for background noise if needed (keeping the office noise for those who need it!) but make sure the news is not that noise. Same thing with the radio or any other channels that may unsettle your day to day productivity with the information they provide. Switch off the negatives and concentrate on the positives during working hours.
…stay organised, stay positive, stay home and stay safe.
“Working from home should be no different from going to the office. Get up on time, sit down at your work station, close the door, focus and work your normal hours”
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