Are you a part of the privileged group that has been able to actually keep your job and work remotely during this unprecedented global pandemic? So many workers have not been as fortunate to have the option of conducting their regular work from a home office.
Millions have lost their jobs and are out of work due to the mandated closures of so many businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19. Our health care workers must go into work each day and are putting themselves at risk, in addition to those in essential businesses like grocery stores, delivery services, trash collection, etc. These workers would gladly welcome the option of “working from home,” but the nature of their business doesn’t make it possible.
Working from home is really a fortunate option, especially during a time like this, particularly when the alternative is putting your own health at risk by going into work or being unemployed.
However, that is not to say that working from home doesn’t present its own level of challenges as workers seek to strike that healthy balance between work and home life, especially when we are all being confined to our homes. Parents are juggling new roles of supporting their child’s education simultaneously with their workday and possibly caring for babies and toddlers too. These are times like none of us have ever experienced since daycares and schools are closed – many for the remainder of the school year. Still, we are all in this together as we seek new ways to conduct business and keep things moving along as best as we can under the new conditions in our world.
As someone who always operates from a remote office, I can share some advice on how to best set up your environment and day for your highest level of success, productivity, and mental well-being. As a natural extrovert, working from home is probably not an ideal work environment for me. But, there are ways to overcome the limitations and maximize the structure of a home office to make the best of it. Here are some tips on how you can structure your day to the highest level of productivity.
Tips on Working From Home
Dress the Part
With many of us rarely leaving our homes due to “Stay Home” orders mandated in many states, it can be a time that is even more important to do self-care and still dress and act as if you are leaving the house each day. You don’t need to dress entirely professional, but getting out of the sweatpants can make a difference! Taking the time to put yourself together for your workday helps to give structure and a level of professionalism to conduct your work. As the saying goes – “when you look good, you feel good!” and this helps with your mental health too – even if you are all dressed up with no place to go!
Structure your work hours
Many of us are still working general core hours of 8-5:00 pm, but what if you need to step out a few times each day to support your children who are now home with you each and every day? Younger children need assistance with their school work, being put down for naps, making their lunch, breaking up sibling squabbles, etc. If you can relate, then you most likely are not able to have an uninterrupted workday.
However, you still need to structure time for when you can step away from your desk and leave your workday behind. You need time to definitively be done with your workday and check out. Decide ahead of time when you will dedicate to making up the lost minutes from your workday and then step away and do not give into the urge to check emails and remain connected to work indefinitely. You mentally need time to check out of your work life and step into your personal life.
Create a positive office space
If you are now working from home and never have before, then you may not have a specific, designated office space to call your own. You are shuffling to make space in a spare bedroom, at a dining table, in the corner of the basement, and so on. Maybe you also have a spouse in need of an office area too or children that also need a space to work. That makes for a lot of “offices” in one home!
The home office is a bit different under these sudden circumstances. However, you should still make an effort to create a space that is functional and with the least amount of distractions so that you may feel most productive during your work hours and mentally feel good while working in your space. Having a window nearby for fresh air or a nice view can have a positive impact on your mental well-being while at work. Being able to shut down the area or walk away from the workspace will help too with separating out your day and creating that healthy balance.
Stay connected virtually
If you are used to being in an office with others each day, being confined to your home can make for an unwanted level of isolation. Luckily with having so many options with technology, we don’t need to have our lives be completely void from the healthy interactions we typically have with others. Make sure to use any tools available within your organization to have face-to-face calls with your team members to keep that personal connection and human interaction in our workday. Take advantage of the option to talk face-to-face with colleagues whenever possible – even if kids or pets are making noise in the background. Strive to maintain some level of human interaction in your work life as well as your personal life.
I believe that the positive change that can come about from so many individuals working remotely is that it will confirm just how much of our business actually can be conducted with nothing more than a laptop, cell phone, and internet connection. We can hold business meetings with clients virtually, host team meetings via Zoom or other virtual platforms, and pretty much conduct all necessary core business functions from any given location with these few tools. May this be the positive change that can come about from so many people “testing” out the working-from-home option during this unprecedented time. Stay safe and stay healthy, which includes maintaining a healthy work environment, and be well!! We will get through this together - one day at a time.