Working home can be a challenge, especially when you first start. As many of us are suddenly working from home due to the coronavirus, this transition may be especially rough. Not only are you adjusting to working from home itself, you might also be dealing with additional technology issues and taking care of kids.
Here are some tips to help you work from home more effectively:
- Establish a routine.
- Set up a dedicated work space.
- Communicate boundaries.
- Take care of yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Establish a Routine for Working from Home
Sit down and write down a realistic daily routine for your work days:
- Communicate about flexibility with your employer. Are there hours you need to be available? Or are you able to work more flexible hours to help balance childcare and your most productive hours?
- Set a definitive end time for your day. If possible, turn off notifications when you’re done!
- Plan what you’re going to work on each day. List, prioritize and schedule your tasks. A project management app can help if your business doesn’t use one.
- Consider tracking your time on a project management app or manually to ensure you’re not overdoing your hours and to prove your accountability.
- Don’t forget to take breaks! Set a timer to remind yourself to stand up ever 30-60 minutes. You may also need to time your breaks at the start to ensure you’re actually taking them.
- Schedule your non-work responsibilities, including self-care and relaxation time.
- Keep in your normal morning routine for getting ready for work – getting dressed really does help you be more productive at work.
Set Up a Dedicated Work Space
While some of us are fortunate enough to have room for a home office, others are working from kitchen tables, the couch, or even bed! It’s important to set up a dedicated work space to separate your working and home life.
Your comfort and ergonomics.
Back pain and other issues are real if you’re not sitting properly. You don’t need to go buy an ergonomic setup (though that’s great if you can), simply:
- Keep your screens at eye level
- Keep your wrists straight with the hands at or below your elbow level
- Sit so your knees are level with your hips
- Keep an eye on your posture!
Sitting on couches and beds isn’t good long-term and it’s also important to separate your work space from your relaxation space.
Depending on your employer, you may be provided with the materials to work from home. If at all possible, it’s a good idea to use a work-provided computer and other equipment. If this isn’t possible, consider:
- Using a VPN to protect your privacy
- Getting a good pair of headphones or a headset
- Installing a high performance router
- Create a separate user account on your personal computer that’s for work only
- Getting a separate phone number (through a landline, mobile phone, SIM card, or free VoIP service)
Creating a Nice Environment
Keep your workspace clean – don’t let dishes or scrap paper accumulate. It’s also nice if you can position your workspace near a window and incorporate a plant, lighting and/or nice artwork. Having a nice space to work in helps!
It’s important to communicate with anyone else sharing your space including roommates, partners, and kids about what you need. Set rules and stick to them as much as possible.
You should also set boundaries with yourself in order to maintain a good work-life balance. Stick to your schedule as much as possible. You may want to restrict social media and other personal sites if you’re easily distracted!
Take Care of Yourself
Working from home can be isolating. It’s even harder when you’re quarantined. One of the most important things to do is to socialize. Have work-related meetings via video chat rather than just over the phone. One, it will give you an incentive to get dressed and set up a nice workplace, and two, it will help you feel connected to your coworkers.
After work hours or during your breaks, make sure you text, call and video chat family and friends. Or, if you’ve got family or roommates, spend quality time with them. Sit down for a chat, eat dinner together, or play a game.
If you can, get outside. Go for a walk or bike ride – just make sure you stay away from others. If that isn’t an option for you, enjoy your backyard or balcony. If you don’t have either, open the blinds and window to get some sunlight and fresh air.
Don’t forget your basic self care – eating, sleeping, hydrating, and exercising! This can be more challenging when you’re working from home, but you do gain some time with a much shorter commute and having your lunch break to get things done.
Keep a water bottle at your workspace and don’t forget to grab meals or snacks. When you don’t have the office’s natural flow of time, some people forget to eat!
Exercising can be more of a challenge. If you can, go for a walk or bike ride at lunch or after work. If that isn’t an option, you can try yoga or one of many video workouts available online. Even dancing is a great way to get moving and feel good!
Even though you’re working from home, you should still practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 30 seconds, especially after the bathroom or if you’ve coughed or sneezed.
Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly, especially counters, doorknobs, keys, phone, bathroom/kitchen taps, and your work equipment.
Ask for Help
It’s a challenging time. It’s okay if you make mistakes. It’s not going to be perfect, especially if you’re new to working from home or also have kids to look after.
If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. Here are some suggestions on how to get help:
- Communicate with your employer and coworker if there are work-related challenges you’re experiencing.
- Reach out to your partner, friends, or family.
- Access mental health professional help. Some employers offer programs through their health insurance and there are many online resources.
Working from Home with Kids
Having the kids home may complicate your working life. Here are some tips to help make this time easier:
- Communicate with your partner and other caregivers
- Discuss schedule flexibility and expectations with your employer
- Set boundaries and enforce them
- Establish a schedule for your kids – even if you don’t follow it 100%, kids thrive off of structure
- Try working in small chunks of time (like 15 minutes)
- Take advantage of online learning, free subscriptions, and community ideas for keeping the kids busy
- Use naptime as an opportunity to get stuff done
- Separate parent and working roles
- Give your kids special activities during key work times for you
- Schedule digital playdates
- Never forget where your mute button is!
- Set realistic expectations for yourself and your kids – it’s not going to be perfect
This is a challenge for parents and kids! Hopefully, you’ll be able to figure out a new normal for the next little while.