In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, many companies are implementing voluntary or mandatory work-from-home policies. That means lots of people are dealing with this new and unusual challenge.
For many people, the thought of working from home sounds like bliss; no more commuting, no more uncomfortable work clothes, longer sleep-ins and uninterrupted access to the kitchen with all of its snack options.
However, what seems like the perfect arrangement, to begin with, can quickly become a juggling act of work and home responsibilities, staying self-motivated and avoiding distractions, maintaining team culture and staying engaged.
Even if you’ve worked from home before, this new sudden working situation feels different, although, we’re all in this together.
Here are six tips we’ve put together to help you survive working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic while maintaining your productivity and mental well-being.
DESIGNATED & ORGANISED WORKSPACE
Regardless of space or location, establish an area of your home where you will work, and commit to working in this space every day.
Entering your workspace will help you turn “on” at the beginning of the day and get down to work. On the flip side, leaving your workspace will also help you turn “off” at the end of the day.
Make your workspace practical and comfortable, remember, the point is that you will be working in this space every day. If your workspace has to double as something else (your kitchen table) outside of work hours, make sure you can pack it away or separate it, so there is a defined difference between work and non-work hours.
SETTING & STICKING TO A DAILY ROUTINE
Structure your day like you would if you were going in to work. Maintaining your usual morning routine will help you separate your work-life and home-life.
Wake up, get ready for work – getting out of your PJs, showering and doing your hair can help kick-start you into work mode. Have breakfast and your morning coffee, exercise or walk the dog. Don’t turn your computer on until you’re ready to start working.
Now, the beauty of working from home is that you can be flexible in setting your working hours but be realistic. For example, if you are most productive in the morning, you may want to set your work hours from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. If you’d prefer to get some housework done in the morning, do that first then sit down at your workspace at 10 a.m. find the routine that works for you and stick to it.
BALANCING WORK/LIFE BOUNDARIES
Working from home can become invasive to your personal life, this is because if you are always home and near your work, then your work creeps into your home life.
Yes, the risk is real, but only if you let it. This goes back to having a designated workspace and setting your workday routine. Try to avoid jumping back on the computer quickly to check emails or send that report (unless this is what you usually do) after hours. Just because your workspace is in your home, doesn’t mean you need to be working 24/7.
This goes both ways, just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you need to or have the time to do a quick zip around with the vacuum or do those three loads of washing. Again, setting your workday routine will help you manage the balance of work and home life.
ENSURING THE TEAM STAYS CONNECTED
If you’re used to working in an office or with a team of people, working from home can feel extremely disconnected. Maintaining those workplace/team connections helps with motivation, productivity and culture.
Luckily we live in an age of technology that allows us to connect in so many ways. Schedule team video calls to discuss projects, update each other on your work in progress or even to have Friday afternoon knock-off drinks.
Setting up an instant messaging system such as Slack can also help everyone in the team feel connected. Also, when possible, get the whole team working similar hours, this makes it a lot easier if you need to check in with someone or get approval for something.
STAYING MOTIVATED & PRODUCTIVE
Working from home means mastering the skill of self-motivation. We’re all guilty of getting distracted by that cute YouTube video or having sudden urges to clean out every cupboard in the kitchen or quickly calling your mum which leads to 2 hours of your workday disappearing.
There are countless ways we can keep ourselves motivated and accountable while we work from home. They may sound childish, but time-blocking and rewarding are two straightforward ways to stay motivated.
Time-block and rewarding can look like;
- Setting yourself a timeframe to complete a task without stopping or taking a break – e.g. You have an hour and thirty minutes to finish this project plan and email it to Michael for approval then you can have a 15-minute coffee break.
- Setting specific blocks of time for work-related tasks – e.g. I will work for forty-five minutes then have a 10-minute stretch break.
GOOD & BAD DISTRACTIONS
Not all distractions are created equal. While we want to stay motivated and not let our work-life and personal-life get muddled, sometimes a good distraction can help us be more productive.
If you find yourself staring out the window daydreaming, take a break and sit outside for 15-minutes. If you can’t focus because all you can think about is that massive pile of laundry that needs folding, take 15-minutes and go and fold it. You won’t get anything productive done while all you can think about is how cute your cat looks right now and how badly you want to go and pat it, JUST DO IT.
These kinds of distractions take up more mental capacity then they do time to complete, so you’re better off just doing them then jumping straight back into work.
Now before we go crazy and justify every whimsical distraction we can think of, this is where your self-motivation needs to kick in because there are bad distractions.
When your best friend calls you, let’s be realistic, that isn’t going to be a 15-minute call so let it go to voicemail, shoot her a text message saying you’ll call her back after work or once you’ve finished that research. The world isn’t going to end if you don’t clean the bathroom today. You can watch the new season of Ozark tonight or on the weekend.
REMEMBER – IT’S NOT FOREVER
Finally, don’t worry, this won’t be forever. Although working from home initially sounded like the best thing ever, then you realised it isn’t that easy, then you followed these six tips, and you found your working from home groove, things will go back to ‘normal’.
Remember that for now, working from home is a way we a can slow the spread of Coronavirus, which in turn relieves the pressure on our health system and protects the most vulnerable people in our community.