As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads to over 150 countries, employers in Canada and around the world are erring on the side of caution by asking workers to stay at home. It’s becoming clear that in order to control the spread of the virus, we need to come together as a society to practice social distancing, limit physical contact, and continue supporting our communities remotely. For millions of workers, flattening the curve means working from home.
A lot of people are accustomed to working remotely once or twice a week, but few of us have the proper setup and discipline to operate with the same efficiency as we do in an office. When you lose the structure of a workspace, the support of your colleagues, scheduled start time, end time, and lunchtime, things can get chaotic. Here is how you can learn to work as effectively as possible from the safety of your home.
set up an office space
Make a space for yourself away from where your family gathers (avoid common areas like kitchens or living rooms if you can). Treat your home workspace like you would your office workspace, even if it’s a nook under the stairs. Set it up as you would an onsite space; keep it neat and organized so you can find things easily. Add touches to make it comfortable and efficient. Taking care of your workspace reminds you and tells others that you take yourself and your work seriously and professionally.
shower and dress for work every day
We get it: when working from home, comfort is the name of the game. You don’t have to get dressed in a shirt and tie. But do make an effort to get dressed each morning and change your clothes. No wearing the same PJs for days on end allowed! Make sure your outfit is clean and you would feel comfortable accepting a video call in it. The routine of getting ready in the morning can set the right ‘work’ tone and improve your outlook, how efficiently you work, and how seriously others take you.
create a schedule for yourself
Make a plan and decide how you will spend each day. If you’re home alone for an extended period of time, it can be easy for the days to blur together or for you to lose track of the separation between work and downtime. Make a plan for how you want your day to unfold and set blocks of time for certain tasks you plan to complete. Don’t forget to include time for breaks, exercise, interaction with others, meals and other activities.
create a to-do list each day
If you’re already in the habit, great! If not, now’s the time to give it a try! Writing out a to-do list creates much-needed structure while you’re working from home. This is especially true if you will be working from home for an extended period of time. Creating a to-do list forces you to prioritize and set goals. At the start of each day, plan out your next day’s work, choose your priorities and make sure you’re setting reasonable goals for what you can accomplish in a day.
stay in touch with colleagues
Keep the lines of communication open with your coworkers and boss. Use whatever methods work best for you. Try to include at least some phone and video meetings each day. Talking with another human is good for you. Since you’re probably working alone, this is especially critical to reduce the feelings of isolation and ensure that your team is on the same page. Report in often so people know you’re working and accessible even if you’re not in their presence.
set designated time for breaks
When working from home, it’s easy to get caught up in distractions like pets, kids or the allure of TV. While you should absolutely take breaks throughout your workday to allow for mental rest, try to shut out possible distractions when you’re in work mode. You can reduce distractions by setting aside time throughout your day for breaks, where you are allowed to step back.
set aside time for you
When working from home for an extended period of time, it can feel like your life revolves around work. You wake up, work, eat, go to sleep and repeat the cycle. It’s important to make sure you build time into your day for your hobbies and interests outside of work. Maybe you set aside time for reading (many libraries offer digital books you can check out from anywhere), or indulge in your favourite Netflix binge, or play a video game. Find an activity that makes you relax.
At first, working from home sounds great. And for many people, it is! But it has its drawbacks, too. Working from home can be isolating and make your days blur together. To work from home effectively, you must find ways to build structure into your routine and ensure you’re staying in contact with others.