The global spread of COVID-19 is changing the way businesses conduct their daily operations as employees are forced to work from home in compliance with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) basic protective measures. For those new to working at home, this can present several challenges.. As someone who has “been there, done that” for nearly two decades, I have learned a few tricks to stay focused and remain productive while working and living under one roof. Here are my seven top tips that I hope will help you successfully navigate working from home.
1. Create a Dedicated Workspace
In an ideal world, you would have a dedicated office with a computer or laptop, printer, file cabinet, and dedicated phone line. However, not everyone has a separate space that they can turn into an office. If this situation applies to you, find an area of your home that is relatively quiet, well lit, and away from constant family traffic where you can set up your temporary office.
2. Maintain Regular Hours
Set a schedule and stick to it. The more you can maintain regular hours, the more productive you will be. Furthermore, a regular work schedule will help you maintain a better work-life balance.
Should your employer requires you to track your hours, I highly recommend you download one of the several apps on the market that will automatically track your time. One of my favorites is Toggl. This app tracks your hours and manages your workflow. Such tracking lets you see how you spend your time and use that data to break down your hours by projects, clients, and tasks.
3. Set Boundaries for Yourself and Others
Treat your home office like any other work environment. If you have children at home, let them know that they are not allowed to interrupt you while you are “at work”. Additionally, avoid answering personal calls that can wait until after work hours. The same rule should be applied to running errands. If you don’t typically go to the dry cleaners or take your dog for a walk during your normal work day, don’t start now. It is easy to get caught up in these things and lose valuable productivity.
4. Work Smarter Not Harder
Try to plan your day around your biological clock. Some of us, myself included, are more productive in the early morning. You should find a schedule that makes most sense for you. That said, if you have a family at home, you may want to adjust your schedule around their activities to avoid unnecessary distractions.
5. Schedule Breaks
All work and no play can do more harm than good. Be sure to take the occasional break when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed. It’s especially important to take breaks when working from home. Try to get outside at least once a day, even if it’s to walk around the block. Not only will it break up your day, studies suggest that walking outside “opens up the free flow of ideas.”
6. Don't Hesitate to Ask for What You Need
Be sure to ask your employer for what you need to get your job done right while doing work from home. This might include a proper monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, printer, software, internet speed and so forth. Organizations that are accustomed to remote employees often have a budget for home office equipment. If your employer cannot afford to purchase equipment, you may suggest renting or buying used equipment.
7. Get A Work Phone Number
Set up a phone number that you only use for work. It doesn't have to be a landline, or even a second mobile phone. Companies like Google Voice and Skype offer free VoIP service. Having a separate work number will help you identify important business calls and avoid the pitfall of taking personal calls while working.
One of the hardest things for me about working from my home has always been when to quit working. For those of you who are workaholics, easy access to files and everything you need to continue working may cause you to burn out, or even worse family problems. Remember, to set a work schedule and stick to it as much as possible. These are unique times that require unusual discipline, especially when working from home.
Best of luck!