5 Tips to Work from Home Successfully
As we adjust to life during the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many of us find ourselves practicing social distancing and working from home. For some of us (like my boyfriend and housemate, Kevin, and I), remote work is the norm—but for others, this may be a completely new experience. This week I’ll share some of the best practices that we use in my household to work from home successfully, as well as a few extra tips I’ve found helpful from recent articles on the subject.
Establish Routines and Boundaries
When you’re working from home or another remote location, it’s critical for you to be focused on work. However, just as importantly, when you’re not working, you need to shut off from work as much as possible as well. One way to establish this delineation is to start your workday off with a routine that signals that it’s time to start your workday—a morning walk, breakfast, coffee, shower—whatever will mentally prepare you for the day. It can also be helpful to establish a routine that signals the end of your workday—shutting off your computer, walking away from your workspace, even going for a walk—anything that can signal to your brain that it is time to turn off work mode.
For the best success, set a schedule for this routine and be diligent to stick to it as much as possible. Coordinate boundaries and expectations with those sharing the space with you—including your partner and children. This coordination and communication is critical to ensuring everyone’s needs are being met during this time of social distancing. Stay consistent with the established boundaries so that everyone will eventually fall into the new routine.
Try to Create a Separate Workspace with a Door
One way to help enforce your established boundaries is to create separate workspaces with doors. In our house, Kevin has a dedicated office, and I have a desk set up in our guest room. This allows us to have a space where we can close the door to minimize distractions. This is particularly important if at least one of you spends most of the day on phone calls and/or teleconferences. This separate workspace also provides a visual signal for your brain to differentiate work time versus home time.
Leverage Available Technology
While working remotely, it’s critical to take advantage of technologies to facilitate a smoother workday. Because we have relatively thin walls, Kevin and I have learned the importance of good headsets to drown out and minimize any distracting background noises. We also regularly leverage virtual communication tools, including chat applications, teleconferencing, video conferencing, text messaging, and even simple phone calls.
Chat applications are nice for those quick questions that you would walk over to a coworker to ask. Videoconferencing technologies are great to replicate in-person meetings because you can see the individuals you are talking to face-to-face and better judge their reactions and demeanor during conversation. Most web conferencing tools today also have a tool to replicate whiteboarding sessions virtually. Be sure to play around with the features offered by the tools available to you through your company’s IT department. Some additional free options include Google hangouts, Zoom, and FreeConferenceCall.com.
Don’t Forget to Take Breaks
Just like when you are working in an office environment, when working from home, it’s critical to take breaks every 60 – 90 minutes. Working for more than 60 – 90 minutes at a time can actually decrease your level of productivity; research shows that taking short breaks during long tasks helps you to maintain a constant level of performance. Taking scheduled breaks every hour or hour and a half can actually help improve concentration. Further, researchers at Florida State University have found elite performers (athletes, chess players, musicians, etc.) who work in intervals of no more than 90 minutes are more productive than those who work longer than 90 minutes. Great break ideas include taking a walk (nature can further improve your focus and performance), calling a friend or coworker, and/or walking to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.
Find Ways to Socialize
When working remotely, especially for the first time, it’s common for individuals to experience feelings of loneliness, disconnect, and isolation. To prevent this, it’s important to find ways to maintain a level of social interaction that is in line with current social distancing guidelines. You might occasionally reach out to a coworker to chat, FaceTime with a good friend, or participate in a virtual coffee break with a colleague. Since remote work is relatively new for many in my company, we even recently held a “Virtual Happy Hour.” Such efforts will help you and your team to feel connected during this period of increased remote work.
As we adjust to life during the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many of us find ourselves working from home. For some of us, remote work is the norm—but for others, this is a period of learning and adjustment. If you’re working from home for the first time, or looking for ways to work remotely more effectively, it can be helpful to establish routines and boundaries, create a separate workspace with a door (if possible), leverage available technology, schedule frequent breaks, and find ways to socialize. Best of luck to everyone during this time of uncertainty and adjustment. Stay safe!
Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)