As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country and more businesses and local or state governments mandate that staff work from home, many employees are struggling in this new, challenging situation. Not only are most unaccustomed to working remotely full time, but working from home with partners, roommates, and children is an extra strain. Add in worrying about the health of our family and loved ones, as well as the economy, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and distracted. How can you continue to do your job well in this difficult environment?
Make a new routine
If you’re used to working 9-5, working from home (especially if you’re not alone!) can feel very different. It might be tempting to work in front of the TV in your pajamas, but that’s not going to help you get your best work done. Adjust your regular morning routine a bit so you’re comfortable but still feel ready to tackle the day. Get out of bed, take a shower, and get dressed. Sure, you can (and should!) wear comfy clothes but the act of getting dressed in real clothes will help get your mind ready for work. Set up active work hours based on your company, your coworkers, and your own personal situation. Make sure to take a lunch break away from your computer and know when you’re going to sign off at the end of the day. Working from home doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to be working all the time! Working long hours actually doesn’t increase productivity, as studies have shown.
And what if you need to work while wrangling your kids? That’s the situation nearly all parents in America find themselves in. Consider adjusting your active work hours to the early morning or the evening after your kids have gone to bed. This gives you at least a few hours a day to work with minimal distractions. Or, turn on a movie during the day for the kids and put on headphones for some work time. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect during this time! We’re all just trying to do our best so be patient with yourself.
Set up an office space
If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated office, take advantage of it! Clear your desk of distracting personal items or tasks and set up your equipment. If you don’t have an office, set up your computer in a quiet room or corner. Having a work space, no matter how small, helps you focus your mind. Plugging in headphones and listening to relaxing music or background noise like Noisli can help you focus if you’re surrounded by other people.
When working from home, it’s important to get up and walk away from your computer. And no, reading the news on your phone doesn’t count. Go outside for a brisk walk, find a short yoga video to do, or read a chapter in a book. It’s vital for your mental health during this stressful crisis. Even more, breaks help you do your job better. Studies have shown that taking breaks improves reasoning ability, restores motivation, and improves physical and mental health.
We’re all feeling isolated right now, so take advantage of your coworkers! Use messaging apps and video conference options like Skype or Google Hangouts to connect with your colleagues. Face-to-face conversions are often more efficient for brainstorming and troubleshooting, so consider setting up regular video chats for certain tasks. Make sure to set aside some time for personal conversations, too. If your coworkers occasionally go out for happy hour, consider having a virtual happy hour so you can connect and commiserate.
Remote work often leaves companies vulnerable to security breaches. Even though it’s unlikely that your company was able to draft a remote work policy given the timeline of this crisis, it’s a good to idea to speak to your management and ensure that you understand any policies that might be on the books. Understanding how to property access and share files, as well as knowing any security settings you should be using, will help you complete your work efficiently and safely.