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Best Tips for Working from Home

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tips for working from home

Due to the current outbreak of COVID-19, working from home has become a necessity.  What are the best tips for working from home during the coronavirus outbreak?

For most of us, working from home translates crawling out of bed in our “business PJs,” making our way to the coffeepot, then either to the home office or just the kitchen table to fire up the laptop!  Voila! We are at work.

No commute, no dressing up, and no formalities of the workplace. It sounds too good to be true! However, what seemed like a dream come true for many has quickly turned into a nightmare.

tips for working from home

Turns out, working from home every day, week after week, is not as wonderful as we thought.   We envisioned the freedom of being able to work and attend to personal matters as a luxury.  However, in reality, we discover the constant distractions;  kids, pets, household chores, social media, tv, are tough to balance.  Then there’s the added layer of learning “how” to work from home, manage zoom calls, new cybersecurity protocols, the forfeiture of face-to-face support, and guidance;  it can quickly become overwhelming for the best of us. Becoming stressed is understandable.

But, staying stressed is optional.  You don’t have to worry! We researched what the experts have to say and have some great work from home strategies that can help you perform your best and stay sane while you cope with the pressures of maintaining a “new normal” work-life balance.

Here are the best tips for working from home during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond

Read: Isn’t It Time to Get Off the Hamster Wheel?

Create the right mental space.

Stay informed but don’t get obsessed.

This is a crazy time for everyone right now.  However, it does not mean you have to lose your sanity. Do not focus on the tabloid news or get coronavirus updates 24/7, and for the love of God, do not focus on the political circus going on.  No leader or citizen in the world was ready for this, and the truth is we are ALL doing the best we can.   It may appear some are doing better than others, but at the end of the day judging others, comparing ourselves to them, and wallowing in the negativity of “could have” “should have” and “would have”  only robs you of any sense of peace.

This tip for working from home will help you have a happier and more useful experience. Surround yourself with your loved ones, and focus on what is positive.    Cultivate a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be with them.  It’s all a matter of perspective.   If you have kids or other dependents in the house,  stay positive for them so that they feel hopeful. A friendly, loving atmosphere in your home will pave the way for a peaceful workspace.

You need to have a foundation. 

So, the first thing is to build a solid routine that helps you optimize your life, not only your work. Just because the world is closed, it doesn’t mean life stops.  If you have children, the same goes for them.   They are facing their own set of challenges right now and depend on you for a sense of stability and consistency in their lives. 

Keep a sense of normalcy and stability.

Another powerful tip for working from home is to keep some semblance of life as you knew it before the pandemic.

It is too easy to get into bad sleep habits right now.   How easily we can rationalize staying up late knowing we can sleep late.  It’s a slippery slope and one that only sets you up for misery later.  Go to bed at the same time you would on a routine workday. Wake up just as early as you would on any weekday. 

Find a way to create that same sense of urgency you had before the world closed.   Eat breakfast or get a bit of coffee in your system to nudge those brain cells out of sleep.  Get dressed.   It doesn’t have to be a business suit but put on real clothes.   Get ready for a video call with your boss!  Even if you don’t have one, suiting up is part of showing up, and you’ll feel prepared to take it on if you are not in your “business PJ’s.”   

The first two hours of your morning will impact how you work for the rest of the day.  Make them count.

Create the right physical space

The modern work environment consists of cubicles.  They are set up to get you to focus on the tasks at hand automatically.   If you can, create a small ‘office’ space in the house. You don’t need anything fancy.  All you need is a quiet but well-lit room with a desk or table and comfortable cushioned chair keeping in mind the long hours of video conferences ahead.  

A smart work from home strategy is to make this place as “off-limits” to others as you can.   This may feel selfish to some, and in some ways, it is. If it is, then barring emergencies, permit yourself to be selfish.  The most creative and successful people often seclude themselves and allow no interruptions.   Selfish or not, that’s how they get it done!   If you were actually at work, you would not be available to others anyways, so minimize how much you allow others to enter your space.

Preparation is the key to success.

Now that you have started to treat this whole situation like a real job, the next skill to home in on is those remote-communication skills. Thankfully, with tons of options such as zoom, SKYPE, or Slack, staying connected is a matter of a couple of left-clicks and boom, the face-to-face meeting is on.

best tips for working from home

 If these are new to you, do not fret.  Most programs are relatively simple to learn.  The key to success here is simply to take the time to get familiar with the features of whatever program you’re using before the meeting.   You do not want to be the one stuck trying to fix your screen or how to mute/unmute as the meeting continues. These are your tools, and you need to master them.

Make sure your bedroom or even worse, your bathroom, is not view or an earshot.  You don’t want to be the one with the toilet flushing in the background during a strategy meeting. Be aware of what’s in the background.  Find a neutral setting and make sure your mic and headphones work perfectly.   Sometimes there are delays in the connection, so be patient if responses are slow or if you are asked to repeat yourself.   Everyone is in the same boat, so mutual respect and courtesy are key.

Stay Organized.

It can be hard to create a system that works as well at home as it did in the office, but you want to set yourself up for success.  The trick is to learn to work smarter, not harder. Studies have shown a neat and organized work environment has a significant impact on our productivity.   It also impacts confidence and motivation.  

Productivity at home depends on staying organized.  Otherwise, it can take you all day to complete what you would typically hammer out in a few hours.  

Get your thoughts in order before beginning to work and take a few minutes sorting things out when you are done.  The extra 10-20 minutes of preparation will save you hours of “winging it”. Try to keep your workspace tidy.

Time Management

One of the hardest things to achieve, but a critical component of working from home, is time management.  This can easily be the #1 key to successfully working from home.

best tips for working from home

Does any of this sound like you?

  • Work for 45 minutes then check your social media.
  • Finish a meeting then raid the kitchen
  • Lunchtime comes, you turn on the TV and end up watching 4 episodes of Ozark.
  • You go to get the mail, the next thing you know you’re watering plants and pulling weeds.
  • You realize its 4:00, and you’ve got little accomplished, so you either put it off until tomorrow or end up working until 10:00 pm instead?  
  • ANY other distraction that interferes with your productivity or gives some lame excuse to procrastinate comes up and oops, there you go again?

The good news is you’re not alone.   The bad news is, your boss doesn’t care if you’re alone or not, they want the work done, done right, and done on time.    

Don’t get me wrong; we all get carried away at times! We indulge in checking our Facebook Feeds or watching that funny cat video our cousin sent. Heck, most of us do that AT WORK.  However, the goal is to manage your time like you would at work.

Make a schedule for yourself

Start by writing down everything you need to get done for the day.   Estimate how long it should take you.    If you’re like me, everything takes longer than you think it will.   That may not be the case with you; just be honest with yourself when planning it out. Decide which tasks are the most urgent and get them on the schedule.  It doesn’t mean they have to be done first thing, just get them planned so that you don’t get carried away with things that can wait.   Plan breaks, lunch, and give yourself a quit time.  

tips for working from home
Plan your day and stick to your plan!

If you’re in a slump, do things that you can finish quickly first.   Being able to cross things off the “to do” list is a great motivator as you’ll feel successful, which will boost your energy.   

Turn your phone off unless you are actively using it for work.  At the very least, let personal calls go to voice mail.   You are “at work.”

Stay healthy and safe

This may not sound like a tip for working at home, but it is.  First and foremost, your immune system depends on it.   In addition to that, your mental health does too.   Lack of exercise, dehydration, and insulin spikes created by excessive sugars and simple carbohydrates will negatively affect your concentration and energy.  Translation, you can’t do your best work if you slack off on basic health practices.  

Move

Don’t let yourself sit all day just because the gyms are all closed, and you’re not even walking to the copy machine anymore.   Outdoors is still open, and you can still go for a walk.  If that’s not your thing,  throw on a YouTube video.  Thousands of them will guide you through 2 to 200 minute exercise program.  At the very least, get up and walk around your home for 2 minutes once every hour. 

tips for working from home
Stretch

Leaning over a computer all day (regardless of where) isn’t the best posture and can quickly lead to severe neck and back pains or headaches.   What fun is any of those?

Hydrate

Drink water, 6-8 glasses of it.  More if you like to drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.   It will balance your mood, improve your cognitive functions, and increase your memory. 

Eat Well

It is easy to get into all of the comfort foods.  When the stay at home orders first hit, it felt like there was a storm coming, and we were all just hunkering down for a few days. For many, that food festival.   Coronavirus is indeed like a storm that we are all waiting for to pass, but going into week 8, it’s a bit long to be indulging in what I call comfort food.   Just remember: junk food doesn’t fix anything; it’s not entertainment; it doesn’t really relieve stress, and it certainly won’t make you head clearer or give you lasting energy.     

Read: 12 Tips to Stay Healthy While Working from Home

Socially distance but do not emotionally distance

Stay connected with loved ones

Humans are social animals, and self-isolation does not come naturally to most of us. After work hours, take time to call your friends, family, or other loved ones.  If you live with a big family, make sure that everyone in the house has dinner together and can enjoy movie nights over the weekends.  The idea is to stay as connected as possible. The benefit?  When you start working tomorrow, you’ll feel recharged and fresh.  A little bit of digital socializing can go a long way.

Read: How NOT to practice emotional distancing while social distancing.

Final thoughts

Working from home may well be the new normal, even beyond recovery from the pandemic.    There are pros and cons for both companies and employees when the workforce is remote.  With a little self-discipline and proper planning, you can be efficient and productive professionally while enjoying a free and balanced life-style.   If managing the change is too challenging for you, don’t beat yourself up over it.  No one expects you to know how to navigate this intuitively.  It takes a plan, some practice, and a learning curve.  Reading dozens of articles offering tips on working from home may not be enough. Don’t go it alone! Reach out to colleagues or managers at work for guidance.   If you’d like more personal support, a coach can help you get up and running so that you meet your goals in all areas of your life.

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