Many of us are working from home as the Coronavirus threat strikes the U.S., but that’s a blessing for only some of us. Work-from-home can be a gift for employees that like the quiet and solitary space to concentrate on projects without water cooler distractions, but it can also be an isolating – and sometimes boring – experience. And those with kids out of school may even be longing for the quiet of their offices again!
Here are some quick tips to get work done at home without losing your mind:
Create a dedicated work space, and stick to it.
It can be tempting to plop on the sofa one day, or stay in bed with your laptop the next, but you’ll likely get the most work done by working in the same spot every day, ideally one that’s separate from where you lounge and relax. If you have a home office, great! But the kitchen table works well, as does a makeshift desk space in a guest bedroom, the basement (if you have one) or even a less-trafficked corner of the living room. Whatever works for you, and has enough outlet space for a laptop, phone charger and any other technology you need, like a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
Arrange your space the night before.
Ensure you have your laptop set up, paper and pens (if you need them) and all required chargers set up before you go to sleep each night so you can jump in to work as early as you need to in the morning.
Know what type of worker you are.
Are you the type of person that prefers to jump out of bed and open your laptop right away? Or do you need your coffee and a long shower before you even feel human? Everyone has a different style when working remotely, and that’s OK, but it’s key to figure out what you need to get your work done and feel good at the end of the day, so get in touch with how you’re feeling about what routines you’ve put in place so far. And if they’re not working, it’s time to see what your body and brain need to be at their best for this extended WFH period.
Stay engaged with colleagues.
It’s easy to feel isolated right now, or like you’re climbing the walls and actually wanting to get back in the office for some human contact and conversation. So go ahead and have conversations with colleagues over Slack, Zoom or text that don’t have anything to do with deadlines or meetings – it’ll relieve some stress and allow you to enjoy the camaraderie of your office team while remaining at home.
Break up projects/assignments and set mini-deadlines.
You’re bound to get distracted at some points at home. For those who struggle with the set-up, it can feel especially daunting to work on big projects with far-off deadlines.
When faced with these large to-do’s, it’s critical to break them up into smaller, manageable pieces, and set your own realistic deadlines for each. It’ll give you a sense of accomplishment each day that is so important to maintaining a steady pace of work in this new environment. It will also provide a natural place for you to take critical breaks.
Take clear and consistent breaks.
I’ve found that it’s more likely I’ll keep working longer and more intensely when I’m at home, when I am in my own space that’s quiet and has less distractions than an office. But that makes taking breaks even more important, especially when we’re faced with working from home for an extended period of time.
Structure your time to get things done.
Struggling to concentrate? Use the Pomodoro method, in which you focus on one task for a period of 25 or 45 minutes before taking a scheduled five- or ten-minute break, or some other productivity technique with a timer that will keep track of your “on” time, and remind you when to take a break. Many of these timers are available as browser extensions, through smart home speakers or websites like TomatoTimer.com.
Save calls for the afternoon.
Leave the morning to be productive and keep your nose on task.
The little ones (and other distractions!)
If you have kids at home, create boundaries about when you can work undisturbed, and offer kids a symbol that you’re in the zone, like wearing headphones, so your family can see easily when you need some alone time.
And while you’ve probably already stocked up on activities, Common Sense Media has some great age-appropriate suggestions on what to stream for them when they get some screen times.