my home office/ spare bedroom/ sauna entrance/ daycare center...
In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of people around the world to work from home. If you’ve never had to work remotely before, you might find yourself struggling to develop a routine and figure out the best way to turn your home into your office. At times, this can feel like an impossible task, especially if you have children at home with you. Below are some tips on how to make the most out of working from home.
If you don’t already have a room in your home that serves as an office, you should designate a certain table or area to be your work area during certain hours. Move furniture around if you need to delineate your space. Make sure you family or roommates are aware of the hours in which you will be utilizing that space and ask them each individually to agree not to disturb you during that time.
Whether you are working from your home office or utilizing another area of your home, try to create a pleasant place to spend time. This may include a colorful plant, a scented candle, or essential oils. Make sure the room is well lighted to keep you alert and prevent drowsiness. It's also good for your body to keep water with you to stay hydrated. If your office space has a door, keep it closed to prevent disruption.
Make sure your workspace is fully stocked with anything you might find yourself reaching for during the day. This could be sticky notes, a stapler or paperclips, highlighters, or chargers for your electronic devices. Stock up on office supplies like printer ink when you can in case essential items sell out at a later date.
While a comfortable chair is important for your home office, resist the urge to work from the couch. Chances are you'll be spending plenty of time there when you're not working and you need to have a clear separation of work hours versus personal time.
If you are able, try to start working when you would normally be at your office. Keeping similar hours will help to normalize your new routine and make it feel less like you're at home, which is filled with distractions. It will also help if you wake up at the same time, shower, and get dressed as if you will be heading out the door. Do not try to work in your pajamas. You might even go so far as putting on your shoes to prevent lounging.
Have a daily schedule of tasks and deadlines to complete and make sure you're keeping a calendar with an alert for calls or virtual meetings so you don't lose track of time.
Stay in contact with your coworkers. If you find yourself suffering from isolation or loneliness during the day, call someone to catch up. Your coworkers are now your best resources for accountability, support, and problem solving. Ask each other questions and discuss what's working and what's not. Let them know the best times and methods to get in touch with you. Respect each other's boundaries and limitations.
Take breaks when you need them. You are not glued to your desk and your work will benefit from occasionally taking a quick walk outside to get some air. You are being forced to stay inside for most of your day, sometimes without interacting with anyone else. A break will help you reset so you can be more efficient when you get back to work. You should also be taking your fully allotted lunch break every day. Make room for a half hour or hour every afternoon to step away from your desk to eat.
As important as it is to keep a routine, you also need to embrace a high level of flexibility. Accept that it's not the same as going into the office and do your best with the resources and technology available to you.
There are several options available for video conferencing with colleagues or clients including Zoom, Skype, Google, and FaceTime among others. Whichever platform suits you best, here are some universal tips for conducting business virtually.
Before you get onto the call, preview what your video looks like. This will allow you to make sure your background isn't distracting or unprofessional. Some platforms allow you to add a virtual background or blurred background to help hide clutter or to disguise that you’re working from your bedroom. If you don't have the option to adjust your background through the program, you can set up a folding screen or other plain surface behind you. The most important thing is that you look professional.
When the call begins, spend time catching up before you start on your agenda. Especially during times like these, it helps to acknowledge that we're all going through obstacles. In this same vein, set expectations for the people you’re meeting with. If you are limited to a certain amount of time or if there's a possibility that a family member might be wandering through the background, let everyone know. Most people will already be operating under the assumption that you're working from home. If you do have other people in your home while you're working, put a sign on the door so that they know when they should be quiet.
If you have children, they are likely going to make working from home a challenge. If you have a partner or other help available to take care of your kids, make sure you set clear expectations of your work hours and whether or not you can be interpreted. As previously mentioned, it would be helpful to have a system to indicate when you are on a call or video conference. Noise canceling headphones or playing music in your office will help prevent outside noise from becoming a distraction.
If you do not have anyone dedicated to watch your children, there are a few options for successfully getting work done. It might be that your spouse or partner is also working from home. In this instance, try working in shifts. Trade off three or four hours at a time throughout the day. Take a look at your schedules for the day and find out what times you and your partner need to be working. This will allow you to switch on and off at beneficial times. It might help to get a bulk of your work done very early in the morning or after bedtime at night. It is undoubtedly exhausting but it can help balance work and family.
If you're on your own with your children, it's important to let clients and colleagues know that your conversations may be interrupted. Make it clear that you are parenting and working at the same time and do the best that you can. Understand that your kids are going through an adjustment as well and try not to get frustrated or be too hard on them. No matter what age they are, they're dealing with a lot of emotional, mental, and physical stress.
Children tend to be most excited for schoolwork and other distractions in the beginning of the day. Take advantage of this by getting as much work done in the morning as possible. When they've hit their limit on learning and quiet play, let them have a snack or some extra screen time while you get through what you need to do.
Even if you haven't finished everything you wanted for the day, when your workday is over, shut down for a little while. Get your kids outside for a walk or a bike ride. You may have more work to complete later on, but for a little while, be sure to put your family first.